Animation, in its most basic form, is art of making pictures move. This painstaking process has been being developed and perfected by artists and illustrators since the early 20th century. Walt Disney changed the world of animation, and inspired people across the globe, even in war ravaged lands like Japan.
Illustrating Hope in Troubled Times
Post WWII-era Japan was ablaze with social and civic changes that are just beginning to be fully understood. Having begun modernization in the late 19th century, Japan was still a highly militarized culture, when the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki decimated a large portion of the population.
No one knows for certain just how much animation and film were lost during the post war years, but anime as we know it was effectively born during this reconstruction period. Occupied Japan was as equally influenced by the comics and cartoons brought over by American troops stationed there as the American soldiers were by the culture they were entrenched in.
Inspired and Empowered by Each Other, Yet Separate and Distinct
Osamu Tezuka is considered the Father of Anime and Manga. As a child, Tezuka was a devoted fan of Disney animation. He began his own animation production studio in 1962 called Mushi Productions, from which he released his most famous work Astro Boy. By 1963, Tezuka’ s Astro Boy had crossed the Pacific to become a hit in the United States.
Mushi Productions went bankrupt in 1973, just two years after the death of Roy O. Disney, older brother of Walt. Tezuka still created breathtaking and soul-shaking art and animation until his passing in 1989.
Although there is some discussion of strife between Tezuka and Disney, allegedly revolving around the striking similarities between Disney’s The Lion King (1994) and Kimba, the White Lion (manga Shonen 1950-54 & anime 1965-66), it’s important to remember the mutual respect these two cartoon icons bore each other.
Passing the Torch
Other anime legends have stepped forward between the Great War and today, such as Hayao Miyazaki who joined Toei Animation in 1963 and went on to cofound the most famous anime studio of all time Studio Ghibli.
At age 77, Miyazaki is still considered the most influential anime ad manga artist in history. His work has ironically fueled what he considers to be a travesty to the industry; the otaku, a Japanese term for someone obsessed with anime and manga.
Anime’s Infinite Imagination
It’s virtually impossible to define anime beyond “Japanese Animation” because the subjects, styles, and themes are as variable as the artists who create them. Life, death, love, war, peace, and everyday life are all favored topics in anime storylines.
Shounen, or shonen is anime aimed toward boys, while shoujo (shujo) is marketed mostly toward girls. Anime isn’t intended for children alone and is often adult-themed.
Anime is a highly detailed, intricately subtle, and fantastical excursion into the soul of humanity. Its creators are our devoted tour guides.