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.

Many 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.

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

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