Anime is a form of animation that originated in the island nation of Japan as early as the year 1917 with the film The Dull Sword[1]. Within Japan's borders, however, anime refers to animated works as a whole, and not just Japanese animated works, whereas in other countries, anime refers to specifically Japanese-made animation, or works that bear heavy resemblance to Japanese animation.

A collection of animated series and films

Anime has been produced outside of Japan on numerous occasions, but has for the most part been produced within the country itself by major animation studios. Some of the most notable animation studios include Studio Ghibli, Ufotable, and Toei Animation. Toei has also been responsible for distributing anime outside of Japan, leading to a rise in anime in other areas of the world, including Europe, South America, and especially the United States of America[2].

Anime Throughout the Years edit

Pre-1960s Animation edit

Animation in Japan prior to the 60s often depicted Japanese folklore and other commonly told stories as story plots, using well-known Japanese gods and mythological creatures to teach usually younger audiences life-lessons, similar to Grimm's brothers fairytales or Aesop's fables. As anime evolved, however, it began to feature more complex narratives and visuals, often influenced by early Disney animations with overly-cartoony characters performing more silly and over-exaggerated actions than previously seen[3]. Additionally, facial expressions were more emphasized and contributed to the storytelling heavily.

An early work during the 1940's was a film called Momotaro: Sacred Sailors(sometimes referred to as Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors in the United States). This was a propaganda film that was made to show the glory of being in the Japanese army during World War II, but also showed some of the horrors of war. This was also one of the first feature-length anime films.

1960s edit

Toei Animation studio

The 1960s is when anime started to develop its unique visual styles and storylines that are used as templates for modern anime. Anime has varied much in style over the years, but started to follow a basic style established by Osamu Tezuka in the 60s with works like Astro Boy and Princess Knight. These popular series gave Tezuka the title of the Father of Anime. Another anime that is somewhat notable is the Wonderful World of Puss in Boots, a film that is based on a popular fairytale character named puss in boots, a cat outlaw armed with a sword fighting to survive assassins. This film is notable due to Toei, one of the largest anime studios and distributers in all of Japan, using puss in boots as the face of their company for decades.

1970s edit

The 1970s is when anime started to include much more violence and action in its plots, much to the excitement of its viewers. Some of these anime include the Rose of Versailles, Mobile Suit Gundam, and Lupin III: the Castle of Cagliostro, the first animated feature made by Hayao Miyazaki, the creator and head animator of the extremely popular Studio Ghibli films. Anime was still varying greatly during this time, and narratives varied from film to film. However, all anime during this time was entirely hand-drawn, which would change starting in the 1980s with the invention of CGI and the advancements of computer graphics.

1980s edit

The 1980s is often described as the "golden age of anime", as a lot of impactful films released during this time. Some of these film include the first major Studio Ghibli works, such as Kiki's Delivery Service and Grave of the Fireflies. Another notable film to release during this time was Akira in 1988, a film that shows the aftermath of war and the effects war has on people.

1990s edit

During this time, many popular anime films and series released in a continuation of a golden age of anime. A lot of films released in this time seemed to follow the themes of violence and chaos seen in Akira the decade prior. These films and series include Ghost in the Shell, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and End of Evangelion. These shows were also directly influenced by another movie from the United States, Blade Runner; all of these works fit into a genre known as cyberpunk[4].

Studio Ghibli films continued to release during this time, as well as a popular series titled Sailor Moon, one of the largest animes in the magical girl genre meant to appeal to young girls.

2000s and Beyond edit

Anime in the 2000s had begun to fully spread outward outside of the Japanese market, and began to attract the U.S. market especially with series such as Fullmetal Alchemist and Samurai Champloo with their beautifully crafted soundtracks and detailed animation styles that were quick and eye-catching. The late 90s and early 2000s is also where many modern Shonen, anime meant for young boys and men, thrived. These anime include Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece, many of which still air today with new episodes decades later. Ghibli movies also experienced another boom in popularity in the U.S. during this time.

During the 2000s other countries started to create shows and movies replicating anime style visually and narratively, such as Samurai Jack, which is literally based on Japanese history of samurai warriors.

Anime continues to soar in popularity today, with shows like Demon Slayer, Erased, and a plethora of anime movies keeping a grip on Japanese and other markets alike, with varying themes and visual styles to keep audiences intrigued. More and more animation studios, such as Studio Trigger, have begun to pop up and produce a plethora of content for the masses. The rise in streaming services has also helped to spread anime; these services include Netflix, Crunchyroll, Funimation, and many others that are specifically for anime, or just have a section dedicated to the art of Japanese animation.

Themes in Anime edit

Growing Up and Identity edit

Many animated works have often included themes of growing up. These themes are meant to appeal to youth as these works feature young protagonists who struggle finding their paths in life and embark on journeys to find themselves. Studio Ghibli films often depict child protagonists who mature throughout the film and find purpose in life, such as the film Kiki's Delivery Service, where a witch girl finds purpose in delivering packages to a coastal town on her flying broom, finding friends and love along her adventures. Ghibli films use the music of legendary composer Joe Hisaishi to evoke feelings of longing and nostalgia to cause audiences to empathize with the protagonist's struggles, as they picture their own struggles and associate themselves with these characters[5].

Studio Ghibli logo

One popular genre of anime, referred to as shojo, is meant to appeal to younger girls who struggle to find their voice in a male-dominated society. Works in this genre, including Sailor Moon, which is included in a subgenre of shojo called magical girl anime, and the Rose of Versailles, often depict strong female protagonists who are given male clothing or usual male characteristics, therefore breaking gender stereotypes[6]. These characters show that they don't need men to help them through their hardships, but rather determination in one's self and maturity.

The End of Evangelion film logo

Other animation projects, especially recent ones, have begun to incorporate mental health as an antagonist in these works. One popular anime that does this is Neon Genesis Evangelion. This show, first airing in 1997 with several movies following the end of the series, depicts a boy names Shinji who struggles with depression and anxiety and often self-monologues to himself unfavorably. He is thrust into the spotlight early on in the show as a chosen hero to fight powerful god-like beasts called angels to prevent the end of an already shattered world, though his failure to believe in himself often causes issues[7]. Shinji has difficulty throughout the series expressing love, self-confidence, and friendship, opting to mentally beat himself up instead. The creator of the Evangelion series, Hideaki Anno, was struggling with depression and anxiety himself at the time of the show's creation, and chose to express those emotions that he and many other men often feel through Shinji and his actions.

More recently, anime has begun to depict LGBTQ characters, as well as plots relating to finding one's identity in this sense.

War and Conflict edit

An atomic blast

War is often depicted in anime due to the tragic history of war in Japan. Japanese people have faced numerous wars in their early history, but World War II caused much pain for the nation due to the dropping of the atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945[8]. These bombings affected the country to the point where effects can be felt to this day, and anime has incorporated recreations of these attacks or similar attacks within their plots as a way to show the horrors of war. One such anime recreating these events is Barefoot Gen, a 1983 film based on a manga that showed in graphic detail the horrors of nuclear warfare based on the creators own experiences surviving the bombings[9]. Another film that served to show the effects of nuclear warfare is Akira from 1988. This film shows a potential future of a world devastated by nuclear warfare, filled with gangs, slums, destruction, and utter chaos in the street of Neo Tokyo. This film used newer technology such as CGI, a large color palette than previous works, and a quick action recorder to enhance the visuals of the film and ensure that the film was smooth and perfect[10].

References edit

  1. "The Dull Sword [the longest, digitally restored version] | Details of the work | Japanese Animated Film Classics". Retrieved 2023-12-11.
  2. Otmazgin, Nissim (2014). "Anime in the US: The Entrepreneurial Dimensions of Globalized Culture". Pacific Affairs 87 (1): 53–69. ISSN 0030-851X. 
  3. "Spring Comes to Ponsuke | Details of the work | Japanese Animated Film Classics". Retrieved 2023-12-11.
  4. Johnson, Keith Leslie (2014-01). "Manga in the Anthropocene: Notes Toward a Cyberpunk Ecology 2". Southeast Review of Asian Studies 36: 112–123.,shib&db=a9h&AN=117755663&site=eds-live&scope=site&custid=ns235470. 
  5. "Joe Hisaishi - Details". Joe Hisaishi - Details. Retrieved 2023-12-11.
  6. Retrieved 2023-12-11. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. Smith, Claude (2008). You Are Not Alone: Self-Identity and Modernity in Neon Genesis Evangelion and Kokoro (in en). 
  8. "Manhattan Project: The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima, August 6, 1945". Retrieved 2023-12-11.
  9. Nakazawa, Keiji (2004). Barefoot Gen: The day after (in en). Last Gasp. ISBN 978-0-86719-619-1. 
  10. "Why Akira Is Still Relevant More than 30 Years Later". Linearity blog. 2022-05-09. Retrieved 2023-12-11.