ANIME HISTORY - THE GOLDEN AGE
The release of Space Battleship Yamato is often cited as
the beginning of the Golden Age of AnimeThis shift towards space operas
became more pronounced in the late 1970s due to the commercial success of
Star Wars. This allowed for the early space opera "Space Battleship Yamato"
to be revived in a theatrical version. This theatrical version of Yamato is
seen as the basis of the anime boom of the 1980s, referred to as the Golden
Age of Anime.
Two events happened at the time of this shift from superhero Giant Robots to
elaborate Space Operas. A subculture in Japan (who later called themselves
Otaku) began to develop around animation magazines such as Animage or later
Newtype. These magazines popped up in response to the overwhelming fandom
that developed around shows such as Yamato in the late 1970s.
In addition a major component of anime from a technical perspective
developed with Yoshinori Kanada an animation director (who worked on Yamato)
who allowed individual key animators working under him to put their own
style of movement as a means to save money. In many more "auteristic" anime
this formed the basis of an individualist animation style that is unique to
Japan (in commercial animation). In addition, Kanada's animation was
inspiration for Takashi Murakami and his Superflat art movement.
In the United States the popularity of Star Wars had a similar, but much
smaller, effect on the development of anime. Gatchaman was reworked and
edited into Battle of the Planets in 1978 and again as G-Force in 1986.
Space Battleship Yamato was reworked and edited into Star Blazers in 1979
and finally, and perhaps most infamously, Robotech (1985) was created from
three anime titles, The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension
Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada. The first organized
American "otaku" developed as fans of these series.
The Otaku culture became more pronounced with Mamoru Oshii's adaptation of
Rumiko Takahashi's popular manga Urusei Yatsura 1982. Yatsura would allow
Takahashi to become a household name in anime despite her humble origins as
a doujinshi artist. As for Oshii he would begin to break away from fan
culture and take a more auteuristic approach with his 1984 film Urusei
Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer. This break with the otaku culture would allow
Oshii to experiment much further later in his career.
The otaku subculture had some effect on people who were entering the
industry around this time. The most famous of these people were the amateur
production group Daicon Films which would become Studio Gainax. Gainax began
by making films for the Daicon Scifi conventions and were so popular in the
otaku community that they were given a chance to helm the biggest budgeted
anime film, at that time, Wings of Honneamise (1987).
The film Nausica� helped jumpstart Studio GhibliOne of the most influential
anime of all time, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984), was made
during this time period. The film gave extra prestige to anime allowing for
many experimental and ambitious projects to be funded shortly after its
release. It also allowed for its director Hayao Miyazaki and his long time
colleague Isao Takahata the ability to set up their own studio under the
supervision of former Animage editor Toshio Suzuki. This studio would become
known as Studio Ghibli and its first film was Castle in the Sky (1986).
Around the same time as Nausicaa a new medium was developed for anime the
OVA. These OVAs were direct-to-home-video series and or movies that catered
to much smaller niche audiences. The first OVA was Moon Base Dallos'
(1983-1984) directed by Mamoru Oshii. Dallos was a flop, but Megazone 23
(1985) was the first real success in this market. Shows such as Patlabor had
their beginnings in this market and it proved to be a way to test less
marketable animation against audiences.
The OVA was also responsible for allowing the first full-blown anime
pornography with OVA's such as Cream Lemon (1984). (see also hentai).
The late 1980s, following the release of Nausicaa, saw an increasing number
of high budget and/or experimental films. In 1985 Toshio Suzuki helped put
together funding for Oshii's experimental film Angel's Egg (1985). The OVA
market allowed for short experimental pieces such as Take the X Train,
Neo-Tokyo, and Robot Carnival(all three 1987).
Akira brought anime to an international sceneTheatrical releases became more
ambitious each film trying to outclass or out spend the other film all
taking cues from Nausicaa's popular and critical success. Night on the
Galactic Railroad (1985), Tale of Genji (1986), and Grave of the Fireflies
(1987) were all ambitious films based on important literary works in Japan.
Films such as Char's Counterattack 1988 and Arion (1986) were lavishly
budgeted spectacles. This period of lavish budgeting and experimentation
would reach its zenith with two of the most expensive anime film productions
ever: Wings of Honneamise (1987) and Akira (1988).
Most of these films didn't make back the costs to produce them. Both Akira
and Wings of Honneamise, when first shown in Japan, flopped. As a result
large numbers of anime studios closed down, and many of experimental
productions began to be favored less over "tried and true" formulas. Only
Studio Ghibli was to survive a winner of the many ambitious productions of
the late 1980s with its film Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) being the top
grossing film for that year earning over $40 million at the box office.
Despite the failure of Akira in Japan, it brought with it a much larger
international fan base for anime. When shown overseas the film was a cult
hit that would eventually become a symbol of the medium for the West. The
domestic failure and international success of Akira, combined with the
bursting of the bubble economy and Osamu Tezuka's death in 1989, brought a
close to the era.
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