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Humble Beginnings: How Did Anime Begin?

As compared to many other countries, Japanese culture is constantly added to with each generation. This isn’t to say that nations like the USA or the UK do not have a cultural heritage – but rather the ingenious way that Japanese art and culture from earlier in the Middle Ages and before has been transformed into iconic programs like the popular manga and anime we have today.

Many other countries don’t have the ability to claim that their cultural offerings are grounded in the same amount of history and tradition. As such, we can begin to realize that anime – with its unique style – is expanding into Western culture. Just how much does Japanese anime and sci-fi influence the western media and entertainment?

“Humble Beginnings,” How did the First Anime Show Begin?

The time frame for when anime was developed. There are some who suggest that the first animated film was created between 1916 and 1917 by Shimokawa Oken, but because of the numerous records and reels were destroyed, most indicate that a 1917 release featuring 20 short films was its inception.

Kenzo Masaoka premiered the first animated film to feature audio in 1933. 1958 saw the release of the first feature film based on anime, Hakujaden. The following year, it debuted in America and the West’s fascination with Japanese sci-fi began.

Japanese Sci-Fi Scooped Up by the West

A very prominent elements of Japanese culture that is observed in western television and films is the monster genre, also called kaiju. The early sci-fi genre was filled with creatures that appeared out of thin air to wreak havoc (usually on Tokyo).

1954’s Godzilla was the catalyst for the films, which have changed shape throughout the years, but remain popular today. In fact, there’s an entire range of study focused on the impact of Godzilla and Kaiju. Some other examples of kaiju-related films include the 31 sequels of Godzilla, the Japanese Godzilla collection, Pacific Rim (2013), Dwayne Johnson’s 2018 film Rampage along with The Cloververse series of films including the cinematic horror of a series opener Cloverfield (2008) 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) in addition to The Cloverfield Paradox (2018).

The Pervading Effects of Japanese Culture

Japanese culture has more than just an impact on TV and films. Elsewhere in entertainment, anime can be used as an inspiration. In the case of Devil May Cry movie game was dramatically inspired by anime – in everything from the look of its characters to the development of its story. Moreover, popular on Netflix animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender was so heavily influenced and influenced by anime that many are surprised to find that it was developed in America.

This has caused some to establish a new genre for anime that’s produced out of Japan. Elsewhere in entertainment, the themes of anime and sci-fi don’t just influence TV and films but can be found in a range of products, like an example of the Fortune Girl slot on some casino sites, by way of example. This online slot that pay homage to the style of anime and is appealing to new players with symbols and designs inspired by classic anime and Japanese sci-fi storytelling to deliver its gameplay.

How does Anime influence Western Storytelling?

Storytelling also draws inspiration from traditional Japanese stories. The genre of anime – that includes long-running series such as Naruto, Pokemon, and Dragon Ball Z – has a distinct way to tell stories. The arcs are often driven by the ‘big villain’ which is the main villain for the day, and the heroes go on a specific path to follow. However, as many apathetic anime fans can attest that, there are plenty of filler episodes. These episodes help delay huge plots and allow the anime to catch up with the source material (often manga comic books).

One of the prime examples to illustrate this trend in West is the reaction to The Walking Dead from AMC differs depending on whether the show is drawing inspiration from comic books or not. The traditional TV’s Sweeps Week meant that many dramas delayed major events, often with unneeded side stories to allow their main set pieces or dramatic denouements in the event that more viewers would tune in. Netflix – and the shorter sequence of episodes it proliferates – counteracts this and removes the need for filler shows.

Akira, a 1988 Japanese animated film Akira is often lauded to be one of Japan’s greatest cinematic exports, alongside Studio Ghibli’s 2001 movie Spirited Away. It’s a fact that George Lucas turned down an opportunity to present the film to viewers in 1987 as he believed they wouldn’t be interested. The film, when it eventually found its audience, turned many of them towards Japanese anime and sci-fi programming and was a model for which other media wanting to emulate the style would utilize. Indeed, Kanye West’s music video for Stronger is heavily based on Akira – according to the director.

Japanese storytelling is a reflection of the culture and traditions handed down to us, which have been re-imagined in to one of the most easily recognizable media tropes globally. The ideas behind Japanese sci-fi and anime are universal and can be applied to TV, film gaming and entertainment in general throughout the West. As culture expands beyond national boundaries, we can anticipate more anime-influenced content throughout western media.