Intro to Japanese Anime

Are you currently planning a stay in the wonderful country of Japan? Perhaps you are studying Japanese culture for a class in school or are possibly just enthralled by the wonderful world of modern Japanese pop culture. In any case, there is one aspect of Japanese pop culture, in particular, that is popular throughout the world. It is the style of Japanese animation popularly known as anime? If you haven’t already fallen in love with Anime, you likely just haven’t seen a good title yet. Today, there is likely an Anime series for just about anyone as it is certainly not only for children to enjoy.

While Anime is popular in Japan, its popularity abroad sometimes appears even stronger. There are very few Anime programs airing daily on regular television in Japan, in comparison to the abundance of titles airing daily in some western cities. Lately, it also seems like more and more classic Japanese animation titles are being made into blockbuster Hollywood movies. The futuristic “speed Racer”and the classic Japanese favorite “Astro Boy”are a couple of the highlights recently gracing silver screens around the world. Not to mention the highly successful “Transformers” movie franchise, based on a Japanese import from the 1980’s. This and many other Anime titles have been popular in countries beyond Japan from the 70’s through today. Many parents in western society today grew up enjoying such classic Japanese animation as “Robotech” and “Voltron”. From the more modern and cuddly pokemon to the cinematic cyberpunk of “kira” the range is amazing and its influence on modern western media and younger generations across the world is increasingly evident. Not only have western animation companies adopted Japanese styles over the last decade or more, even pop culture and fashion itself has adopted some of the aesthetics of Japanese animation.

Historically the phenomenon known as Anime had its humble beginnings around 1917 with the oldest known anime first being screened in Japan. It was, poignantly enough, an animation of a Samurai testing a new sword. The first Anime with audible speech was produced in 1933 and again presented much more of an adult theme than its western counterparts. Japanese animation, influenced by Walt Disney and other early pioneers, was like a new pen in the creative arsenal of Japan. This particular pen would ultimately prove mightier than the sword at influencing the world abroad.

The archetypal style of Japanese animation being refined from the 1940’s through the 1970’s was largely based on a desire to produce Disney level product on a tighter budget. This style, pioneered primarily by the legendary artist and animator known as Osamu Tezuka and his team, is occasionally criticized as overly simple animation since it often involves most of the frame remaining still while a character’s mouth would speak. Regardless, it was a breakthrough that allowed the animators to produce at the budget they had available. Although it was invented out of necessity, it later became a desirable aesthetic style of animation which is popular around the world today.

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