What is Japanese anime? – World Atlas

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The word anime is used in Japan to refer to animation in general. However, in the rest of the world it has become a word we use when talking about animated shows and movies from Japan. Multiple factors make the anime unique. Yet even though animation from other countries uses a similar style to anime, we don’t call it anime unless it’s from Japan.

The thing that stood out for most people when discovering anime in the past was how eye-catching Japanese animators were. Anime characters are usually drawn with very large and expressive eyes, which makes it easier to convey emotions through the animation. Anime should not be confused with manga, which are Japanese comics.

Anime story

Some of the earliest animation works in Japan were made at the turn of the 20th century. The industry continued to grow steadily during the first half of the century, but the first breakthrough in what we now call anime was made in the 1960s. Until then, anime was not distributed only in theaters, either as feature films or as short films. The first animated television series was “Otogi Manga Calendar” in 1961.

However, the first major breakthrough that solidified anime as an art form occurred in 1963. It was then that “Astro Boy” began airing, a show that adapted the manga from the same. name, author Osamu Tezuka. He was also the director of the show and is responsible for many techniques used in Japanese animation to this day.

Anime should not be confused with manga, which are Japanese comics.

Astro Boy gained popularity and the anime industry continued to grow. In the 1970s, cartoons featuring giant robots attracted a large audience. They started out as “super robot” shows but also developed in a different direction, creating “real robot” shows. The difference is that the super robot anime, like Mazinger, shows the robots as superheroes. They are able to fly, move around easily, use magic swords to fight, and are more fantastic in nature.

The anime of real robots, like Gundam, is much more realistic; they show robots as tools of war. The depiction of robots in cartoons in various forms is still prevalent and they are often used with an anti-war message. The 1970s gave birth to the trend to adapt popular manga into animated series. The 1980s were particularly lucrative for the industry, and it only grew from there.

Anime popularity in the west

Anime began to gain a fan base in the United States (but also in other Western countries) in the 1980s. Some European countries, however, began to gain an anime fan base as early as the 1980s. 1970. A major factor in the growth of anime’s popularity in the United States was the 1988 movie Akira. With its grim and grim depiction of a post-apocalyptic future, it attracted many Western fans. It was also legally distributed in the United States, which made it easier for more fans to watch it. After Akira broke down the barriers, more and more distributors began to participate in the growing anime scene. It’s important to mention two of the shows here namely Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon.

Illustration of Sailor Moon wearing Hogwarts uniform.  Credit: Salenta / Shutterstock.com
Illustration of Sailor Moon wearing Hogwarts uniform. Credit: Salenta / Shutterstock.com

These shows were broadcast on American television and gained heaps of fans, creating a fan base that still lives today. Both shows adapted popular manga and were popular with people of all ages. In the 1990s, another global phenomenon helped increase the popularity of anime – Pokemon. The Pokemon TV Show is one of the most popular animated shows in history. The second half of the 1990s saw the emergence of shows that had certain artistic qualities that people were not used to seeing in animated TV shows. Titles such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop or Berserk were available in the United States shortly after their premiere in Japan. They dealt with serious themes intended for an older audience.

What makes anime special

Anime as an art form continues to this day, with over 100 shows produced each year. When we are trying to explain what makes Japanese animation so special, we have to start by focusing on the animation technique first. Since the budget for animated TV shows in Japan is quite low, even in the 1960s, it was necessary to cut corners. This is why the animators, led by Osamu Tezuka, developed a technique called “limited animation”. The limited animation uses fewer frames per second for the majority of the episode, but hides it using different tricks. Some key scenes are beautifully animated at 24 frames per second, however, and this is where the animator’s talent explodes.

Anime also deals with a large number of genres. Unlike Western animation, which is primarily geared towards a younger audience, anime shows and movies are often quite mature in their themes. We can find anime of all genres, from action to romance, drama, horror, comedy and more. Although the characters are animated, the writers use clever animation techniques to convey emotion that is impossible even with live actors. Since the genre can often be misleading, and some anime can be more mature than it looks, they are generally ranked by their target audience.


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