ANIME HISTORY - 90s & TODAY
Anime History - The 90s to present
After the boom of "The
Golden Age of Anime" some people perceived a decline in overall
quality of anime. Budgets fell and many ambitious projects weren't funded.
There was a brief renaissance after the success of Hideaki Anno's Neon
Genesis Evangelion (1995) but things still aren't going very well in the
Japanese market. Most of the attention and consequently the more ambitious
projects are being aimed for the West. Starting in 1995 with Macross Plus,
Memories, and most famously Ghost in the Shell (1995), there was a rush to
get a prestigious large budget anime film to US audiences. Memories was
unable to be released even though it was intended for international
audiences because the license holder in Japan wanted too much money for the
American distribution rights.
In 1995, Hideaki Anno directed and wrote what is probably the most
controversial anime show ever written, Neon Genesis Evangelion. This show
became popular in Japan among anime fans and became known to the general
public through mainstream media attention. It is believed that Anno
originally wanted the show to be the ultimate otaku anime designed to revive
the failing anime industry, but midway through production he also made it
into a heavy critique of the culture eventually culminating in the
controversial, but quite successful (it grossed over $10 million) film The
End of Evangelion (1997). Anno would eventually get so fed up with the anime
industry that he'd go on to produce live action films.
scenes in the Evangelion TV show were so controversial that it forced TV
Tokyo to clamp down on censorship of violence and sexuality in anime. As a
result when Cowboy Bebop (1998) was first broadcast it was shown heavily
edited and only half the episodes were aired. The censorship crackdown has
relaxed a bit, but Evangelion had a major effect on the television anime
industry as a whole.
In addition Evangelion started up a series of so-called "post-Evangelion"
shows. Most of these were giant robot shows with some kind of religious or
difficult plot. These include RahXephon, Brain Powerd, and Gasaraki. Another
series of these are late night experimental TV shows. Starting with Serial
Experiments Lain (1998) late night Japanese television became a forum for
experimental anime with other shows following it such as Boogiepop Phantom
(2000), Texhnolyze (2003) and Paranoia Agent (2004).
An art movement started by Takashi Murakami that combined Japanese
pop-culture with postmodern art called Superflat came began around this
time. Murakami asserts that the movement is an analysis of post-war Japanese
culture through the eyes of the otaku subculture. His desire is also to get
rid of the categories of 'high' and 'low' art making a flat continuum, hence
the term 'superflat'. His art exhibitions are very popular and have an
influence on some anime creators particularly those from Studio 4�C.
RahXephonIn contrast to these experimental trends the same time period has
also been characterized by a trend towards extreme emphasis on otaku
subculture. Many shows are currently being shown on late night television
that are often based on h-games and are made solely for a die hard otaku
audience. Examples of works in this genre of often fanservice heavy series
includes Green Green (2003), Mahoromatic (2001), and Hand Maid May (2003).
These shows have been criticized by some critics as being sexist (with many
idealized depictions of submissive women) and destroying the artistic
vitality of the anime industry due to relying on fan desires over any kind
of artistic advancement. At the same time some these shows have turned out
to be very profitable in Japan. See also Mo�.
The late 1990s and 2000s also saw the increased acceptance of anime in
overseas markets. Cowboy Bebop was widely popular in Japan and attracted
attention in the West. Miyazaki's Spirited Away shared the first prize at
the 2002 Berlin Film Festival and won the Academy Award for Best Animated
Feature in 2003, and Oshii's Innocence: Ghost in the Shell was featured at
the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.
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