Anime in Japan
While animation has a legacy in the United States, it’s also increasingly popular throughout the world, most notably in Japan. In animation school, many students have been greatly influenced by Japanese animation, also known as Anime.
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.
There are many different styles of anime, including Mecha which was more science fiction based and had a tendency to use robots in a futuristic setting, Manga, which is primarily print based and Hentai, which is generally pornographic in nature.
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.
Even in its truncated version, Battle of the Planets exposed a generation of kids to anime and its popularity made it more available in the US. Since then, many animated television series have made it to the US as well as scores of animated films.
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.
As it has become more popular than ever these days, most animation schools have embraced anime to show how different styles of animation exist throughout the world.