What is anime?

© Anime Tide

Anime is a form of cinematic medium found in Japanese culture. Anime typically stylizes human characters into an exaggerated convention that is artistically and emotionally striking compared to traditional animation.

Anime started during the early 1910s with short films, often presented as a part of traveling screen theater shows. These films were often crude, and low quality since individual studios produced them without an established quality control process. One such film was Momotarō no Umiwashi from 1943. It was released before the term “anime” was coined, although it is still considered one of the earliest anime films ever made today. Around 1955-60, TV stations started airing condensed movies and cartoons in their programming, which often contained animes. The first series to be broadcast on national TV was Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy) in 1963, which popularized anime.

However, anime did not become massively popular until the 1970s, when television became widespread. During this period, some of Japan’s most prominent manga artists came together to create highly acclaimed works, such as Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy and Leiji Matsumoto’s Space Battleship Yamato. Many other acclaimed titles released during that decade were Golgo 13, Lupin III, Heidi of the Alps, Jungle Taitei (Kimba the White Lion), Cyborg 009, Dr. Slump & Arale-chan, Doraemon, Mobile Suit Gundam, and Candy Candy.

In the 1980s, there was a string of successes that further solidified anime as a cultural phenomenon. Some notable titles from this time are Castle in the Sky, Mysterious Cities of Gold, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, Touch, Dragon Ball, and Sailor Moon. In the 1990s, many successful TV series made their debut, such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, Rurouni Kenshin, and Slam Dunk. At this point, anime had become a fixture in popular culture around East Asia.

The new millennium brought even more classics to enormous popularity, including Fullmetal Alchemist, Brotherhood, Death Note, Ouran High School Host Club, Black Butler, Attack on Titan, and Akira.

Anime has continued to garner worldwide success, especially with the growing accessibility of the internet. One example is the widely popular Attack on Titan, which was based on the manga series. It became considerably popular in Japan that a second season was met with a green light when it concluded its release in 2013. However, due to production delays, it wouldn’t be until 2017 that Season 2 would air.

Although anime originated from Japan, similar animation styles can also be found throughout other cultures around Asia, including China and Korea. Similar non-Asian works exist, including Robotech (three anime series combined), Arabian Nights, Fireball, and The Adventures of the Little Prince.

Anime is an integral part of Japanese society, and it has influenced the culture in other countries. Japan’s animation industry is one of the largest producers in revenue, where annual incomes are almost equivalent to that of Hollywood movies.

Some anime films have significantly impacted popular cultures, such as Spirited Away that won an Academy Award for Best Animated Film, or Hayao Miyazaki being awarded an Oscar.