How Has Anime Culture Taken Root In America
Anime in the U.S. dates back as far as the early 60s with shows like Astro Boy and Gigantor. Other titles slowly made their way into American fandoms from Japan, with Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets hitting U.S. channels in the 70s while Robotech took the cartoon-loving kids of the 80s by storm.
The advent of home video in the 80s opened the floodgates, introducing viewers to movies like My Neighbor Totoro and Macross: Do You Remember Love? As cable television evolved in the 90s, channels like Cartoon Network and Sci-Fi programmed anime blocks. Anime TV movies were aimed at both children and adults, inspiring fans of Akira and Dragon Ball alike. Today, anime is available on most streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and . Its impact is hard to quantify, but a glance at pop culture shows animes fingerprints everywhere.
Tumblr and Instagram are full of anime memes. Sites like MakeGirlsMoe let fans generate their own personalized anime identity from scratch. Anime characters are popular options for Halloween costumes, regardless of age, and anime remains one of the biggest drivers of the cosplay community, thriving at conventions worldwide.
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A Small Glimpse Into The History Of Japanese Anime
Anime is a word derived from animation and is used by Japanese people to refer to any animated drawings, no matter their country of origin. In English, it is mostly used to refer specifically to Japanese animation.
The main difference between Japanese anime and Western animation is that anime targets adults just as much as children. In the West, animation does not receive much interest, and oftentimes, it is made only for children, which gives it the reputation of being unrefined and childish.
Furthermore, unlike in the West where the director lives in the shadow of the production company, Japanese anime directors are seen as artists. They often enjoy great notoriety in society because their role is considered very important .
Read on to learn more about the history of Japanese anime.
The 1970s The Stars Are Full Of Wars
After the surge of anime properties that hit U.S. shores in the 1960s, once the 70s rolled around, the craze seemed to quieten. However, the 70s produced two very important shows that did make their way to America. These shows would foreshadow the enormous anime boom of the 1980s.
Star Blazers originally had a limited release as Space Cruiser in 1978. Eventually, the series was picked up again and retitled Star Blazers. It premiered in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1979 and achieved a strong following. Many fans credit it with starting their interest in anime.
This was especially important since Star Blazers didnt sanitize as much of its material as former American adaptations of anime had done. Though references to alcohol and coarse language were removed, much of the original shows plot and character development were left intact. This led to Star Blazers being a much more mature show compared to other anime adaptations of the time. It also had a serialized story and continuing arcs which were rare if not completely abandoned for American anime adaptations.
The other seminal anime series for American audiences of the 70s was Battle of the Planets . The superhero/sci-fi series was immensely popular and was re-adapted in the 1980s as G-Force. However, fans of the property see that version as inferior to both the original Japanese version and the American adaptation.
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The 1980s: The Golden Age Of Anime
The 1980s is the Golden Age of anime. This is because there was an explosion of genres and interest in anime at that time. Introduction of VHS, which allowed the viewer to sit in the comfort of his/her home and enjoy anime, was a significant reason. Adding to it was the increasing number of new anime flooding the market, which led to a higher quality product being available to viewers.
Toei animated Akira Toriyamas Dragon Ball, which to this day is one of the most successful and watched anime. Manga, novels, and original stories kept everyone interested, and the advent of video games like Mario Brothers further strengthened anime.
Why Are Anime Eyes So Big
The main Reason is to convey emotions easier. This way animators could concentrate their efforts of the eyes when it came to showing emotions and didn´t have to animate the stance or pose of the Character to much.
This was cheaper and turned out to be a very effective method. It was also faster to animate only the eyes and not focus too much on the rest.
But money wasn´t the only reason. The Japanese culture was another one.
In the western world, we convey our emotions mainly through our body language and our mouth. Not by speaking but by smiling, frowning or screaming.
But in eastern countries, people don´t show their emotions as open as we are. They are either hiding their emotions behind their hand, by covering up their mouth for example.
Or they dont react in any way at all. This is seen as polite. So in Japan, for example, if you want to know what your opponent is feeling you will have to look in their eyes. Emotions can´t be masked as easily in the eyes. So Japanese people are used to looking in the eyes to read the emotions of others.
Another reason is that we are all positively drawn to big eyes. Big round eyes make characters look innocent and young. Just think back to the famous Bamby eyes.
This is the reason why bad characters in Anime, most of the time, have smaller eyes. This is not the case for all Animes but a lot of the older Animes used this trope a lot! Because it works.
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Toei Animation And Mushi Production
Toei Animation and Mushi Production was founded and produced the first color anime feature film in 1958, Hakujaden .It was released in the US in 1961 as well as Panda and the Magic Serpent. After the success of the project, Toei released a new feature-length animation annually.:101
Toei’s style was characterized by an emphasis on each animator bringing his own ideas to the production. The most extreme example of this is Isao Takahata‘s film Horus: Prince of the Sun . Horus is often seen as the first major break from the normal anime style and the beginning of a later movement of “auteuristic” or “progressive anime” which would eventually involve directors such as Hayao Miyazaki and Mamoru Oshii.
Osamu Tezuka established Mushi Production in 1961, after Tezuka’s contract with Toei Animation expired. The studio pioneered TV animation in Japan, and was responsible for such successful TV series as Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, Gok no Daibken and Princess Knight.
Mushi Production also produced the first anime to be broadcast in the United States , although Osamu Tezuka would complain about the restrictions on US television, and the alterations necessary for broadcast.
What Astroboy Isn’t And The Real ‘first Anime’
The first known animation to come from Japan is Katsudo Shashin. Experts debate its age, but it’s thought to have been created between 1907 – 1911. This short clip was likely shown in a private home to entertain guests, rather than be publicly available.
Many of the frames from Katsudo Shashin
This clip is out of copyright, you can watch it on the Wikipedia page
Another area where anime was being used was in the armed forces. Studies at the time discovered that recruits learned faster and remembered better instructional videos that were animated. With the need to train many troops with the appearance of World War 2, anime became utilized more and more. At the height of the war, the first feature length anime film was produced – Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors – a propaganda cartoon for the masses.
Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors features a lot of military content.
Without significant funding such as the military’s, anime was still non-viable for any studios. Several productions were made, including Otogi Manga Calander – the first anime series to be televised. The exact first tv anime is contestable though – The first televised stand-alone full episode anime Three Tales beat Astroboy by a single year however in 1960. Or a shorter clip – Mole’s Adventure in 1958
The Tale of the White Serpent was heavily influenced by Disney works, although Toei tried to keep some of its own influence in the drawings
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The 2000s: Cgi Arrives
CGI became commonly used in the 90s, but its use in anime reached a crescendo in the 2000s. Anime was flourishing, and the success of series after series increased fan-following multifold. One Piece , Naruto and Bleach raised the bar for all anime by cross-promoting manga, video games, and merchandise.
The Internet allowed fans to interact with other fans and discuss minute details, which meant that the artists and studios had to up their game as well to stay in business.
But Seriously What Is Anime
The issue here is that pizza is easier to define than anime. When seeking a formal definition of anime, once you start poking and prodding, it all becomes a little bit fuzzy.
Must anime come from a manga? Surely, the success of Cowboy Bebop has shut this theory down.
Does anime describe a specific visual style? Relying on an I cant define it, but I know it when I see it approach is insufficient. And for every trope or visual element the blue hair, the nosebleeds, the cute animal hybrids there are dozens of examples that exist outside these parameters.
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The Short History Of Manga
Manga, referring to the Japanese comics and graphic novels that are popular today, has been around for far longer than some might think. The trademark style and layout of manga has been traced back definitively to the late 19th century with the appearance of kibyoshi, or early style comic books.
However, some people suggest that manga was being produced and enjoyed in Japan even earlier, even as early as in the 12th century.
According to one popular theory, scrolls from the Heian period were early forms of manga.
Its because of these scrolls that we read in the right to left style. It would take quite a few years before wed have a polished version of the manga we know and love today, but its seeds had already been planted in Classical Japan.
The Etymology Of Manga
Some people have pointed out that this is slightly ironic. Truthfully, the word manga in Japanese is just a catch-all for all things comics and cartooning. The word anime, likewise, refers to animation, which may or may not be in the anime style.
But outside of Japan, these terms are used to represent any media originating from Japan that share the popularized style. The word anime has even been used to describe this style, applying to both animated and non-animated works. This is especially the case with countries such as the US and Britain.
Anime sparked a cultural wave that not only placed attention on anime and manga but Japanese culture in general as well. Likewise, Western elements began to be incorporated into current work, whether by chance or as a way to appeal to Western audiences.
Mangakas certainly had Western fans on their mind. Toriyama led the successful spin-off of Dragon Ball, called Dragon Ball Z, which included English dubs and new storylines. This would go on to be a huge hit, and animes with dubs became a standard for Western audiences.
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The Rise Of Manga And Anime
Manga is the Japanese term for comics. The word was first used in 1798 to describe the picture book Shiji no yukikai. The term showed up again in 1814 as the title of Aikawa Minwa’s Manga Hyakujo and Hokusai Manga, books that contained drawings by the artist Hokusai.
Modern manga developed amid an explosion of artistic creativity during the U.S. occupation of Japan, from 1945?1952. During the occupation, U.S. troops introduced American comics and cartoons, such as Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, and Bambi to Japan, inspiring Japanese artists to develop their own style of comics. Japanese cartoonist, Osamu Tezuka, known as the God of Manga and Godfather of Anime, invented the distinctive large eyes prominent in both manga and anime. His manga series, Astro Boy, went on to become the first Japanese television series to embody the aesthetic that became known worldwide as anime. The series was first broadcast in Japan in 1963.
Does Anime Have To Come From Japan To Be Called Anime
In 2013, Alter Ego Productions, an animated studio based in Abu Dhabi, created Torkaizer, which was lauded as the Middle Easts first anime. The story followed Ahmed, a young Emirati man who must protect humanity from an impending alien invasion. The plot and animation style clearly borrowed from well-known Japanese anime: the unsuspecting heros journey, the humanoid animals it even takes place in Japan. However, Torkaizer being marketed as an anime struck up a debate almost as old as the genre: if its not from Japan, can we call it anime?
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How Did Anime Start
The first-ever Japanese animation in its most basic form is thought to have been created in 1906, but the legitimacy of this claim has been disputed by some. The short, animated film was called Katsud Shashindepicts a young boy drawing the Japanese characters for Katsud Shashin. It was made using fifty different frames, each of which was stenciled onto a strip of celluloid . There have been several claims that other films entered Japan around this time too, but none have been able to be fully verified.
While there were several projects that made it to screen in Japan after 1906, including the French animated film Exploits de Feu Follet by Emile Cohl in 1912. It wasnt until 1917 that the first commercial anime was officially produced and broadcasted in Japan . That anime was called Dekob Shingach: Meian no Shippai, but like most anime of the time the original copies did not stand the test of time – most of them were cut up and sold as individual frames or strips to collectors.
The Trouble New Millenium
At the same time, anime was expanding far beyond Japans borders, one major upheaval after another through the 2000s threatened its growth and led many to speculate if it even had a future.
The first was the implosion of Japans bubble economy in the Nineties, which had injured the industry during that time but continued to affect things into the new millennium. Contracting budgets and declining industry revenues meant a turn towards things that were guaranteed to sell edgy and experimental work took a backseat. Titles based on existing manga and light novel properties that were guaranteed hits came all the more to the fore. Shows that tapped into the lightweight moé aesthetic became dependable if also disposable money-makers. Attention shifted from OAVs to TV productions which stood far more of a chance of recouping costs. Conditions in the animation industry itself, never good to begin with, worsened: more than 90% of the animators who enter the field now leave after less than three years of working brutal hours for meager pay.
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The History Of Animes Journey To America
Anime has taken the world by storm. The abundance of shows and films is matched only by how easy it is to watch your favorite anime. But, how did this export from Japan become such a huge phenomenon in America? Which shows and films paved the way for anime to become the empire it is today?
Why Dont We Just Qualify It
Most Western fans tend to be rigid with the definition of anime. They claim the term can only be used to define non-Japanese animation when qualified. This is why youll hear people describe the web series RWBY as an American anime. Or youll notice fans dub Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra as anime-inspired TV shows. You can acknowledge the nod to anime, but you cant outright call it anime.
An analogy fans often bring up is food. Sure, Taco Bell serves a pizza on its menu , but they qualify it as a Mexican Pizza due to its taco-inspired ingredients . Were you to present this Mexican Pizza in a contest in Naples, where pizza is believed to have been born, youll be laughed out of Italy.
Some fans claim that as pizza is the product of Italian culture , anime is a product of Japanese culture. Animation created outside of Japan can be inspired by anime, but it cant actually be anime because it simply lacks that Japanese je ne sais quoi.
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The 1990s Anime Hits The Mainstream
Its impossible to catalog the numerous series and films that made their way overseas in the 1990s. Anime was a fertile market for American distributors whose only production costs involved re-recording/rewriting dialogue as well as editing content and timing. Many television stations like the Sci-Fi Channel and Cartoon Network would run anime shows in specialized blocks aimed at older children and teenagers. Of these, Cartoon Networks Toonami was the most influential in bringing several action-oriented anime shows to the widest possible audience.
The 1990s also provided Americans with their biggest anime cultural effects. Shows like SailorMoon, Dragon Ball Z, and Gundam Wing were not only big hits in Japan but in America as well. The influx of other elements of Japanese pop culture began to take hold. The largest of these was Pokémon which was not only an anime series but also featured a video game and card game component.
In the realm of film, anime was breaching into the mainstream like never before. While movies like Ghost in the Shell remained beloved by anime fans, it also went on the be a huge inspiration for The Matrix, one of the highest grossing films of the 1990s. Miyazakis films began to be even more widely accepted, with Princess Mononoke becoming the most expensive animated production ever made at the time.
And when the 2000s rolled around, it was clear that anime was going to be everything for everybody.