The word “anime” originated from a Japanese term “Ah-knee-may,” which is a generalized artwork for storytelling a concept or a theme. Anime started its journey in the early 1900s in Japan’s film industry.
A three-second Japanese film called “Katsudo Shashin” is believed to be the oldest piece of animation in the industry, appearing circa 1907. This anime features a boy writing katsudo shashin and doffing his cap.
Shimokawa Oten made the first dateable anime in late 1916. This anime was created on chalk and lasted less than five minutes. In 1921, Kitayama established the first anime studio, but couldn’t survive long.
The anime developments continued until Japan launched the first featured anime film in 1945. The Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warrior arrived to propagandize the scenario of World War II.
Post War and The Rise of Anime
After World War II, a Japanese company called Toei released the first modern theatrical anime production. In 1953, ninja-and-sorcery mini-epic Shōnen Sarutobi Sasuke came to the U.S. market under the name Magic Boy with the first theater anime experience.
It was not until 1961 when Akira Kurosawa’s Rashōmon was released that Japan made its mark on the anime industry on a high note. Things started to diversify more when Japan began working on anime TV shows in the sixties.
Giant Robo and Sally The Witch are the two most popular TV anime shows that grew in popularity in a quick time. Because of these successes, more franchises became interested in anime, and the entire industry started to boom with heavy potential.
First Anime Exports
At first, Japan made anime only for its territories. However, it slowly grew in popularity in English speaking countries. In 1963, Japan exported the first anime to the U.S. named Tetsuwan Atomu, more commonly known as Astro Boy. It is a story of a robot boy with superpowers who uses them to solve problems.
The series became nostalgic for a couple of generations. In 1968, the biggest blockbuster shook the market. The Japanese animation studio Tatsunoko created a manga titled Speed Racer.
Some anime legends like Peter Fernandez, Sandy Frank, and Carl Macek worked hard in order to convert Japanese titles to English speaking audiences. At that point, production houses started to realize the importance of non-Japanese audiences, so as anime started to convert to English, Japanese anime exports spiked over the decade.
In the early 1970s, TV shows gained in popularity, and the Japanese anime industry found a dent in its progress as many creative animators switched to TV shows to find more opportunities.
Because of a sudden backflow, there was not enough time to experiment for stylistic expansion. Besides all hurdles, a new genre arose to capture attention: robotic intervention to human obsession.
Some of the popular variants of this genre include mecha (anime dealing with robots and vehicles), Tetsujin 28 (the anime of a boy with his remote-controlled giant robot), Space Battleship Yamato and Mobile Suit Gundam.
As time moved forward, there were more anime shows in other countries to find themselves the center of popularity. Shows like Gatchaman and Space Battleship Yamato found huge success in the U.S. with the best rework and re-edition from their counterparts.
In 1982, the first major hit arrived for home videos in the U.S. The 80’s hit Macross was transformed with other shows into Robotech to mark huge success in America, and things started to diversify even more. Another famous anime series called Mazinger Z showed up in Arab and Spanish speaking countries. Other shows like Heidi, Girl of the Alps started to find success in Europe and Latin America.
In the early 80’s, major animation studios marked their emergence and started to set new trends in the market. One of the forerunners of the anime industry, Hayao Miyazaki, and his friend, Isao Takahata, established Studio Ghibli. This studio came with a big theatrical film success: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
Revolution In Anime Video
Instead of the TV broadcast, the home video transformation of anime gathered more attention from anime lovers. It allowed more re-watching of shows than regularly scheduled broadcasts.
This quickly created a submarket for animated products. Creative production houses rushed for OAV (Original Animated Video) with lots of experiments on storytelling to find more markets. One of the most successful experiments was the adult niche, hentai, that created its own fandom in spite of domestic and abroad censorship.
The introduction of LaserDisc (LD) in the Eighties booned anime lover experience as they now had better technology with multiple audio tracks. Most importantly, LaserDisc features both subtitled and dubbed versions of a show.
Internet and Late night Anime
In 1995, Hideaki Anno introduced Neon Genesis Evangelion to break the mainstream concept of anime shows. Though it was based on adult themes, its cultural criticism and amazing ending set a new revival among audiences.
This elicited more attention from other directors, and they were up to take on new challenges. Instead of making giant pandas or robotic superheroes, they started to work on adult concepts, so they targeted a new group of mature audiences in late-night TV shows.
The emergence of the internet and DVD in the late Nineties helped broaden anime audiences. Fans now had the opportunity to buy quality videos at an affordable price. They had the flexibility to search on Google and get the latest information from all different websites.
Challenges in New Millenium
Japan’s bubble economy of the Nineties got crunched by new Millennium budgets. Shows like Naruto and Bleach continued their journey, while new experiments were set back because of Japan’s changing economic plan.
The worldwide economic crunch at the end of 2000 and the rise of digitally powered piracy challenged new anime progress. Because of piracy, anime storage became much cheaper, and low budget production houses had no other choice other than cut back or go under completely.
Survival of the Fittest
The largest English-language dubbed licensor found success with the Dragon Ball franchise. With the introduction of new piracy laws of WIPO and online retailers like Amazon and Alibaba, the anime industry gathered new hope.
With the ever-changing marketing landscape, production houses are now cautious about experimenting with new ideas. Only the best will survive in this diverse digital network. Japan’s anime industry is now worth 20 billion dollars. This industry is now evolving in accordance with both social and international market demands.
Anime is now one of the most powerful genres of entertainment across the globe. Millions of fans greatly enjoy anime shows. The industry is ever-evolving to improve the audience experience. With its rich history, anime can even go beyond our expectations.