The history of anime begins at the start of the 20th
century, when Japanese filmmakers experimented with the animation
techniques that were being explored in the West. Though filmmakers in
Japan experimented with animation earlier, the first widely popular
anime series was Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy(1963). During the 1970s,
anime developed further, separating itself from its Western roots, and
developing unique genres such as mecha. Notable shows in 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 start of the Gundam franchise,
and the beginnings of Rumiko Takahashi's career began in this decade.
Akira set records in 1988 for the production costs of an anime.
The 1990s and 2000s saw an increased acceptance of anime in overseas
markets. Akira and Ghost in the Shell (1995) became famous worldwide.
Series like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop were popular in
Japan and attracted attention from the West. Spirited Away shared the
first prize at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival and won the Academy Award
for Best Animated Feature in 2003, and Innocence: Ghost in the Shell
was featured at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.
Anime History - Anime Origins
The origins of Japanese animation are hard to define. In
pre-movie times versions of Shadow play (imported from China) existed, which
also had incredible impact on the development of animation in Japan as well
as the animation pioneer Emil Cohl, who inspired a lot of Japanese artists.
The first documented time an animated movie was shown to the public was in
the Kabukiza (cinema centre in Tokyo). It was named "Tekugukan".
The earliest known anime (discovered in 2005) was produced circa 1907 and
consists of fifty frames drawn directly onto a strip of celluloid. The
untitled short depicts a young boy writing the Chinese characters for
"moving picture"(映画), then turning towards the viewer, removing his hat, and
offering a salute. The creator's identity is unknown.
The First Generation of Japanese Animators
Sadly very few complete movies made during this time have
survived until now. The reasons vary, but they are mostly commercial. After
they had their big time, reels (being property of the cinemas) were sold to
smaller cinemas in the country and then disassembled and sold as strips or
Shimokawa Oten: 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 only was able to do five movies, including
Imokawa Mukuzo - Genkanban no maki, before he returned to his previous work
as a cartoonist.
Kouchi Jun'ichi: A caricaturist and painter, who also had studied watercolor
painting. 1912 he also entered the cartoonist sector and was hired for an
animation by Kobayashi Shokai later in 1916. He is viewed as the technically
most advanced Japanese animator in the 1910s. His works include around 15
Kitayama Seitaro: Distinct from the other pioneers of his era, Kitayama made
animations on his own. He even founded his own animaton studio Kitayama Eiga
Seisakujo (which sadly was closed because of lack of commercial success).
His animation technique was the chalkboard animation and, later, paper
animation (with and without preprinted backgrounds).
The Second Generation of Japanese Animators
Murato Yosuji, Kimura Hakuzan, Yamamoto Sanae and Ofuji
Noboro were students of Kitayama Seitaro and worked at his film studio.
Masaoka Kenzo, another important animator, worked at a smaller animation
studio. In 1923, the Great Kantō earthquake destroyed most of Kitayama
studio and the residing animators spread out and founded studios of their
own, knowing that one could make money with the production of animations.
During this time, the first youth protection laws were adopted, which also
lead to censorship of some early animations for children under the age of
15. On the other hand, films that offered educational value were supported
and encouraged by the Monbusho (the Ministry of Education). Hundreds of
thousands of yen were spent for this purpose. Animation had found a
persistent place in scholastic, political and industrial use, which lead to
high demand of new content.
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