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History of anime


History of anime

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Atom, star of the long-running science fiction series Mighty Atom (also known as Astro Boy to Western audiences). Atom, star of the long-running science fiction series Mighty Atom (also known as Astro Boy to Western audiences).

The history of anime begins at the start of the 20th century, when Japanese filmmakers experimented with the animation techniques that were being explored in the West. Though filmmakers in Japan experimented with animation earlier, the first widely popular anime series was Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy (1963). During the 1970s, anime developed further, separating itself from its Western roots, and developing unique genres such as mecha. Notable shows in this period include Lupin III and Mazinger Z. During this period several filmmakers became famous, especially Hayao Miyazaki and Mamoru Oshii.

In the 1980s, anime was accepted in the mainstream in Japan, and experienced a boom in production. The start of the Gundam franchise, and the beginnings of Rumiko Takahashi's career began in this decade. Akira set records in 1988 for the production costs of an anime.

The 1990s and 2000s saw an increased acceptance of anime in overseas markets. Akira and Ghost in the Shell (1995) became famous worldwide. The series Dragon Ball Z became a worldwide success. Other series like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop were popular in Japan and attracted attention from the West. Spirited Away shared the first prize at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003, and Innocence: Ghost in the Shell was featured at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

The earliest known anime (discovered in 2005) was produced circa 1907 and consists of fifty frames drawn directly onto a strip of celluloid. The untitled short depicts a young boy writing the Chinese characters for "moving picture"(映画), then turning towards the viewer, removing his hat, and offering a salute. The creator's identity is unknown.


The First Generation of Japanese Animators

Sadly very few complete animations made during this time have survived until now. The reasons vary, but they are mostly commercial. After they had their big time, reels (being property of the cinemas) were sold to smaller cinemas in the country and then disassembled and sold as strips or single frames.

Shimokawa Oten: A political caricaturist and cartoonist, who worked for the magazine Tokyo Puck. He was hired by Tenkatsu to do an animation for them. Due to medical reasons, he only was able to do five movies, including Imokawa Mukuzo - Genkanban no maki, before he returned to his previous work as a cartoonist.

Kouchi Jun'ichi: A caricaturist and painter, who also had studied watercolor painting. 1912 he also entered the cartoonist sector and was hired for an animation by Kobayashi Shokai later in 1916. He is viewed as the technically most advanced Japanese animator in the 1910s. His works include around 15 movies.

Kitayama Seitaro: Unlike the other pioneers of his era, Kitayama made animations on his own, not being commissioned by larger corporations. He even founded his own animaton studio Kitayama Eiga Seisakujo (which was closed due to lack of commercial success). His animation technique was the chalkboard animation and, later, paper animation (with and without preprinted backgrounds).

The Second Generation of Japanese Animators

Murato Yosuji, Kimura Hakuzan, Yamamoto Sanae and Ofuji Noboro were students of Kitayama Seitaro and worked at his film studio. Masaoka Kenzo, another important animator, worked at a smaller animation studio. In 1923, the Great Kantō earthquake destroyed most of Kitayama studio and the residing animators spread out and founded studios of their own, knowing that one could make money with the production of animations.

During this time, the first youth protection laws were adopted, which also lead to censorship of some early animations for children under the age of 15. On the other hand, films that offered educational value were supported and encouraged by the Monbusho (the Ministry of Education). Hundreds of thousands of yen were spent for this purpose. Animation had found a persistent place in scholastic, political and industrial use, which lead to high demand of new content.

During the War

In the 1930s the Japanese government began enforcing cultural nationalism. This also lead to a strict censorship and control of published media. Many animators were urged to produce animations which enforced the Japanese spirit and national affiliation. The movies were shown in NEWS-Cinemas as an opinion-forming limbering filler and were very famous, in fact (after Japan had its own support of movie material through the newly-founded Fujifilm) News-Cinemas boomed and together with it the animation industry reached a peak in officially shown movies. At that time many small studios were closed or fused to bigger studios until only three big studios remained on the broad market.

Disney had a strong influence on the animators at that time, but due to commercial issues Japanese animations at that time didn't have a high production standard, but were rather pale imitations of Disney productions (repeating scenes and gags, afterrecording of sound and so on). Disney also used sound film very early but that was too expensive for most Japanese studios until the mid 30s.

Until the 30s the Japanese movie industry was dominated by the cinemas, who commissioned animations from small studios or single animators. Due to the fusing and enlarging of animation studios bigger projects were possible, but the necessary money didn't come from the Monbusho or a big cinema combine. Many animations were instead commissioned by the military, showing the sly, quick Japanese people (often depicted as monkeys) winning against enemy forces.

In 1942 Momotarō no Umiwashi (桃太郎の海鷲, Momotaro's Sea Eagles) by Geijutsu Eigasha, all together 37 minutes in length, became the longest and technically most advanced eastern animation to date. It showed the story of a navy unit, which consisted of the human Momotaro and several animal species representing the far eastern races fighting together for a common goal. At the time this movie was the third longest animated movie with only Disney's Snow White and Fleischer's Gulliver's Travels being longer. Three years later ( April 12, 1945) Shouchiku Douga Kenkyuusho produced the 74-minute-long animation Momotaro - Umi no Shinpei (桃太郎海の神兵, Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors). This film is considered the first feature length Japanese animation.

Toei Animation and Mushi Productions

Scene from Hols: Prince of the Sun (1968) with both Hols and Hilda. Scene from Hols: Prince of the Sun (1968) with both Hols and Hilda.

In 1948, Toei Animation was founded and produced the first color anime feature film in 1956, Hakujaden (The Tale of the White Serpent, 1958). This film was more Disney in tone than modern anime with musical numbers and animal sidekicks. It was released in the US as Panda and the Magic Serpent. Throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s Toei continued to release these Disney-like films and eventually also produced two of the most well known anime series, Dragon Ball 1986 and Sailor Moon 1992.

Toei's style was also 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 Hols: Prince of the Sun (1968). Hols 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.

A major contribution of Toei's style to modern anime was the development of the "money shot". This cost-cutting method of animation allows for emphasis to be placed on important shots by animating them with more detail than the rest of the work (which would often be limited animation). Toei animator Yasuo Ōtsuka began to experiment with this style and developed it further as he went into television.

Osamu Tezuka started a rival production company called Mushi Productions. The studio's first hit Mighty Atom became the first popular anime television series in 1963. Contrary to popular belief, Atom was not the first anime series broadcast in Japan; that honor falls to Manga Calendar, which began broadcasting in 1962. However, Atom was the first series to feature regular characters in an ongoing plot. American television, which was still in its infancy and searching for new programming, rewrote and adapted Atom for the United States in 1964, retitled as Astro Boy. The success of Atom in Japan opened the doors for many more anime titles to be created, including Mitsuteru Yokoyama's Tetsujin 28-go (later released in the U.S. as Gigantor), Tezuka's Jungle Emperor (later released in the U.S. as Kimba the White Lion) and Tatsuo Yoshida's Mach Go Go Go (later released in the U.S. as Speed Racer), which was produced by Tatsunoko Production Co., Ltd.

By the late 1960s anime began to branch out into new areas. Tezuka began this branching out with several experimental, adult-oriented films known as the Animerama films. The three films are 1001 Nights (1969), Cleopatra (1970), and Belladonna of Sadness (1973). Belladonna is the most experimental of the three, providing an inspiration for Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997). In addition the first adult oriented TV show Lupin III (1971) was broadcast at this time.

The 70s

Gatchaman, one of the most famous anime series of the 1970s. Gatchaman, one of the most famous anime series of the 1970s.

During the 1970s, the Japanese film market fell apart due to competition from television. Toei slowly got out of the production of lavish Disneyesque musicals and focused mainly on producing TV series. Also, Mushi Productions went bankrupt spreading many animators into new studios such as Madhouse Production and Sunrise. As a result of these two events, many young animators were thrust into the position of director before they would have been promoted to it. This injection of young talent allowed for a wide variety of experimentation.

An example of this experimentation is with Isao Takahata's 1974 television series Heidi. This show was originally a hard sell because it was a simple realistic drama aimed at children. Most TV networks thought the TV show wouldn't be successful because children needed something more fantastic to draw them in. "Heidi" wound up being an international success being picked up in many European countries and becoming popular there. In Japan it was so successful that it allowed for Miyazaki and Takahata to start up a series of literary based anime called World Masterpiece Theatre. Even though Miyazaki and Takahata left in the late 1970s, this series lasted until the mid-1990s.

Another genre known as mecha came into being at this time. Some early works include Mazinger Z (1972-74), Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (1972-74), Space Battleship Yamato (1974-75) and Mobile Suit Gundam (1979-80). These titles showed a progression in the science fiction genre in anime, as shows shifted from more superhero-oriented, fantastical plots to somewhat more realistic space operas with increasingly complex plots and fuzzier definitions of right and wrong. One famous example would be that of Char Aznable from Mobile Suit Gundam who changed from antagonist in the original series to tenuous ally in the sequel series, Zeta Gundam and back to the villain for the movie Char's Counterattack.

The 80s

The release of Space Battleship Yamato is often cited as the beginning of the Golden Age of Anime The release of Space Battleship Yamato is often cited as the beginning of the Golden Age of Anime

This shift towards space operas became more pronounced in the late 1970s due to the commercial success of Star Wars. This allowed for the early space opera "Space Battleship Yamato" to be revived in a theatrical version. This theatrical version of Yamato is seen as the basis of the anime boom of the 1980s, referred to as the Golden Age of Anime.

Two events happened at the time of this shift from superhero Giant Robots to elaborate Space Operas. A subculture in Japan (who later called themselves Otaku) began to develop around animation magazines such as Animage or later Newtype. These magazines popped up in response to the overwhelming fandom that developed around shows such as Yamato in the late 1970s.

In addition a major component of anime from a technical perspective developed with Yoshinori Kanada an animation director (who worked on Yamato) who allowed individual key animators working under him to put their own style of movement as a means to save money. In many more "auteuristic" anime this formed the basis of an individualist animation style that is unique to Japan (in commercial animation). In addition, Kanada's animation was inspiration for Takashi Murakami and his Superflat art movement.

In the United States the popularity of Star Wars had a similar, but much smaller, effect on the development of anime. Gatchaman was reworked and edited into Battle of the Planets in 1978 and again as G-Force in 1986. Space Battleship Yamato was reworked and edited into Star Blazers in 1979 and finally, and perhaps most infamously, Robotech (1985) was created from three anime titles, The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada. The first organized American "otaku" developed as fans of these series.

The Otaku culture became more pronounced with Mamoru Oshii's adaptation of Rumiko Takahashi's popular manga Urusei Yatsura 1982. Yatsura would allow Takahashi to become a household name in anime despite her humble origins as a doujinshi artist. As for Oshii he would begin to break away from fan culture and take a more auteuristic approach with his 1984 film Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer. This break with the otaku culture would allow Oshii to experiment much further later in his career.

The otaku subculture had some effect on people who were entering the industry around this time. The most famous of these people were the amateur production group Daicon Films which would become Studio Gainax. Gainax began by making films for the Daicon Scifi conventions and were so popular in the otaku community that they were given a chance to helm the biggest budgeted (to that point) anime film, Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (1987).

The film Nausicaš helped jumpstart Studio Ghibli The film Nausicaš helped jumpstart Studio Ghibli

One of the most influential anime of all time, Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind (1984), was made during this time period. The film gave extra prestige to anime allowing for many experimental and ambitious projects to be funded shortly after its release. It also allowed for its director Hayao Miyazaki and his long time colleague Isao Takahata the ability to set up their own studio under the supervision of former Animage editor Toshio Suzuki. This studio would become known as Studio Ghibli and its first film was Castle in the Sky (1986).

Around the same time as Nausicaa a new medium was developed for anime the OVA. These OVAs were direct-to-home-video series and or movies that catered to much smaller niche audiences. The first OVA was Moon Base Dallos' (1983-1984) directed by Mamoru Oshii. Dallos was a flop, but Megazone 23 (1985) was the first real success in this market. Shows such as Patlabor had their beginnings in this market and it proved to be a way to test less marketable animation against audiences.

The OVA was also responsible for allowing the first full-blown anime pornography with OVA's such as Cream Lemon (1984). (see also hentai).

The late 1980s, following the release of Nausicaa, saw an increasing number of high budget and/or experimental films. In 1985 Toshio Suzuki helped put together funding for Oshii's experimental film Angel's Egg (1985). The OVA market allowed for short experimental pieces such as Take the X Train, Neo-Tokyo, and Robot Carnival(all three 1987).

Akira brought anime to an international scene Akira brought anime to an international scene

Theatrical releases became more ambitious each film trying to outclass or out spend the other film all taking cues from Nausicaa's popular and critical success. Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985), Tale of Genji (1986), and Grave of the Fireflies (1987) were all ambitious films based on important literary works in Japan. Films such as Char's Counterattack 1988 and Arion (1986) were lavishly budgeted spectacles. This period of lavish budgeting and experimentation would reach its zenith with two of the most expensive anime film productions ever: Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (1987) and Akira (1988).

Most of these films didn't make back the costs to produce them. Neither Akira nor Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise were box office successes in Japan. As a result large numbers of anime studios closed down, and many of experimental productions began to be favored less over "tried and true" formulas. Only Studio Ghibli was to survive a winner of the many ambitious productions of the late 1980s with its film Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) being the top grossing film for that year earning over $40 million at the box office.

Despite the failure of Akira in Japan, it brought with it a much larger international fan base for anime. When shown overseas the film was a cult hit that would eventually become a symbol of the medium for the West. The domestic failure and international success of Akira, combined with the bursting of the bubble economy and Osamu Tezuka's death in 1989, brought a close to the era.

The 90s to the present

After this boom some people perceived a decline in overall quality of anime. Budgets fell and many ambitious projects weren't funded. There was a brief renaissance after the success of Hideaki Anno's Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) but things still aren't going very well in the Japanese market. Most of the attention and consequently the more ambitious projects are being aimed for the West. Starting in 1995 with Macross Plus, Memories, and most famously Ghost in the Shell (1995), there was a rush to get a prestigious large budget anime film to US audiences. Memories was unable to be released even though it was intended for international audiences because the license holder in Japan wanted too much money for the American distribution rights.

In 1995, Hideaki Anno directed and wrote what is probably the most controversial anime show ever written, Neon Genesis Evangelion. This show became popular in Japan among anime fans and became known to the general public through mainstream media attention. It is believed that Anno originally wanted the show to be the ultimate otaku anime designed to revive the failing anime industry, but midway through production he also made it into a heavy critique of the culture eventually culminating in the controversial, but quite successful (it grossed over $10 million) film The End of Evangelion (1997). Anno would eventually get so fed up with the anime industry that he'd go on to produce live action films.

Neon Genesis Evangelion. Eva Unit 02 crouching on a battle cruiser Neon Genesis Evangelion. Eva Unit 02 crouching on a battle cruiser

Many scenes in the Evangelion TV show were so controversial that it forced TV Tokyo to clamp down on censorship of violence and sexuality in anime. As a result when Cowboy Bebop (1998) was first broadcast it was shown heavily edited and only half the episodes were aired. The censorship crackdown has relaxed a bit, but Evangelion had a major effect on the television anime industry as a whole.

In addition Evangelion started up a series of so-called "post-Evangelion" shows. Most of these were giant robot shows with some kind of religious or difficult plot. These include RahXephon, Brain Powerd, and Gasaraki. Another series of these are late night experimental TV shows. Starting with Serial Experiments Lain (1998) late night Japanese television became a forum for experimental anime with other shows following it such as Boogiepop Phantom (2000), Texhnolyze (2003) and Paranoia Agent (2004).

An art movement started by Takashi Murakami that combined Japanese pop-culture with postmodern art called Superflat came began around this time. Murakami asserts that the movement is an analysis of post-war Japanese culture through the eyes of the otaku subculture. His desire is also to get rid of the categories of 'high' and 'low' art making a flat continuum, hence the term 'superflat'. His art exhibitions are very popular and have an influence on some anime creators particularly those from Studio 4įC.

RahXephon RahXephon

In contrast to these experimental trends the same time period has also been characterized by a trend towards extreme emphasis on otaku subculture. Many shows are currently being shown on late night television that are often based on h-games and are made solely for a die hard otaku audience. Examples of works in this genre of often fanservice heavy series includes Green Green (2003), Mahoromatic (2001), and Hand Maid May (2003). These shows have been criticized by some critics as being sexist (with many idealized depictions of submissive women) and destroying the artistic vitality of the anime industry due to relying on fan desires over any kind of artistic advancement. At the same time some these shows have turned out to be very profitable in Japan.

The 90's also saw the rise of Pokťmon, which some could call one of the most successful anime ever created. The popular video game series spawned a television show lasting several seasons, a Broadway production, several movies, a trading card game, toys, and much more.

The late 1990s and 2000s also saw the increased acceptance of anime in overseas markets. Cowboy Bebop was widely popular in Japan and attracted attention in the West. Miyazaki's Spirited Away shared the first prize at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003, and Oshii's Innocence: Ghost in the Shell was featured at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.


See also

External links

Home | Up | History of anime | Anime genres | Anime composer | Anime convention | Dōjin | Hentai | Original Video Animation | Otaku | Anime and manga terminology | Anime industry | Manga

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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