Anime, as an art form, has swept the world. It was “born” early in the 1900’s and has flourished. There are hundreds of series and movies, some of which are famous in their own right, like Pokemon, with world-wide recognition when it is mentioned.
Anime is actually taken from the word animation and has become the word used by the majority of the world. In Japan this art form is called Japanamation, and it refers solely to what is produced in Japan by Japanese Manga-kas (A “ka” is the writer of a Manga, which is a Japanese comic book). The story from the comic book is then produced in animated form for movies and television.
The world-wide popularity of Disney’s first animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, sparked an interest in Japan’s cartoonists to create their own version of animated stories. Shimokawa Oten was one of the first animators in Japan, being responsible for five movies back in the early 1900’s. Unfortunately, ill health prevented him from continuing and he returned to working as a cartoonist instead of producing movies. Jun’ichi Kouchi did caricatures and some painting. In 1916, he was hired by Kobayashi Shokai as a cartoonist. His work was considered to be more technically advanced than any other Japanese animator and he is credited with at least 15 movies.
It is generally accepted that the first Anime-type cartooning began being produced in the very early 1900’s. However,
In July, 2005, an old animation film was found in Kyoto. This undated 3 seconds film, plainly titled Moving Picture, consists of fifty frames drawn directly onto a strip of celluloid. The discoverer, Naoki Matsumoto, has speculated it could be “up to 10 years older” than the previously first known Japanese animation, Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki, released in 1917. (B 2)
This earlier date is a distinct possibility, but cannot be proven.
Japanese animators had many difficulties, including competition with producers such as Disney. They found it difficult to work in small companies with only a few employees, and still produce quality films. High costs and lack of adequate materials made it hard for the Japanese animators to produce work that could compete in the world market.
Anime was seen as a means to provide more inexpensive entertainment than live action films. It is much easier to draw special effects than to create them in real life, since there is not the expense of a large human cast and possibly highly- trained animals that are all waiting around while other scenes are being shot.
The idea for the big eyes that are an Anime trademark came from Disney’s style of animation in several of his original films, most notably Bambi with his large, expressive eyes.
There was a war on at the time, and producing animated entertainment was much cheaper than live action films. When the animated part was finished, actors were called in to do the voice-overs which did not require so many retakes, and if retakes were necessary, not so many people were involved at each stage. Each actor could be called in to record their parts completely separate from each other, or a few at a time, but it wasn’t necessary to have everyone there at once
Anime has become a cohesive influence between the Asian people and the rest of the world. It is amazing how this form of entertainment is embraced by so many people from such diverse cultures.
During the war the Japanese military commissioned propaganda films, showing “the sly, quick Japanese people winning against enemy forces” (C 3).
When compared to other forms of animation, Anime is seen by many viewers as the best. Case in point, the various incarnations of Transformers. That is just one story done many different ways. Anime has many different stories within the main category of giant machines. Some of these stories are Zoids, Evangelion, and the various series of Gundam. Mickey Mouse, for example, is a series of individual stories with only the characters in common; there is no timeline. The Zoids series is a clearly ongoing story that has evolved over the years. As in Chaotic Century (Series 1) the main character, Van Flyheight, was the pilot of a blue Blade Liger. In Zoids New Century Zero (Series 3) the Blade Liger has now become Liger Zero, a much more advanced machine with a great deal more power. It is widely accepted that this pilot, Bit Cloud, is the descendant of the original pilot, Van. Clearly these stories continue on through generations. Transformers is a story that remains static and does not evolve through time. The designs have changed a lot over time, but the story characters are still the same as in the beginning.
Anime has branched out into the sports world and stories have been created involving sports figures in the 1980’s. Other sports series followed, including Slam Dunk, Prince of Tennis and Eyeshield 21.
Several experimental films were produced in the 1980’s becoming more and more ambitious and trying to outclass other films. However, these lavishly budgeted spectacles were not able to recoup the production costs and many Anime studios failed.
During the 1990’s, Pokemon came on the scene. It became wide spread because of the trading card games, toys, Anime movies etc. Currently there are 493 species, about 40 of which are present in Picture 1. Sailor Moon, which started in 1992, became very successful because of its magical girl theme. In the 2000’s, the story plots have changed to be more sexually attractive, involving outrageously handsome or beautiful characters along with nudity. In my opinion, this has compromised the artistic integrity of Anime and Manga.
Anime has extended its influence into the Western and European markets in the way emotions are expressed. For instance, if the scene includes a “jaw-drop” moment, the character will actually be drawn with their jaw dropping to the floor and their eyes bugged out in an exaggerated way. This helps convey to the viewer a greater sense of what’s happening without using words. As shown below, Robin’s jaw has hit the floor. He also appears to have been hit in the head by someone else’s jaw.
(Here, the Roadrunner has gotten away yet again. Wiley needs a new hobby.)
Anime has exerted a strong influence in other forms of animation. In France, two shows were produced, named Totally Spies and Martin Mystery. In both of these cartoons, there is a lot of facial body-language used, as previously mentioned, much of which is inspired by Anime. In America there is Teen Titans which uses a lot of exaggerated expressions to enhance the story, or simply to provide humour.
There are perhaps ten or more conventions in the United States during any given year. As with Star Trek Trekkies, the fans who attend these “cons” will dress up in costumes representing their favourite character. Many Otakus, the Anime counterpart of a Trekkie, will speak, behave and try to appear as much in character as possible. These attendees take this dressing up and character role playing very seriously. They spend a lot of money and time getting their costumes accurate to the tiniest detail. Thousands of people attend these “cons” and some will attend as many as they can possibly afford or are able to get to. Available at nearly every con are toys, games, posters, CD’s, boxed collections of episodes or movies, jewellery, and any piece of clothing a character’s face can be applied to. Not all of these items will be present at every con. Many of the more obsessive Otakus will fill their homes with these items, and will wear some Anime related clothing wherever possible. Otakus, like anyone who follows some particular fandom, range from the merely interested to the addicted person who has no life apart from Anime.
Japan seems to have only one big convention every year, perhaps because Japan is small in size and has a public transportation system which would enable anyone, anywhere in Japan, to travel fairly easily to the convention location.
Anime is a controversial type of animation that does not appeal to everyone, but those who like it are utterly loyal and will not stand for insults, defending it vehemently. It is one of the longest lasting world-wide fads. Here’s to seeing it through another century!