When did you start watching anime? Was it as a child when you dreamed of being mighty and landing on the tallest mountain in the world, or was it in high school when you played make-believe about what may have happened if you were the main character? Or is it just recently that you have let yourself be moved by characters who may be speaking a foreign language but whose stories nonetheless manage to reach your soul?
Just like you have a history with Anime, Anime also has a history. It grew and evolved over time, so, what is the history of anime? let’s feed our curiosity and uncover the mystery behind the evolution of anime!
In the Beginning,
The National Center for Families Learning states that one of the earliest instances of animation as we know it today was created in 1917, known as Namakura Gatana (The Dull Sword) by Jun’ichi Kōuchi, although there is some debate among scholars regarding the first true anime, with some pointing to Dekobō Shingachō – Meian no Shippai (Dekobo’s New Picture Book – Failure of a Great Plan) by Ōten Shimokawa, both released in 1917.
They added that during the period of silent movies, the Land of the Rising Sun endeavored to create animation employing trial-and-error sketching and trimmed animation approaches inspired by French and American cartoons. Nevertheless, aside from being expensive to develop, it consistently played second fiddle to Disney animated films, which dominated the market then. In terms of the animation industry, Japan’s sun is still setting at the outset.
The anime market had gradually formed a modest yet sturdy base through promotional efforts prior to the Great Kanto Earthquake (1923), which caused the industry to completely rebuild from the ground up. The industry struggled to adapt to the rapid change brought on by breakthroughs such as the introduction of colored films in 1932.
Ofuji Noburo’s triumph with Whale (1952) and The Phantom Ship (1956) marked a historical moment as it introduced animation to a global audience for the first time, extending its popularity beyond Japan. Subsequently, like an ironic comedy, new incidents happen with the uncontrollable and dreadful wartime, where commodities ran scarce. The nation’s spirit became so militarized that even movies as an amusement hardly crossed anyone’s thoughts.
According to Biswas, the New Japan Animation Corporation, formed by the General Headquarters of the Allied Occupation (GHQ), was composed of one hundred animators in the wreckage of postwar Tokyo to spread occupation ideology through the creation of animation praising democracy. However, several artists were passionately autonomous and possessive, and these differences split the organization apart early on. The group drifted away from their original goals and abandoned the project.
The Rise of Anime
Okawa Hiroshi of Toei film corporation was so impressed by Disney’s magnificent animated feature Snow White that he vowed to assert the Disney of the East when Japan finally started recuperating from the war’s devastating effects in 1956 as reported by LiveAbout. Since employment was scarce after the end of the war, the company was able to hire a group of exceptionally talented young adults who were eager to find work regardless of the meager wages they were offered to begin with. Yet as the government’s proposal to increase people’s salaries took effect, wages skyrocketed, and the company rapidly went bust. Arguments between employees and upper management became more prevalent as the labor revolution gained traction.
The popularity of Osamu Tezuka’s half-hour-animated series Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy) sparked an industrial animation surge and marked the start of an entirely novel anime genre. The studio behind Astro Boy, Mushi Production, was only given a diminutive franchise fee; therefore, the firm drastically reduced the number of illustrations and lines used in the series. They also attempted to speed up the plots and devise ingenious methods for making the characters appear moving, using everything from language to background music. Copyright royalties enabled the company to break even, as they licensed the rights to the Atomu figure to its principal sponsor. Tezuka even put his personal funds into the business from his manga publication earnings as it lost revenue.
Marketing was an integral component of the foundational economic strategy for all subsequent broadcast animation, featuring sci-fi and spacecraft among the most prominent theme, trailed by episodes featuring females with supernatural abilities.
In 1968, the baseball-themed Star of the Giant premiered. While in 1969, the familial melodrama Sazae-san debuted and is still airing, making it the longest-running show in the animation record. Though hardly every season might deliver a home run, the rivalry was fierce since so many shows were on the air.
As the economy tanked and tensions rose between workers and management over compensation, a new project emerged to revise the stereotype of anime as innocent amusement for children. The television series Space Battleship Yamato premiered in 1974, and the film adaptation came out in 1977; both were massive hits with young viewers around the globe. Around the same time, young individuals worldwide started to embrace Japanese broadcast animation. Adults in some nations snubbed and condemned it as they believed it was frugal. Despite this, the variety of individuals who appreciate anime, particularly younger people, is still growing across the globe.
Iconic series such as Mobile Suit Gundam, Lupin III, and Space Battleship Yamato emerged during the 1970s and 1980s. These shows garnered global attention and set the stage for the anime industry’s future achievements. The 1990s considered the golden age of Japanese anime, saw numerous innovative series and films gaining international recognition. Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira transformed the industry, drawing audiences worldwide. Other notable anime series from this period include Sailor Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Cowboy Bebop.
Japanese Anime Still Growing in Popularity
From Statista Research Department, following decades of struggle, Japan’s animation sector has emerged among the country’s most artistically recognizable drives. The success of Astro Boy and subsequent anime helped boost the genre’s profile internationally in the 1980s and 1990s. These trends led to an all-time high of 2.74 trillion Japanese yen in revenue for the anime business in 2021, comprised of earnings from both the local and international markets.
Anime has undoubtedly grown into a significant economic force in Japan, both in terms of domestic production and exports. Notable examples include Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki, which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and Attack on Titan, which garnered a massive international following.
In addition, Japan has started luring visitors with anime-inspired attractions like the Demon Slayer, demonstrating that the animation business and the tourism sector can work together. Further establishing the industry-wide dominance of anime. Moreover, the reality that over 56 million Americans view anime demonstrates that anime has already become ubiquitous in the United States, according to Gitnux.
Despite decades of condemnation, there is no disputing that Japan’s anime has become an essential component of the lives of countless people at every stage of development. Regardless of whether watching as a child, adolescent, or adult, all can agree that the strength of Japan’s animation to create inner peace and coexistence through the transformation of static drawings into living, breathing characters is indisputable.