by Rose Martin
The word ‘anime’ is short for the Japanese term ‘romaji,’which means ‘animation.’ This form of animation is seen on television in the form of movies or anime TV series. In Japan, anime is common and a part of the culture. The anime style originated in Japan and is considered distinctly Japanese.
Ian Condy, associate professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, wrote a book on the history of anime called, ‘The Soul of Anime’. During his research, Condy visited dozens of workshops and artists over a period of eight years. He found that although anime is one of the most labor-intensive forms of media possible, it does not make massive profits for entertainment companies.
It is estimated that around 60% of all global animated TV shows originate in Japan. In 2014, the Japanese anime market was worth over US $14.1 billion. Consciously or subconsciously, it is likely that anime has influenced you at some point in time, regardless of where you live.
Here are a few ways in which anime has made an impact globally:
Modern or Traditional
Pokémon is considered the most influential anime in the United States. Since its introduction in 1999, the Pokémon Company has made enormous profits. In 2015, the Pokémon franchise generated US $2.1 billion.
Currently the Pokémon franchise is in talks for movie rights and this is causing something of a mini-war among interested parties, which include mega-production houses Legendary, Sony and Warner Bros. Although Warner Bros. has supported Pokémon’s anime movies in the past, but hasn’t collaborated over live action movies. Given their history, Warner Bros. will probably receive production rights.
However, it is also likely that Legendary will win the contract because the company is partly owned by a Chinese company. It is, therefore, in a more culturally-compatible position than a wholly-American company. Legendary were also behind the 2014 Godzilla movie, which had heavy Japanese influences in terms of cinematography and overall themes.
Even though Pokémon is a global phenomenon, the choice of the production house proves that its Japanese roots influence its future choices.
Have you ever been to Comic Con? You might not know that these large gatherings of comic book fans and superhero worshippers originated in Japan. The first such gathering took place in 1975 in Tokyo at Comiket. Today, Comiket attracts over half-a-million fans. These conventions took place in the United States only in the 1980s with Yamatocon in 1983, which only had 100 people in attendance. The largest convention outside Japan is the Japan Expo, which takes place in Paris every year. It’s interesting to see that the events which we thought originated in the West, in fact, started in Japan!
Anime has inspired body pillows, known as Dakimakura. Mainly used by young Japanese adults, these pillows have a close link to anime characters. The pillows, such as this genji body pillow, feature anime characters in various poses and outfits on their front and back. Several decades ago, giant stuffed animals were used instead of these pillows, but due to the increasing influence of anime around the 1990s, they took the shape of Dakimakura
Anime and Manga Explosion in the US
Manga (Japanese comic books with elaborate storylines, which can also be called graphic novels) is a popular genre in the United States. In the 1960s, popular comics including Astro Boy and Speed Racer were brought to the U.S. from Japan.
Around the time when Astro Boy came to the States, NBC Enterprises began acquiring various other Japanese titles including Jungulu Taitei Leo (‘Kimba the White Lion’). Anime fans today call this the original Lion King, a claim that Disney still denies.
Some of the most famous animated characters seen on television today were created in Japan. Aside from Pokémon, Dragonball Z and Doraemon, the Power Rangers series and their soon-to-be-released movie also originated in Japan in 1975 as the Super Sentai.
Japan and the United States have become linked due to a common love for anime characters. One of the biggest movies in recent history which also won an Oscar was Toy Story 3. Upon closer inspection, one can see a Totoro doll in some scenes. This is a character from the 1988 Hayao Miyazaki animated movie My Neighbor Totoro. Finding this character in a massive Pixar production is not surprising given that Totoro’s creator, Miyazaki, is known as Japan’s answer to Walt Disney. He has even won an Oscar for his work. His production house Studio Ghibli collaborates with Disney at times. In fact, the Toy Story trilogy’s director, John Lasseter has openly acknowledged Miyazaki’s inspiration in his work. Some of the biggest and the most loved movies in Hollywood have been inspired by Japanese animation.
Animated Does Not Mean Childish
One area where Japanese anime and its American counterparts deferred until the mid-1990s was humor. Cartoons in the United States were meant only for children and did not involve adult humor or death.
Since its introduction in the States in the 1960s, anime had undergone a transformation, making it different from the original Japanese versions, which often featured death and other mature topics. This has led to the production of adult-oriented animation such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, F is for Family, Bojack Horseman and Futurama. These animated shows deal with adult themes including depression, drug addiction, death, and humor.
Anime has had a major impact on global popular culture over the past few decades. It is surprising to learn just how much of a difference anime has made in the entertainment industry. A much-loved genre with loyal fans, anime (and manga) show no signs of slowing down in popularity and will continue to leave their mark all over the world.
Rose Martin is a contributor who loves to share her insights and perspectives on entertainment, fun, anime, manga and lifestyle. Rose is also interested in music, fitness and art. In spare time, she loves to spend time with family and friends.