“Whatever is happening now, it always has to do with something from the past.”
Anime history is remarkably vast, yes, and it will take me hundreds of pages to make a chapter on it. I could, but it will take me a year or more to compile. My main focus is not to present a chronological dissertation of anime history in its broadest sense, as it is, as I said, broad. But it is part of my cause to present to you, the readers, a simplified presentation of anime history. So, in this article, my cause is to give a simplified but revealing insight for us Christians about anime and its history. Of course, knowing history will not make us ignorant of current sophistication. Also, as Christians, it is important for us to know or trace the roots before falling into temptations of any kind.
For starters, the word “anime” is mostly based on the original Japanese pronunciation of the American word “animation.” It is the animation style in Japan. The urban dictionary defines it stereotypically as: anime style is characters with proportionally large eyes and hairstyles and colors that are very colorful and exotic. The plots range from very immature (children’s stuff), through an adolescent level, to mature (violence, content and thick plot). It is also important to note that American cartoons and Japanese anime are different. The plot of an anime is more complex, while that of a cartoon is simpler. While cartoons are meant for children, anime on the other hand is more meant for adult viewers.
Although the creation of anime was basically due to the influence of Western countries beginning in the early 20th century (when Japanese filmmakers experimented with animation techniques being explored in the West), it was also inspired by the production of manga (comic ) which was already present in Japan even before the production of the anime.
Around the beginning of the 13th century, there were already images of the afterlife and animals that appeared on the walls of temples in Japan (most of them are similar to modern manga). By the early 1600s, images were no longer drawn in temples but on wooden blocks, known as Edo. The subjects of the Edo arts were less religious and often geographically erotic. Noticing this certainly gave me this idea:
“Explicit manga introductions, which would later influence the anime industry, already existed in the 13th century. That was hundreds of years before anime came into view!”
Now, that shouldn’t be too surprising, right? There are many manga (also known as comics) these days that are too vulgar and explicit and if not, there will be at least one character in his flashy appearance. I’m not saying all manga are full of nudity, if that’s what you’re thinking right now. But rather, this exploitation of eroticism (or at least a dash of amorousness) in manga isn’t really new. They already existed even before the First and Second World Wars. They, however, moved on to something else. Manga, to a great extent, is a factor of how and why anime existed. In fact, most anime and live action are adaptations of manga or comics.
Japanese cartoonists experimented with different animation styles as early as 1914, but anime’s glorious rise began shortly after World War II, with Kitayama Seitaro, Oten Shimokawa, and Osamu Tezuka pioneering notable Japanese animators. Among the pioneering animators during that time, it was Osamu Tezuka who earned the most credits and was later known as “the god of comics”.
Osamu Tezuka was best known in his play “Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atomu)”, the first robot boy with an atomic heart who had wished to be a real boy. His works were remarkable and his animation style contributed a lot to the production of Japanese anime, such as large round eyes. Tezuka’s works not only focused on entertaining young viewers but he also conceived and initiated the creation of animerama. It is a series of thematically related adult anime feature films made at their Mushi Production studio from the late 1960s to the early 1970s. Animerama is a trilogy consisting of three films: Arabian Nights, Cleopatra, and Belladonna. The first, One Thousand and One Nights, was the first erotic animated film designed by Osamu Tezuka, the god of comics.
Although anime made its way, it was only in the 1980s that anime was fully accepted into mainstream Japan. Since then, more and more genres emerged. From slice of life, drama, mecha, tragic, adventure, sci-fi, romance, ecchi, shounen-ai, shoujo, and many more genres. While most anime shows shifted from more superhero-oriented fantasy plots to somewhat more realistic space operas with increasingly complex plotlines and more confusing definitions of right and wrong; in short, anime in its broadest sense is just complicated.
Also, later during the Japanese animation boom, a new medium for anime was developed: the OVA (Original Video Animation). These OVAs were direct-to-home video series or movies that were aimed at much smaller audiences. The OVA was also responsible for enabling the first full-blown anime porn.
As Japanese animation gained more audience and acceptance around the world, a subculture in Japan, later calling itself “otaku”, began to develop around animation magazines such as Animage or later NewType. These magazines became known in response to the overwhelming fandom that developed around shows like Yamato and Gundam in the late 1970s and early 1980s and during this period the mecha genres were prominent.
It all started with ancient paintings, woodblock arts, artistic representations of life, nature and animals since the 13th century. Until these, however, evolved into moving frames when different manga and animation experiments were done in the pre- and post-war era.
As far back as the 13th century, woodblock manga, known as Edo, were already in existence not just for the sake of art, but I think they were there as a means of entertainment… a form of art and entertainment that would gradually evolve . on time.
In conclusion, the history of anime was broad in its sense and this article has not presented all of it. But the point is that we should know that anime itself has many genres and motifs that can be more alarming than we can imagine.
As Christians, we should really consider the heart motives of the creators or animators. We should do a background check and if we are convicted of not watching a certain anime, let’s not take it for granted.