Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tracing The Roots of Anime

From the popular Transformers movie release to the Yu-Gi-Oh! cards your kids might have, anime has certainly left its mark on the world in recent years. Understanding its roots, though, is the key to predicting where this ever-changing genre is headed.

Before you can understand the history of anime, maybe it's first necessary to understand exactly what anime is. "Anime" literally means animation in Japanese. It does not distinguish one style from another; it's simply a way to talk about animation of all types.

Worldwide, though, anime is what we call a particular style of Japanese art and animation. Because of its popularity in recent years, the term ‘anime' has come to mean a style rather than animation that comes specifically from Japan. Through the years, anime has also been known by other names. Japanime is one, and Japanimation is another. Manga is a more recent, and perhaps controversial, term for anime-style comic books.

A Bit of History

While lots of animation was produced in Japan from about 1917 on, the anime that we know and love today is considered to have been created by Tezuka Osamu, who started drawing comic books in 1947. His character Astroboy (or Tetsuwan Atomu as he is known in Japan) hit television screens around Japan in 1963, which is generally considered to be the first mainstream anime cartoon. What's more is that Tezuka Osamu helped to create the giant robot genre that has been such an ongoing theme in both anime and manga.

Anime became such a popular art form in Japan because the live action film genre was simply too expensive to be a hit. As a result, some of the same thematic steps western filmmakers were taking in the world of live action were being taken in Japanese animation simultaneously.

The Real Difference

As a whole, anime is quite different from American animation. Anime encompasses complex story lines of nearly every genre as well as thought-provoking characters that most American animation stays away from. Since American animation is considered "kid's stuff," and anime is a mainstream form of entertainment for all kinds of people in Japan, lots of people misinterpret anime's intentions.

While some of anime is okay for you and your children to view together, many films contain adult themes and situations that aren't okay for younger viewers. Keep in mind that Japan has very different attitudes about nudity, strong language, and violence, so plopping your toddler down in front of anime because it's a cartoon just isn't a good idea.

Like the Idea?

If you're interested in exploring anime further, there are several films that are considered to be classics to the genre as a whole. Try starting with Princess Mononoke. With a strong plot and beautiful style, you're sure to fall in love with this type of animation instantly.

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