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How Japanese Anime has Evolved Over Time Posted Jun 5, 2020

How Japanese Anime has Evolved Over Time

In 1917, Japanese animators began producing the earliest form of what we now know as Japanese Anime. Although this was still largely the era of silent cinematography, artists began using drawing techniques as well as cutout animation technology to produce short films. These short animated films were usually based loosely on the animated short films that were being produced in both France and the United States during this same time.

It did not take long for the unique techniques employed in the creation of these films to earn them some serious merit. However, animators were struggling to produce cost-effective films and were up against wildly popular animators, like Walt Disney, from the very start.

Early on, there were public relations campaigns and various public institutions who wanted anime style animation for the campaigns that were widely viewed by the public. This push is what helped the private production of anime to be a little more popular over time. However, in 1923, there was a catastrophic earthquake that forced the industry to begin again at the very beginning.

In 1929, the first film with speech appeared, and the niche of Japanese anime was not quite this developed. After the devastation of the earthquake, things were looking grim for the industry. Further, in 1932 color film emerged and the category of Japanese anime continued to struggle to keep up.

After the war ended, over 100 acclaimed anime artists met in the ruins of the center of Tokyo to form a new and upcoming company known as the New Japan Animation Company. This group of artists had a political mission: to spread propaganda, in the form of anime, in support of democracy. However, like many artists, the anime artists were riddled with disagreements from the very beginning of the project. Eventually, the project was completely abandoned and anime lay dormant for some time.

Tōei Dōga

As Japan began its journey toward recovery from a crippling war, Okawa Hiroshi began a journey that would soon change the way anime was viewed forever. The president of Toei film company went to see the Walt Disney production of Snow White. The film made a serious impression on him and in 1956, he decided to build a state-of-the-art air conditioned palace in which to make films.

There was one goal in mind with this new animation studio to be the rival of Disney world on the other side of the world. The studio event went as far as to send experts to the US and brought over Disney experts to give them insight into how to run a Disney like company.

It was not long before they had built a dream team. Timing was perfect with young talented people suddenly struggling to find work in the wake of the war. The blooming country was able to snag the very best talent and rock bottom prices. The company struggled as Japan continued to rise from the ashes of war, but it has ultimately stood the test of time.

Tetsuwan Atomu

In the early 1960s, as television became more and more popular and took residence in more and more family rooms across the world, Fuji Television began a 30-minute anime series known in English as “Astro Boy.” Without warning, the show gained wild popularity and caused a huge uptick in the anime industry at the time.

Despite its popularity, the show there was little money that was paid to the show during its production. This meant that if the studio wanted to survive, they would have to figure out how to dramatically reduce the cost of production. In doing so, they reduced the amount of total drawings, they cut down on the strokes of the pen used to create a still image, and rather than moving pictures they moved to still frames on the screen. The storylines were more compact and in lieu of movement, the company found other ways to signal that a character or other movement was happening on the screen.

These major differences brought about the style of anime that is most widely produced today. You can see these subtle changes in television series, movies, and even in anime related slots at your local casino.

Studio Ghibli

Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, anime as a category kind of meandered around all but lost. However, there was a major production company that was formed in 1985. In 1989, that company had a huge hit in the movie “Kiki’s Delivery Service.”

The major difference in this movie and many of the previously produces movies were the massive amounts of advertising that were paid for by Studio Ghibli. Studio Ghibli paid for advertising on television and even in other places where children might see the advertisements. Further, the company hired well-known voice actors in various languages, and they even spent a great deal of money on reputable music composers.

Studio Ghibli changed the way that the world looked at anime as a whole. By creating household titles like “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “My Neighbor Totoro,” the production company made anime be acceptable across the world.

Modern Anime

Throughout the 1990s, there were not only more Studio Ghibli films that gained the eyes of the world, but there were also other factors that made the spread of anime grow wider than ever. The internet made anime more accessible to teenagers and adults who were interested in Japanese culture.

Despite the early struggles of piracy that exploded in the early 2000s, the anime industry was able to overcome those challenges as they had overcome many others since their beginning almost 100 years earlier.

Final Thoughts

The era of Japanese anime has lasted nearly 100 years, a monumental accomplishment for a craft that has had its well-being threatened so many times. The craft of Japanese anime has undoubtedly come through more challenges than many of the long-lasting art forms overcome in their lifetimes. With its current popularity, we can expect to continue to see Japanese anime around for years to come.

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