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The history of anime began at the start of the 20th century, when Japanese filmmakers experimented with the animation techniques that were being explored in the West. During the 1970s, anime developed further, separating itself from its Western roots, and developing distinct genres such as mecha and its Super Robot sub-genre. Typical shows from this period include Lupin III and Mazinger Z. During this period several filmmakers became famous, especially Hayao Miyazaki and Mamoru Oshii.
In the 1980s, anime was accepted in the mainstream in Japan, and experienced a boom in production. The rise of Gundam, Macross, Dragon Ball, and the , the Real Robot and space opera genres set a boom as well. The film Akira set records in 1988 for the production costs of an anime film and went on to become a success worldwide. Later, in 2004, the same creators produced Steamboy, which took over as the most expensive anime film. The Super Dimension Fortress Macross also became a worldwide success after being adapted as part of Robotech, and Megazone 23 also gained recognition in the West after it was adapted as Robotech: The Movie.
The internet also led to the rise of fansub anime. Spirited Away shared the first prize at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival and won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, while Innocence: Ghost in the Shell was featured at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.
Few complete animations made during the beginnings of Japanese animation have survived. The reasons vary, but many are of commercial nature. After the clips had their run, reels (being property of the cinemas) were sold to smaller cinemas in the country and then disassembled and sold as strips or single frames. Ōten Shimokawa was a political caricaturist and cartoonist who worked for the magazine Tokyo Puck. He was hired by Tenkatsu to do an animation for them. Due to medical reasons, he was only able to do five movies, including Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki (1917), before he returned to his previous work as a cartoonist.
Another prominent animator in this period was Jun'ichi Kōuchi. He was a caricaturist and painter, who also had studied watercolor painting. In 1912 he also entered the cartoonist sector and was hired for an animation by Kobayashi Shokai later in 1916. He is viewed as the most technically advanced Japanese animator of the 1910s. His works include around 15 movies.
Seitaro Kitayama was an early animator who made animations on his own, not hired by larger corporations. He even founded his own animation studio, the Kitayama Eiga Seisakujo, which was later closed due to lack of commercial success. He utilized the chalkboard technique, and later paper animation, with and without pre-printed backgrounds.
In July 2005, an old animation film was found in Kyoto. This undated 3 seconds film, plainly titled Moving Picture (活動写真, Katsudō Shashin?), consists of fifty frames drawn directly onto a strip of celluloid. It depicts a young boy in a sailor suit writing the kanji "活動写真" (katsudō shashin, for "moving pictures") on a board, then turning towards the viewer, removing his hat, and offering a salute. The creator's identity is unknown, but it is thought that it was made for private viewing, perhaps as experimentation, rather than for public release. The discoverer, Naoki Matsumoto, has speculated that it could be "up to 10 years older" than the previously first known Japanese animation, Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki, released in 1917. However, while a date of circa 1915 is possible, there is no actual basis for this extreme speculation.
Yasuji Murata, Hakuzan Kimura, Sanae Yamamoto and Noburō Ōfuji were students of Kitayama Seitaro and worked at his film studio. Kenzō Masaoka, another important animator, worked at a smaller animation studio. In 1923, the Great Kantō earthquake destroyed most of the Kitayama studio and the residing animators spread out and founded studios of their own.
Prewar animators faced several difficulties. First, they had a hard time competing with foreign producers such as Disney, which were influential on both audiences and producers. Since foreign films had already made a profit abroad, they could be sold for even less than the price domestic producers need to charge in order to break even. Japanese animators thus had to work cheaply, in small companies with only a handful of employees, but that could make matters worse: given costs, it was then hard to compete in terms of quality with foreign product that was in color, with sound, and made by much bigger companies. Japanese animation until the mid-1930s, for instance, generally used cutout animation instead of cel animation because the celluloid was too expensive. This resulted in animation that could seem derivative, flat (since motion forward and backward was difficult) and without detail. But just as postwar Japanese animators were able to turn limited animation into a plus, so masters such as Yasuji Murata and Noburō Ōfuji were able to do wonders in cutout animation.
Animators such as Kenzō Masaoka and Mitsuyo Seo, however, did attempt to bring Japanese animation up to the level of foreign work by introducing cel animation, sound, and technology such as the multiplane camera. Masaoka created the first talkie anime, Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka, released in 1933, and the first anime made entirely using cel animation, The Dance of the Chagamas (1934). Seo was the first to use the multiplane camera in Ari-chan in 1941.
Such innovations, however, were hard to support purely commercially, so prewar animation depended considerably on sponsorship, as animators often concentrated on making PR films for companies, educational films for the government, and eventually works of propaganda for the military. During this time, censorship and school regulations discouraged film-viewing by children, so anime that offered educational value were supported and encouraged by the Monbusho (the Ministry of Education). This proved important for producers that had experienced a hard time releasing their work in regular theaters. Animation had found a place in scholastic, political and industrial use.
In the 1930s the Japanese government began enforcing cultural nationalism. This also lead to a strict censorship and control of published media. Many animators were urged to produce animations which enforced the Japanese spirit and national affiliation. Some movies were shown in newsreel theaters, especially after the Film Law of 1939 promoted documentary and other educational films. Such support helped boost the industry, as bigger companies formed through mergers, and prompted major live-action studios such as Shochiku to begin producing animation. It was at Shochiku that such masterworks as Kenzō Masaoka's Kumo to Chūrippu were produced. Wartime reorganization of the industry, however, merged the feature film studios into just three big companies.
More animated films were commissioned by the military, showing the sly, quick Japanese people winning against enemy forces. In 1943, Geijutsu Eigasha produced Mitsuyo Seo's Momotaro's Sea Eagles with help from the Navy. Shochiku then made Japan's first real feature length animated film, Seo's Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors in 1945, again with the help of the Navy. In 1941 Princess Iron Fan had become the first Asian animation of notable length ever made in China. Due to economic factors, it would be Japan which later emerged long after the war with the most readily available resources to continue expanding the industry.
In 1948, Toei Animation was founded and produced the first color anime feature film in 1958, Hakujaden (The Tale of the White Serpent, 1958). This film was more Disney in tone than modern anime with musical numbers and animal sidekicks. However, it is widely considered to be the first "anime" ever, in the modern sense. It was released in the US in 1961 as Panda and the Magic Serpent. From 1958 to the mid-1960s, Toei continued to release these Disney-like films and eventually also produced two of the most well known anime series, Dragon Ball in 1986 and Sailor Moon in 1992.
Toei's style was also characterized by an emphasis on each animator bringing his own ideas to the production. The most extreme example of this is Isao Takahata's film Hols: Prince of the Sun (1968). Hols is often seen as the first major break from the normal anime style and the beginning of a later movement of "auteuristic" or "progressive anime" which would eventually involve directors such as Hayao Miyazaki (creator of Spirited Away) and Mamoru Oshii.
A major contribution of Toei's style to modern anime was the development of the "money shot". This cost-cutting method of animation allows for emphasis to be placed on important shots by animating them with more detail than the rest of the work (which would often be limited animation). Toei animator Yasuo Ōtsuka began to experiment with this style and developed it further as he went into television. in the 1980s Toei would later lend it's talent to companies like Sunbow Productions, Marvel Productions, DiC Entertainment, Murakami-Wolf-Swenson, Ruby Spears and Hanna Barbera with producing several animated cartoons for America during this period. Other studios like TMS Entertainment, were also being used in the 80's, which lead to Asian studios being used more often to animate foreign productions, but the companies involved still produced anime for their native Japan.
|First||Native language name||English name||Released||Type||Broadcast|
|First anime series||おとぎマンガカレンダー||Otogi Manga Calendar||May 1, 1961||series||yes|
|First super robot anime series||鉄人28号||Tetsujin 28-go||October 20, 1963||series||yes|
|First anime space opera series||宇宙戦艦ヤマト||Space Battleship Yamato||October 6, 1974||series||yes|
|First real robot anime series||機動戦士ガンダム||Mobile Suit Gundam||April 7, 1979||series||yes|
|First OVA||ダロス||Dallos||December 12, 1983||OVA||no|
|First adult (hentai) anime OVA||ロリータアニメ||Lolita Anime||February 21, 1984||OVA||yes|
During the 1970s, the Japanese film market shrunk due to competition from television. This increased competition from television reduced Toei animation's staff and many animators went to studios such as A Pro and Telecom animation. Mushi Productions went bankrupt (only to be revived 4 years later), its former employees founding studios such as Madhouse Production and Sunrise. As a result, many young animators were thrust into the position of director before they would have been promoted to it. This injection of young talent allowed for a wide variety of experimentation. One of the earliest successful television productions in the early 1970s was Tomorrow's Joe (1970), a boxing anime which has become iconic in Japan.
Another example of this experimentation is with Isao Takahata's 1974 television series Heidi, Girl of the Alps. This show was originally a hard sell because it was a simple realistic drama aimed at children. Most TV networks thought the TV show wouldn't be successful because children needed something more fantastic to draw them in. Heidi wound up being an international success being picked up in many European countries and becoming popular there. In Japan it was so successful that it allowed for Hayao Miyazaki and Takahata to start up a series of literary based anime (World Masterpiece Theater). Miyazaki and Takahata left Nippon Animation in the late 1970s. Two of Miyazaki's critically acclaimed productions during the 1970s were Future Boy Conan (1978) and Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979).
Another genre known as Mecha came into being at this time. Some early works include Mazinger Z (1972–74), Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (1972–74), Space Battleship Yamato (1974–75) and Mobile Suit Gundam (1979–80). These titles showed a progression in the science fiction genre in anime, as shows shifted from more superhero-oriented, fantastical plots found, as seen in the Super Robot genre, to somewhat more realistic space operas with increasingly complex plots and fuzzier definitions of right and wrong, as seen in the Real Robot genre.
This shift towards space operas became more pronounced with the commercial success of Star Wars (1977). This allowed for the space opera Space Battleship Yamato (1974) to be revived as a theatrical film. Mobile Suit Gundam (1979), the first Real Robot anime, was also initially unsuccessful but was revived as a theatrical film in 1982. The success of the theatrical versions of Yamato and Gundam are seen as the beginning of the anime boom of the 1980s, which many consider the beginning of the "golden age of anime". This anime boom also marked the beginning of "Japanese Cinema's Second Golden Age", which would last until around the beginning of the 2000s.
While the Mecha genre shifted from superhero giant robots (the Super Robot genre of the 1970s) to elaborate space operas (the Real Robot genre of the 1980s), two other events happened at this time. A subculture in Japan, who later called themselves otaku, began to develop around animation magazines such as Animage or later Newtype. These magazines popped up in response to the overwhelming fandom that developed around shows such as Yamato and Gundam in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Yamato animator Yoshinori Kanada allowed individual key animators working under him to put their own style of movement as a means to save money. In many more "auteuristic" anime this formed the basis of an individualist animation style unique to Japanese commercial animation. In addition, Kanada's animation was inspiration for Takashi Murakami and his Superflat art movement.
In the United States the already mentioned popularity of Star Wars had a similar, but much smaller, effect on the development of anime. Gatchaman was reworked and edited into Battle of the Planets in 1978 and again as G-Force in 1986. Space Battleship Yamato was reworked and edited into Star Blazers in 1979. The Macross series began with The Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982), which was adapted into English as the first arc of Robotech (1985), which was created from three separate anime titles: The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada. The sequel to Mobile Suit Gundam, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (1985), became the most successful Real Robot space opera in Japan, where it managed an average television rating of 6.6% and a peak of 11.7%.
The otaku culture became more pronounced with Mamoru Oshii's adaptation of Rumiko Takahashi's popular manga Urusei Yatsura (1981). Yatsura made Takahashi a household name and Oshii would break away from fan culture and take a more auteuristic approach with his 1984 film Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer. This break with the otaku culture would allow Oshii to experiment further.
The otaku subculture had some effect on people who were entering the industry around this time. The most famous of these people were the amateur production group Daicon Films which would become Gainax. Gainax began by making films for the Daicon science fiction conventions and were so popular in the otaku community that they were given a chance to helm the biggest budgeted (to that point) anime film, Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (1987).
One of the most influential anime of all time, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), was made during this time period. The film gave extra prestige to anime allowing for many experimental and ambitious projects to be funded shortly after its release. It also allowed director Hayao Miyazaki and his long time colleague Isao Takahata to set up their own studio under the supervision of former Animage editor Toshio Suzuki. This studio would become known as Studio Ghibli and its first film was Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986), one of Miyazaki's most ambitious films.
The success of Fist Of The North Star (1983) introduced the martial arts genre and became incredibly influential in the Japanese Animation industry. It influenced many more martial arts anime and manga series' including Yu Yu Hakusho (1990), One Piece (1997), and Naruto (1999).
The 1980s brought anime to the home video market in the form of Original Video Animation (OVA). The first OVA was Mamoru Oshii's Moon Base Dallos (1983–1984). Dallos was a flop, but 1985's Megazone 23 was a success. Shows such as Patlabor had their beginnings in this market and it proved to be a way to test less marketable animation against audiences. The OVA allowed for the release of pornographic anime such as Cream Lemon (1984). The first hentai OVA was actually the little-known Wonder Kids Lolita Anime, also released in 1984.
Sports anime as now known made its debut in 1983 with an anime adaptation Yoichi Takahashi's soccer manga Captain Tsubasa, which became the first worldwide successful sports anime leading its way to create themes and stories that would create the formula that would later then be used in many sports series that soon followed such as Slam Dunk, Prince of Tennis and Eyeshield 21.
The late 1980s, following the release of Nausicaä, saw an increasing number of high budget and/or experimental films. In 1985 Toshio Suzuki helped put together funding for Oshii's experimental film Angel's Egg (1985). The OVA market allowed for short experimental pieces such as Take the X Train, Neo Tokyo, and Robot Carnival (all three 1987).
Theatrical releases became more ambitious, each film trying to outclass or outspend the other film, all taking cues from Nausicaä's popular and critical success. Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985), Tale of Genji (1986), and Grave of the Fireflies (1988) were all ambitious films based on important literary works in Japan. Films such as Char's Counterattack (1988) and Arion (1986) were lavishly budgeted spectacles. This period of lavish budgeting and experimentation would reach its zenith with two of the most expensive anime film productions ever: Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (1987) and Akira (1988).
Most of these films did not make back the costs to produce them. Neither Akira nor Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise were box office successes in Japan. As a result, large numbers of anime studios closed down, and many experimental productions began to be favored less over "tried and true" formulas. Only Studio Ghibli was to survive a winner of the many ambitious productions of the late 1980s with its film Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) being the top grossing film for that year earning over $40 million at the box office.
Despite the failure of Akira in Japan, it brought with it a much larger international fan base for anime. When shown overseas, the film became a cult hit and, eventually, a symbol of the medium for the West. The domestic failure and international success of Akira, combined with the bursting of the bubble economy and Osamu Tezuka's death in 1989, brought a close to the 1980s era of anime.
In 1995, Hideaki Anno wrote and directed the controversial anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion. This show became popular in Japan among anime fans and became known to the general public through mainstream media attention. It is believed that Anno originally wanted the show to be the ultimate otaku anime designed to revive the declining anime industry, but midway through production he also made it into a heavy critique of the culture eventually culminating in the controversial, but quite successful film The End of Evangelion (1997) which grossed over $10 million. Anno would eventually go on to produce live action films. Many scenes in Evangelion were so controversial that it forced TV Tokyo to clamp down with censorship of violence and sexuality in anime. As a result when Cowboy Bebop (1998) was first broadcast it was shown heavily edited and only half the episodes were aired. The censorship crackdown has relaxed a bit, but Evangelion had a major effect on the television anime industry as a whole.
In addition, Evangelion started up a series of so-called "post-Evangelion" shows. Most of these were giant robot shows with some kind of religious or difficult plot. These include RahXephon, Brain Powerd, and Gasaraki. Another series of these are late night experimental TV shows. Starting with Serial Experiments Lain (1998) late night Japanese television became a forum for experimental anime with other shows following it such as Boogiepop Phantom (2000), Texhnolyze (2003) and Paranoia Agent (2004). Experimental anime films were also released in the 1990s, most notably Ghost in the Shell (1995), which alongside Megazone 23 (1985), had a strong influence on The Matrix.
The late 1990s also saw a brief revival of the Super Robot genre that was once popular in the 1960s and 1970s but had become rare due to the popularity of Real Robot shows such as the Gundam and Macross series in the 1980s and psychological Mecha shows such as Neon Genesis Evangelion in the 1990s. The revival of the Super Robot genre began with the Brave (Yuusha) Series, starting with Brave Exkaiser in 1990, also there were many remakes and sequels of 70s super robot shows such as Getter Robo Go and Tetsujin-28 go FX in response to "post-Evangelion" trends, but there were very few popular Super Robot shows produced after this, until Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann in 2007.
Alongside its Super Robot counterpart, the Real Robot genre was also declining during the 1990s. Though several Gundam shows were produced during this decade, very few of them were successful. The only Gundam shows in the 1990s which managed an average television rating over 4% in Japan were Mobile Fighter G Gundam (1994) and New Mobile Report Gundam Wing (1995). It wasn't until Mobile Suit Gundam SEED in 2002 that the Real Robot genre regained its popularity.
The 1990s also saw the popular video game series, Pokémon, spawn an anime television show which is still running, several anime movies, a trading card game, toys, and much more. Other 1990s anime series which gained international success were Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, and Digimon; the success of these shows marked the beginning of the martial arts superhero, the magical girl genre, and the action adventure genre respectively. In particular, Dragon Ball Z was dubbed into more than a dozen languages worldwide.
In 1997, Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke became the most expensive animated film up until that time, costing $20 million to produce. Miyazaki personally checked each of the 144,000 cels in the film, and is estimated to have redrawn parts of 80,000 of them.
The late 1990s also saw anime crossing the borders into live action, starting with Gokusen, Great Teacher Onizuka (1999). It continued well into the 2000s, with Hana Yori Dango (2005), Jigoku Shōjo (2006) and Nodame Cantabile among them.
An art movement started by Takashi Murakami that combined Japanese pop-culture with postmodern art called Superflat began around this time. Murakami asserts that the movement is an analysis of post-war Japanese culture through the eyes of the otaku subculture. His desire is also to get rid of the categories of 'high' and 'low' art making a flat continuum, hence the term 'superflat'. His art exhibitions are very popular and have an influence on some anime creators particularly those from Studio 4°C.
The "Evangelion-era" trend continued into the 2000s with Evangelion-inspired mecha anime such as RahXephon (2002) and Zegapain (2006) - RahXephon was also intended to help revive 1970s-style mecha designs. The experimental late night anime trend popularized by Serial Experiments Lain also continued into the 2000s with experimental anime such as Boogiepop Phantom (2000), Texhnolyze (2003), Paranoia Agent (2004) and Gantz (2004).
The Real Robot genre (including the Gundam and Macross franchises), which had declined during the 1990s, was revived in 2002 with the success of shows such as Mobile Suit Gundam SEED (2002), Eureka Seven (2005), Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (2006), Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (2007), Macross Frontier (2008) and Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 (2008). The resurgence of Real Robot anime can be seen in a top 20 anime poll published in the April 2008 issue of Newtype magazine, where Japanese readers voted for Gundam 00 as the #1 top anime, alongside Code Geass at #2 and Gundam SEED at #9.
The 1970s-style Super Robot genre revival started by GaoGaiGar (1997), continued into the 2000s, with several remakes of classic series such as Getter Robo and Dancougar as well as original properties created in the Super Robot mold like Godannar and Gurren Lagann. In particular, Gurren Lagann combined the genre with elements from 1980s Real Robot shows as well as 1990s "post-Evangelion" shows. Gurren Lagann received both the "best television production" and "best character design" awards from the Tokyo International Anime Fair in 2008. This eventually culminated in the release of Shin Mazinger in 2009, a full-length revival of the first Super Robot series, Mazinger Z.
In addition to these experimental trends, the 2000s has also been characterized by the increase of the moe-style art and the bishōjo and bishōnen character design. The presence and popularity of genres such as romance, harem and slice of life story has risen.
Anime based on eroge and visual novels increased in popularity in the 2000s, building on a trend started in the late 90s by such works as Sentimental Journey (1998) and To Heart (1999). Examples of such works include Green Green (2003), SHUFFLE! (2006), Kanon (2002 and 2006), Fate/Stay Night (2006), Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (2006), Ef: A Tale of Memories (2007), True Tears (2008), and Clannad (2008 and 2009).
Many shows are being adapted from manga and light novels as well including popular titles such as Fullmetal Alchemist (2005), Rozen Maiden 2005, Aria the Animation (2005), Shakugan no Shana (2005), Pani Poni Dash! (2005), Death Note (2006), Mushishi (2006), Sola (2007), The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006), Lucky Star (2007), Toradora! (2008–09), K-On! (2009) and Bakemonogatari (2009). Nevertheless, original anime titles are still being created which reach success.
The 2000s also mark a trend of emphasis of the otaku subculture. A notable critique of this otaku subculture is found in the 2006 anime Welcome to the N.H.K., which features a hikikomori protagonist and explores the effects and consequences of various Japanese sub-cultures, such as otaku, lolicon, internet suicide, massively multiplayer online games and multi-level marketing.
In contrast to the above mentioned phenomenon, there have been more productions of late night anime for a non-otaku audience as well. The first concentrated effort came from Fuji TV's Noitamina block. The 30 minute late Thursday timeframe was created to showcase productions for young women of college age, a demographic that watches very little anime. The first production 'Honey and Clover' was a particular success, peaking at a 5% TV rating in Kantou, very strong for late night anime. The block has been running uninterrupted since April 2005 and has yielded many successful productions unique in the modern anime market.
There have been revivals of American cartoons such as Transformers which spawned four new series, Transformers: Car Robots in 2000, Transformers: Micron Legend in 2003, Transformers: Superlink in 2004, and Transformers: Galaxy Force in 2005. In addition, an anime adaptation of the G.I Joe series was produced titled 'G.I. Joe: Sigma 6'.
The 2000s also saw the revival of earlier series in the forms of Fist of the North Star: The Legends of the True Savior (2006) and Dragon Ball Z Kai (2009).
Also in 2000s, Americans have made their own anime/cartoons and manga/comics. For example in 2005 the popular series Avatar: The Last Airbender had a collection of comics like The Lost Adventures and The Promise Trilogy. Eventually Nick started calling up an order for new episodes after the series ended. Then in 2011 the creator announced they where making a new series to sequel it. In 2012 the sequel called The Legend of Korra was released. Due to so many likes and tweets the series aired early and became instantly just as popular. Originally both series were intended to be mini series, but due to the extremely large fanbase they extended Avatar: the Last Airbender to 3 seasons each containing 20 (except for season 3 which had 21) episodes. Legend of Korra was suppose to run for 12 episodes but those 12 were made season 1, and will have 14 for season 2. Season 3 at the moment is just a rumor.
The 2000s also saw the revival of high-budget feature-length anime films, such as Millennium Actress (2001), Appleseed (2001), Paprika (2006), and the most expensive of all being Steamboy (2004) which cost $26 million to produce.
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