A Brief HISTORY of ANIME Primer by CosmoP Justy
(originally written as a study guide for tour guides for the My Reality exhibit
at the Tampa Museum of Art.)
Anime (ah-NEE-may), more commonly referred to as Japanese animation, has its roots in manga (MAHN-ga), or Japanese comics. Manga developed over hundreds of years, starting as pictures drawn on temple walls, then on wooden blocks, and finally as woodblock prints with captions collected in books. In time, the captions became stories and the art became sequential. By the early 20th century, manga had become the main form of literature for most of Japanese society.
At the same time, animated filmmaking started in Europe and then the U.S. When it appeared in Japan, it became a huge phenomenon—so much so that after 1940, over 40% of all domestic films in Japan were animated films based on manga. Due to its integral role in Japanese society, manga appealing to all age groups were routinely published and the scope of animated films also spanned all ages. Conversely, animation was perceived as primarily a medium for children in the West, due to the lack of animated films aimed at older viewers and the flood of now classic cartoons in the decades both before and after World War II.
When television became a popular entertainment medium in Japan, animation naturally became a large part of the programming schedule. While other shows preceded it, the first really huge animated series in terms of popularity was Osamu Tezuka’s Tetsuwan Atom in 1963. The show’s popularity caught the attention of NBC in 1964 and 104 episodes were syndicated in the U.S. as Astro Boy and became the highest rated syndicated show on television, live action or otherwise. As a result of this reaction, other shows soon found their way on to American television, including Tetsujin 28 (Gigantor), Eight Man (TOBOR, the Eighth Man), Kaitei Shonen Marin (Marine Boy), Jungle Taitei [Jungle Emperor] (Kimba, the White Lion), and Mach Go-Go-Go! (Speed Racer). Although these shows were edited to American standards (often with numerous episodes not even being released in the U.S.), broadcasters and pressure groups still complained about the violence present in these shows.
These protests resulted in a lull in bringing anime to American television for a number of years, although series and features were still being released in Japan and were wildly successful. U.S. viewers didn’t get another look at anime until the late 1970’s, when 1972’s Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman<