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 single frames.

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 movies.

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.

(Article based on Wikipedia article and used under the GNU Free Documentation License)

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