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Introduction to Japanese Anime

The history of anime is notably broad, yes, and it will take hundreds of pages if i will make a chapter about it. I could, but it will take a year or more for me to compile it. My primary focus is not to present a chronological dissertation of anime history in its broadened sense, since it is, as i said, broad. But it is part of my cause to present to you, the readers, a simplified presentation of the anime history. So in this article, my cause is to give a simplified yet awakening view for us Christians about anime and its history. Knowing the history, of course, will not make us ignorant of today’s sophistication. Furthermore, as Christians, it is important for us to know or to trace back the roots before we jump into temptations of any kind.

A Short History of Anime | Anime Guide | Japan City Tour

To begin with, the word “anime” is primarily based on the original Japanese pronunciation of the American word “animation. ” It is the style of animation in Japan. The Urban dictionary defines it stereotypically as: the anime style is characters with proportionally large eyes and hair styles and colors that are very colorful and exotic. The plots range from very immature (kiddy stuff), through teenage level¬† HVANIMATION¬† , to mature (violence, content, and thick plot). It is also important to note that American cartoons and Japanese animes are different. The storyline of an anime is more complex while that of a cartoon is simpler. While cartoons are intended for kids, anime, on the other hand, is more intended for the adult viewers.

Although the creation of anime was basically due to the influence of the Western countries that began at the start of 20th century (when Japanese filmmakers experimented with the animation techniques that were being explored in the West) it was also inspired by the production of manga (comic) that was already present in Japan even before the production of anime.

Around the beginning of the 13th century, there were already pictures of the afterlife and animals appearing on temple walls in Japan (most of them are similar to modern manga). At the start of 1600’s, pictures were not drawn on temples any longer but on wood blocks, known as Edo. Subjects in Edo arts were less religious and were often geographically erotic. Noting this, without a doubt, it gave me this insight:

Now it shouldn’t be too surprising, right? There are many mangas (also known as comics) of these days that are too vulgar and explicit and if not, there will be at least one character in her showy appearance. I’m not saying that all mangas are full of nudities, if that’s what you’re thinking by now. But rather, this exploitation of eroticism (or at least a hint of amorousness) on mangas is not actually new. They already existed even before the World War I and II. They, however, advanced into something else. Manga, to a great extent, is a factor as to how and why anime existed. In fact, most animes and live actions are adaptations of mangas or comics.

Japanese cartoonists already experimented with different style of animation as early as 1914, but the glorious growth of anime nonetheless began shortly after the second World War where Kitayama Seitaro, Oten Shimokawa, and Osamu Tezuka were pioneering as then notable Japanese animators. Among the pioneering animators during that time, it was Osamu Tezuka who gained the most credits and was later known as “the god of comics. ”

Osamu Tezuka was best known in his work “Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atomu)” the first robot boy with an atomic heart who had wished to be a real boy. His works were notable and his style of animation contributed a lot in the production of Japanese anime, such as large and rounded eyes. Tezuka’s works did not only focus to entertain young viewers but he also conceived and initiated the creation of Animerama. It is a series of thematically-related adult anime feature films made at his Mushi Production studio from the late 1960’s to early 1970’s. Animerama is a trilogy consisting of three films: A thousand & One Nights, Cleopatra, and Belladona. The first, A thousand & One Nights, was the first erotic animated film conceived by Osamu Tezuka, the god of comics.

Although anime made its way, it was only in the 1980’s that anime was fully accepted in the mainstream of Japan. Since then, more and more genres emerged into being. From slice of life, drama, mechas, tragic, adventure, science fiction, romance, ecchi, shounen-ai, shoujo and a lot more of genres. While most of the anime 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-in short, anime in its broadened sense is simply complicated.

Additionally, later during the boomed experience of Japanese animation, a new medium was then developed for anime: the OVA (Original Video Animation). These OVAs were direct-to-home-video series or movies that catered to much smaller audiences. The OVA was also responsible for allowing the first full-blown anime pornography.

As Japanese animation further gained more audience and acceptance throughout the world, a subculture in Japan, who later called themselves “otaku”, began to develop around animation magazines such as Animage or later NewType. These magazines became known in respond to the overwhelming fandom that developed around shows such as Yamato and Gundam in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and during this period the mecha genres were prominent.

Since the early 1900s, Anime has served as an influence on many American animators and filmmakers. There are many different styles of anime in Japan, yet it was relatively unknown in the us until the 1960s when programs such as Speed Racer were broadcast on American TV.

Before the internet and the immediate availability of sites like you Tube, many anime were shown on television. Years before I went to animation school, I remember seeing a children’s show called Kimba the White Lion, which dealt with a lion cub and his friends in the jungle. I was attracted to the style of animation, which seemed very different than what I was used to seeing on TV. The characters had huge eyes and human features and the characters mouths didn’t move synchronously with the dialogue. At first I thought that this was due to the program being dubbed in English, but this was very representative of the style.

Japanese anime slowly made its way over to the us in the 1970s. One of the most popular was called Battle of the Planets, which dealt with a team of teenage superheroes who defended the world from a species of aliens. However, Battle for the Planets, I realized years later when i was in animation school the show was originally titled Science Ninja Team Gatchaman and that the content was heavily sanitized for American audiences (the original version being incredibly violent), not to mention that the plot had been drastically altered as well as the characters names. To clearly cash in on the then current Star Wars craze, the American distributors added an R2D2 type robot in an underwater fortress who narrated each episode and to also fill in for the violent scenes that had been cut.

In the 1990s anime was incredibly popular, and as a student in animation school, I was intrigued by its popularity. As anime dates back to the early 1900s, it was interesting to learn that there were different types of anime available, yet in Japan the animators at the time were attempting to compete with companies such as Disney in terms of style. However, anime would change in the days leading up to World War Two as most films were created to serve as pro-nationalistic propaganda.

In the post war era, anime experienced a resurgence of sorts, especially with the development of television. As very few anime slowly came to the us, it was often compared to the limited animation programs by Filmmation Studios. Yet the anime was often more expressive, with greater use of detail and incorporated more fantasy elements. In animation school, this was very inspiring, especially when the film Akira was released in 1988 as it heralded a greater popularity and allowed for the films of directors Hayao Miyazaki and Mamoru Oshii to have greater distribution.

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