Azuki NFTs: How This Anime Art Brand Is Becoming A Metaverse Hit
Blockchain authentication of popular anime-style illustrations has infused the decades-old Japanese art genre with new commercial viability.
Anime NFTs (non-fungible tokens) have taken the NFT world by storm. An anonymous team has combined the NFT phenomenon, anime’s cult-like following, and stunning visuals of ”counter-culture” skateboarders to create the explosive Azuki NFT collections.
What made these anime-inspired avatars an instant hit? To find out, we'll go down the Azuki rabbit hole and explore the collection, what it's all about, and what drives its phenomenal success.
What Are Azuki NFTs?
Azuki is a brand created for the metaverse. Its NFT collection consists of 10,000 anime avatars that grant community members access to '”The Garden,” an exclusive virtual world or metaverse where Web3 enthusiasts, artists and builders gather to forge a decentralized future.
The NFTs launched on January 12, 2022, with each tokenized character selling for $3,400. The collection sold out in minutes, grossing over $29M. Investors snapped up another $2M worth of Azuki NFTs in a private offering days after the launch.
The frenzy continued. One month later, Azuki NFTs topped $300M in transaction volume. At one point, within the first 30 days of launch, Azuki total sales surpassed that of CryptoPunk and Bored Ape Yacht Club, two of the more popular and established NFT collections. Currently, they rank as the 10th most-traded NFTs of all time. The prices also went up. Azuki NFTs now sell for an average price of $37,700, with some going for as high as $500,000.
Azuki was created by Chiru Labs, a start-up founded by a group of four anonymous men based in Los Angeles. The original four are known by their online aliases: Zagabond, 2pm.flow, location tba, and HoshiBoy.
Chiru Labs recently hired Arnold Tsang (AKA steamboy), a gaming industry veteran who previously worked on Blizzard’s Overwatch, to play a key role in expanding the brand. Tsang is joining the project full-time, having helped to create Azuki as a side project.
Chiru Labs earns a royalty of 5% of any Azuki NFT resold.
Why Are Azuki NFTs So Popular?
The project has a few key elements that drive a successful NFT project. The Azuki team has created and nurtured an expressive brand for the metaverse. Here are some of the reasons why Azuki NFTs are ruling the markets right now:
Anime and manga are well-known cultural exports from Japan. Anime, a Japanese adaptation of the word “animation,” refers to animated content from Japan. They are typically inspired by Japanese comics or ”manga.”
Interest in anime-related content has spread worldwide, as it has become popular with children and adults alike. Characters like Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z and Digimon have been household names since the ’90s.
The popularity of the anime genre continues to increase. Online streaming giant Netflix reports that about
With deep pockets and an obsessive interest in anime collectibles, anime fans have readily jumped on the Azuki bandwagon, sending its prices and popularity soaring.
Anime art is instantly recognizable due to its distinctive style. Azuki NFT characters embody the art form with an incredible level of detail in the artwork. Furthermore, the Azuki avatars come in many variations — females and males with different hair types, skin types, etc. Fans can find an avatar among the 10,000 Azuki characters to love. The exquisitely expressed unique traits and the rarity distribution (the presence of specific, unique attributes or traits in each character) make these collections exceptional in the NFT space. The Azuki artists haven’t disappointed.
In addition, the characters’ skateboarder art style screams anti-establishment, which is one reason the project is in huge demand, finding an affinity with like-minded individuals. After all, what could be more anti-establishment than crypto?
Emphasis on Community Ownership
According to the Azuki website, Azuki is “a brand for the metaverse, built by the community.” This repeated emphasis on community isn’t just for sound bites: Azuki recognizes the importance of a vibrant community, and emphasizes community ownership of the project. Community is the lifeblood of any NFT project. The community are the shareholders, the brand evangelists, the users and the soul of the project. Without them, the Azuki project or any NFT project would fizzle out.
Since the launch, the community has grown and currently boasts over 200,000 Twitter followers and 80,000 Discord members. These online social channels are well-moderated and provide a safe space for members to chill out and get to know each other. They also encourage conversation and updates on the project's various activities.
Upcoming Exclusive Streetwear Collaborations
In line with their objective to become the brand for the metaverse, the Azuki team has announced a streetwear collaboration that will feature Azuki clothing, merchandise and accessories. These will be available in "The Garden's" VIP store, only accessible to Azuki NFT owners.
Blurring the line between the digital and physical worlds expands marketing opportunities, and builds brand awareness for the Azuki community and customers. The proposed Azuki streetwear collaboration is from the NFT studio RTFKT, which is the studio behind the Clone X NFT collections. Their foray into the fashion world was incredibly successful, leading to its acquisition by sporting goods giant Nike.
The Garden is Azuki's version of the metaverse, that virtual world where community, art and culture intersect to create magic. According to their website, ”the lines between the physical and digital worlds are blurring, and the rules are being rewritten.”
An Azuki NFT is a user's identity in this metaverse. The Garden serves as the town hall for the Azuki community and plans to incorporate a DAO which the BEAN stablecoin will govern.
The Garden will host exclusive streetwear collabs, NFT drops, live events, and more upcoming activities yet to be revealed.
An Experienced and Talented Team
A project is only as good as the team behind it. Any experienced investor — especially one aware of rug pulls that can doom an investment — always scrutinizes a project’s developers, engineers and backers before shelling out money. A high-quality team leads and supports a community. A lackluster team invariably loses support from the community, and the NFT project goes nowhere.
While most of the Azuki team members are anonymous, at least one, steamboy, is well-known in the gaming sector. He was the Character Art Director at Overwatch, a team-based first-shooter game. He worked on the Azuki project as an artist part-time, as well as a co-creator, but has become a full team member. As the lead artist for the high-profile video game, his profile adds credibility to the project.
The other anonymous members of the team are reputed to have extensive experience spanning crypto, gaming and technology. Most of what is known about them are snippets of information gleaned from their social media profiles:
Zagabond: DeFi programmer and former big-tech alumnus
HoshiBoy: 2x Y Combinator alumnus
2pm.flow: former Google, Y Combinator alumnus
location tba: Ex-Facebook software engineer
Despite being anonymous, which is a negative for building trust, the team's level of commitment and professionalism seem to stand in for them.
One of the key achievements by the team is the development of a new algorithm, ERC721A, which enables the minting of multiple NFTs for the same cost of minting one. This innovation helps struggling creators and artists save money. Making this algorithm open to other projects indicates the team’s commitment not just to Azuki but to the entire NFT community.
Azuki NFT Breakdown
The current Azuki floor price (that is, the lowest-priced NFT in the entire collection of Azuki NFTs) is 23.5 ETH. Azuki NFTs have a total market cap of about $715 million with 5,475 unique owners holding the total minted 10,000 Azuki NFTs.
One of the most expensive Azuki NFTs is #9605 and it recently sold for 420.7 ETH (approximately $1.4 million) on March 30, 2022.
Traits Rarity of Azuki NFTs
NFTs have unique, and thus, rare traits that help to determine their value. Various tools like Rarity Sniper, Rarity.Tools, and NFT Rarity Explorer help track the rarity of NFTs, giving collectors a sense of how distinctive each NFT is. The trait and rarity distribution of Azuki NFTs reflects the creators’ attention to detail.
For example, Azuki #7749, one of the most expensive in the collection, is a ‘“spirit” type Azuki. It features both the “spirit long” hair and the ‘“golden monk staff,” rare traits which can only be found in 15 of the 10,000 Azukis.
Blue and red types, with a rarity of 4.44% and 4.41%, respectively, have lower average sales prices. Human types, at 90.18%, are the most common, and have an average sale price of 7.86 ETH.
After the type, the set of attributes of an Azuki NFT is the most significant determinant of its price. These attributes include clothing, neck, golden items and offhand features of 313 Azukis.
1. Golden Attribute
Each Azuki NFT with a golden attribute traded at 28.1 ETH, while NFTs without golden items were sold at 8 ETH.
2. Special Trait
Particular traits — Fire, Fireflies, Fox Fire and Sakura — also influence the price of each Azuki NFT. Fireflies (0.88%) and Fire (0.58%) are especially valuable traits that have sold for about 30 ETH each.
The average sale price of each Sakura (0.8%), Smoke (0.81%) and Fox Fire (0.86%) NFT is 15 ETH, or around $40,000. Notably, their average sale price is still higher than ordinary Azuki NFTs with no unique trait (93.71%), which have sold for 7.92 ETH on average.
3. Offhand and Clothing Attributes
Both the offhand features (such as Golden Sheathed Katana, Water Orb and Lightning Orb, etc.) and clothing features influence the price of each Azuki NFT.
The golden Kigurumis are one of the rarest types of attributes, with the Cat (0.05%) being the rarest. Another expensive piece in the Azuki NFT collection is Azukis without clothing (0.05%), selling at an average price of 78.66 ETH.
As a trait, hair has a similar impact as other traits. Azukis with no hair (0.08%), or hair designs specific to a spirit type, have outperformed the rest. Azukis without hair have sold for an average of 30.69 ETH, while Spirit hairs have sold within the range of 42.7–76.5 ETH.
Fire (0.22%) and Water (0.21%) hairs trade at an average sale price of 29 ETH each. The other hair attributes have sold for between 3.2 ETH and 15.2 ETH.
5. Ear Trait
Red Bean (0.4%) is an ear trait associated with the origin of this brand that's pegged at 27.2 ETH.
6. Golden Headphone
The golden earphone (0.35%) surpasses the neck attributes, with an average sale price of almost 40 ETH.
Compared to the average trading price of the remaining neck attributes, Azuki NFTs with these have netted between 7.65 ETH and 16 ETH.
Fire (0.57%), Glowing (0.78%) and Lightning (0.46%) eyes are outstanding from other eye attributes. Azukis with these three types of eyes have sold for more than 18.4 ETH, while those with other eye traits have netted prices between 6.9 ETH and 12.4 ETH.
Are Azuki NFTs a Good Investment?
The hype surrounding the NFT movement has attracted creators, artists and collectors in large numbers, hoping to cash in on the skyrocketing prices of these digital collectibles.
The Azuki NFT collection joined the trend with a bang, setting an unprecedented sales record in a flash. Starting at an initial price of $3,400 for each token, Azukis now sell for an average of $37,700, with some rarer ones going for more than $500,000. This is by no means cheap! So is this the right time to invest in Azukis? You're probably also wondering if the price has peaked and if there's future potential for further price appreciation. Read on as we discuss the valuation of Azuki NFTs and how you can price them.
How to Determine the Value of Azukis
NFTs represent volatile assets in the volatile cryptocurrency space. But unlike other digital assets, NFTs are difficult to valuate because they typically have no intrinsic value. Like most artworks, the value of an Azuki NFT is subjective — and only worth as much as people are willing to pay for it. Clearly, hype plays a significant role in determining the value of NFT collections, which makes them a risky investment.
However, an Azuki NFT offers something more than hype — namely utility. As mentioned above, it gives holders membership to The Garden, with plans for a line of streetwear collabs, Azuki merch, NFT drops, live events, and more.
Art collectors also hope that these digital collectibles will appreciate with time, like their real-life counterparts, partly due to their uniqueness and scarcity. Azuki NFTs will delight many art lovers, due to their distinctive style and exquisite craftsmanship. Some buyers do so purely for art's sake, rather than as an investment.
Azukis have primarily maintained their value, despite tapering after initial giddy heights. The anime trend remains quite popular, especially in Asia.
While these underlying assumptions indicate a bright future for the nascent collection, it’s impossible to determine with any certainty that Azuki NFTs will stand the test of time.
As with any investment, spend only what you can afford to lose, do your research, and practice caution before buying an NFT.
The Bottom Line
The Azuki anime-art collection made a grand entrance into the $41 billion NFT market with the objective of becoming a hot brand for the metaverse. So far, the project has lived up to expectations — and it’s just getting started.
The Azuki team and community are as distinctive as their collection, and have proved to be dynamic, dedicated and innovative. These ingredients have combined to make Azuki a metaverse superstar.