One popular form of entertainment today is Japanese animation, or anime. The term anime in Japan refers to animated works as a whole, but American fans use the term to refer specifically to animated works from Japan. The difference between anime and American cartoons is that anime is meant for people of all ages, where cartoons are made specifically for children; however, anime has had an influence on American animation, such as Disney, which helps produce movies for a large studio in Japan.
Anime’s roots come originally from Manga, which are Japanese comics. Manga was developed over hundreds of years, starting as pictures drawn on temple walls, then on wooden blocks, and finally as woodblock prints with captions collected in books. In time, the captions became stories and the art became sequential (Justy). Short films started being made based off these comics in the early ‘20s through World War II. During World War II many of the anime artists were banned from working, because they would not conform to the government’s demands. There were two exceptions, the Shin Nippon Mangaka Kyokai aka the New Cartoonists Association of Japan and Shin Mangaha Shudan aka the New Cartoonists Faction Group. The government used these groups to influence people through their artwork by creating comic strips filled with propaganda to use against the nation’s enemies (Zagzoug).
After the war ended, the animation returned to the individual filmmakers, however it was a slow recovery due to Japan’s poor economy, they also found that their films were competing with American cartoons, so the animators decided that the future was to adopt the American studio style (Patten). The first success in creating an American style studio was the Toei Animation Co. which was created in 1956. Toei Animation Co. became known as a professional animation company after its first theatrical release in 1958, of “Panda and the Magic Serpent.” Toei Animation Co. liked to follow in Disney’s footsteps by putting out movies only a year apart, basing movies on oriental folk tales, and by having funny cute animal characters (Patten).
Japan’s first TV animation studio, Mushi Productions started in 1963 on New Year’s Day (Patten). The creator of this company was Osamu Tezuka, who was a comic artist for Toei Animation Co., while working for Toei he became very popular for his comics because they had more intense emotion and prolonged narration which made some moments much more intense. (O’Connell). One of his largest contributions to the anime industry was how he drew his characters, using large eyes and simplified facial features to express a broad range of emotion, a concept that has carried down to modern anime (O'Connell). Another large contribution that Tezuka did was, make cartooning an acceptable form of storytelling for any age group. He did this by drawing for children’s books, romantic comic book soap operas for women’s magazines, humorous comics for men’s magazines, and political cartoons for newspapers (Patten). Based off Tezuka’s comics, the TV series “Astro Boy” became successful very quickly.
Mushi Productions was very successful, so around the same time other TV studios started being created, such as Tatsunoko Production Co., Television Corporation of Japan, Nippon Animation and Tokyo Movie Shinsha (Patten).
As new and exciting as Japanese animated television series seemed to be in the 1960's, you could not escape the fact that most series were created strictly for children, with a few exceptions. But by the 1970’s this all changed. It was in the science fiction genre where televised animation started to make incredible leaps forward, with shows such as “Kagaku Ninja-Tai Gatchaman” (U.S.: Battle of the Planets & G-Force), “Great Mazinger”, and “Uchu no Kishi Tekkaman” (U.S.: Tekkaman) and “Uchu Senkan Yamato” (U.S.: Star Blazers) (O’Connell).
The 1980’s became an anime explosion. Looking for more mature shows to produce, studios pulled inspiration from more sources, like adapting stories from popular comics like Akira Toriyama's “Dragon Ball”, making more humorous anime like insane alien comedy “Urusei Yatsura”, or the gender-bending “Ranma ½”, or by making cyberpunk-inspired anime like the movie “Akira” or the TV series “Bubble Gum Crisis” and “Ghost in the Shell” (O'Connell). By the mid-1980s, anime had been dominated by TV production for two decades, two developments changed this. One was the return of theatrical feature animation from two new studios and the other was the emergence of the home-video market (Patten).
The two new studios that emerged were Studio Ghibli and Studio Gainax. An anime cartoonist, Hayao Miyazaki began a science-fiction comic-book adventure, “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”, for Animage, an animation-fan magazine from one of Japan's largest publishers, Tokuma. It was so good it led to Tokuma financing feature of the comic which Miyazaki got to direct. The 1984 “Nausicaä” was such a success that Tokuma created a new animation studio, Studio Ghibli, for the personal theatrical features of Miyazaki and his friend Takahata, who had worked with and without Miyazaki at various anime studios in Tokyo since the 60s’ (Patten). Studio Ghibi, because of the work of Miyazaki and Takahata created some of Japan’s top grossing theatrical films. With the help of Disney many of Miyazaki films are popular here in the United States as well, such as “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”, “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, “Castle in the Sky”, “Howl’s Moving Castle”, “Ponyo”, and Oscar winner for best animated feature, “Spirited Away”.
Studio Gainax was founded by Toshio Okada. This studio brought together a group of creators who were part of the first generation raised on Japanese animation. Gainax produced some of the most significant and popular works of the '80's and 90's. The science fiction masterpiece “The Wings of Honneamise,” the video series “Gunbuster” and the TV show “Nadia the Secret of Blue Water” showed the company's skill at presenting exciting adventures, both futuristic and historical. Gainax established itself as the current leader of episodic science-fiction by producing the beautifully-rendered TV show “Neon Genesis Evangelion” (O’Connell).
The emergence of the home video market began in 1984. With this market, fans could actually buy copies of their favorite animated TV shows and movies. Production companies even started to bypass the traditional entertainment media and began releasing original animated TV shows and movies straight to video (O’Connell). The Japanese created an English term for these videos, OAV (original anime video), Americans use this term as well. OAVs animation is usually higher in quality than TV, but not as rich as theatrical movies. Even though 90% of the OAVs turn out bad, the other 10% are considered to be brilliant. OAVs are good for stories which are too long for a standard theatrical release, but not long enough for a TV series. Video productions can run from a half-hour to two hours, and from independent titles to series of two to ten videos. OAVs do not have to follow the same standards as TV does, so this did lead to some OAVs being more violent or having more pornographic images, but some of the great anime started out as an OAV and moved on to having its own TV series or theatrical films. OAV titles are the main source for anime that is released in America today, since their licenses are more affordable than the expensive theatrical features or of multi-episode TV series (Patten).
As the interest in anime increased in America, many companies such as Central Park Media, AnimEigo, AD Vision (ADV), FUNimation, Bang Zoom, and Viz Media rose to license, translate, and redistribute anime (A Global History of Anime). Anime's success can be credited to the unswerving dedication of many Japanese artists who fully exploit the possibilities of animation as a creative medium. These gifted artists understood that they could do more with moving pictures than just entertain children. They could explore the boundaries of space and examine the complexities of the human condition. It's this willingness to experiment that has made anime so dynamic and appealing (O’Connell).
“A Global History of Anime: Parts 1-4.” RightStuf.com. The Right Stuf International Inc. Web. 23 June 2011.
Justy, Cosmo P. “A Brief History of Anime.” AnimeMetro.com. 2011. Web. 23 June 2011.
O'Connell, Michael. “A Brief History of Anime.” CorneredAngel.com. 1999. Web. 23 June 2011.