The History of Anime: A short Lesson

The History of Anime as we know it is a creation that has developed over more than a century. It is drastically different from the early Namakura Gatana to the more recent anime like Attack On Titan: The Final Season. The second generation of animators in the late 1910s included Ōten Shimokawa, Jun’ichi Kōuchi and Seitaro Kitayama, commonly referred to as the “fathers” of anime

Anime is always associated with Mangas, and even its history is incredibly interesting. You should definitely check out our History of Manga article as well. Mangas then went on to influence Manhwas in Korea. If you want to know the difference between the two, you can check out our Manga vs Manhwa Article.

The History of Anime AOT
The History of Anime: Attack on Titan
(c) Hajime Isayama/AOT,SNK production committee

Over the decades, anime developed further to have different genre, all the while improving the animation styles. During the late 20th century, filmmakers like Hayao Miyazaki and Mamoru Oshii became prominent in the anime sphere. Anime became famous in Japan, experience a burgeoning production with the increasing popularity of anime like Gundam and Dragon Ball.

The History of Anime Dragon Ball
History of Anime: Dragon Ball
(c) Akira Toriyama/Dragon Ball production committee

In 1988 the film Akira, the production set a record in with a staggering budget of 5.5 Million dollars which was the highest during that time. It was a local and international success and still loved by fans and film critics, even to this day. Later, in 2004 the same creators produced Steamboy, which took over as the most expensive anime film.

 The  History of Anime akira
The History of Anime: Akira (c)
Katsuhiro Otomo

Spirited Away shared the first prize at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival. It also won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. While 2004 Cannes Film Festival features the famous Innocence: Ghost in the Shell movie.

The History of Anime Spirited away
The History of Anime Spirited Away (c) Hayao Miyazaki

Early Animated shows from Japan

The release of probably the first Anime is during the late 1916 or early ’17s by Ōten Shimokawa called “Nakamura Katana”. Kouichi’s two-minute silent movie that tells the story of a samurai tricked into buying a dull-edged sword. They did this by drawing on a board with chalk in less than five minutes while recording it in reels. They dismantle these animes almost immediately as soon as they’re done showing them to the people.

The History of Anime Nakamura Katana
Nakamura Katana

The Great Kanto Earthquake 1923 destroyed a lot of work which made worst with the bombings of World War 2. And some simply just disintegrated over the next few years. This is when the anime industry starts anew with a clean slate. The struggles made them almost unable to cope with successive innovation. These includes the appearance of the first talkies in 1929 and colour film in 1932.

disaster
The Great Kanto Earthquake 1923. Source : Britannica

During this period, Ōfuji Noburō won international acclaim for Bagudoja no Tozoku (The Thief of Baguda Castle), which he made by cutting and pasting chiyogami (Japanese colored paper). After this, many promising anime artists appeared one after another.

The History of Anime Bagudoja no Tozoku
Bagudoja no Tozoku

50’s saw the slow rise of the anime industry

In 1956, Ōkawa Hiroshi, president of the Tōei film company, built a modern studio and founded Tōei Dōga (now Toei Animation). His ambition: to become “the Disney of the East.” Tōei Dōga chose Hakujaden (The Legend of the White Snake) as their first film. Takahata Isao and Miyazaki Hayao, now with Studio Ghibli, began their careers at Tōei Dōga (Takahata entered the company in 1959, Miyazaki in 1963). Both were active members of the labour union, Takahata serving as Vice-Chairman and Miyazaki as secretary-general. 

The History of Anime Legend of white snake
The History of Anime
Legend of the White Snake. Source: Nippon website

Became a commercial success during the 60’s

On January 1, 1963, Fuji Television broadcast a daily 30-minute animated television series called Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy). The show became such a big hit that it marks the beginning of a new Anime Industry. Jungle Emperor (Kimba the White Lion) debuted in the fall of 1965 became the very first colour anime TV series. This also was a major hit and later inspired western cartoons like Simba from Lion King.

The History of Anime Astro Boy
The History of Anime:
Astro Boy

Toei put on their first “Shoujo” and Magical Girl Anime in 1966. They also became a staple genre even till today. Tezuka left Mushi Pro in 1968 and founded Tezuka Productions which created Legend of the Forest. In 1974, Zuiyo Eizo began producing animation itself, most notably Alps no Shojo Heidi (Heidi, Girl of the Alps). It was instantly a popular series worldwide. Heidi became a household name for most children that grew up with it.

Heidi anime
Heidi

Rise of new genres

Anime grew popularity manifolds and by the end of the ‘70s, anime cements itself as part of Japanese popular culture. Two Japanese cultural institutions made their appearances in 1979. With Sunrise Studio release of Mobile Suit Gundam, over 70 Gundam series, specials and movies and gave rise to the new genre of Mecha anime. The show did not do well until Bandai bought the merchandise rights and started releasing Gundam model kits. Since then, they were selling model kits by the millions to fans by the millions.

Gundam Anime
Gundam

Anime grew popularity manifolds and by the end of the ‘70s, anime cements itself as part of Japanese popular culture. Two Japanese cultural institutions made their appearances in 1979. With Sunrise Studio release of Mobile Suit Gundam, over 70 Gundam series, specials and movies and gave rise to the new genre of Mecha anime. The show did not do well until Bandai bought the merchandise rights and started releasing Gundam model kits. Since then, they were selling model kits by the millions to fans by the millions.

Gundam Anime
The History of Anime:
Gundam

The 1980 was The Golden Age of Anime and expanded in more genres and interest. Mamoru Oshii directed Urusei Yatsura in 1981 for Studio PierrotCaptain Tsubasa by Tsuchida Pro, a show about soccer, became the pioneer of sports anime.

1984 saw the release of Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa (Nausicaa of the Vally of the Wind). People still consider as being one of the best anime of all time. Produced by Isao Takahata and directed and written by Hayao Miyazaki.

Nausicaa anime
Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa

80s animes and their international success

In 1986, Toei animated Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball. To say it is simply a success is such an incredible understatement. Toei followed with the release of Sailor Moon in 1992 also became a huge commercial success. In 1995, Gainax released Neon Genesis Evangelion, it immediately caught the attention of the anime world. The influence on robot shows from this point forward is an obvious to anyone. 

Dragon Ball
History of Anime: Dragon Ball
(c) Akira Toriyama/Dragon Ball production committee

Digitization of the 90s

In 1999, the first completely computer animated anime arrived. Studios began making use of the new digital technology which helps creators to illustrate detailed animation. With this it brought the advancement and improvement of Artwork and Animation. Being able to use a computer to quickly handle tedious work was unsurprisingly popular. Most studios had made the switch as soon as 2005 and never looked back. In the early 2000s, anime was once again flourishing. A series of hits the market both at home and abroad.

Anime of today and in the future

These included long-runners like One Piece (1999), Naruto (2002), and Bleach (2004). From this era onwards, the anime industry became even more famous as their art work improved a lot. Some of the most well-known anime in this century are prominent till today. Anime like Yu Yu Hakusho, Dragon Ball, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Sailor Moon are now household names.

One Piece
One piece
Naruto
Naruto
Bleach
Bleach

The Animation style in Anime got ever more attention over the next few years. It gained familiarity with people who are not even a fan of Anime. Names like Deathnote, DBZ, Pokemon are some examples of this.

Anime like Attack on Titan, Demon Slayer, Jujutsu Kaisen, My Hero Academia, The Promised Neverland, Burn the Witch and Dr. Stone are shows which almost every has seen or heard. So much has happened in the last century that It’s impossible to know where we’ll be in another century. But by looking at the past we can make some pretty educated guesses. The Anime Industry will probably continue to grow as the generation goes by. And we can’t be more excited by this prospect.  

Legends from Today’s anime world.

We then see new anime directors who became legends in their own right. Directors like Satoshi Kon and his films like Millennium Actress are being studied even today. You can read our other writer’s take on Millennium Actress here.

Satoshi Kon
Satoshi Kon

Or maybe read about Isao Takahata film The Grave of the Fireflies which is also considered as one of, if not the best animated film ever.

Grave of the fireflies
Grave of the Fireflies

Sources:

Nippon, Ranker, Toei, anime, Mamoru Oshii, Hayao Miyazaki

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9 Comments on “The History of Anime: A short Lesson”

  1. The growth of the anime industry is remarkable ….. Have been a fan of anime since forever n i cant wait for the new releases …. This article showed me new things that i didn’t know about anime yet n it made me more interested to know …..

  2. It’s a great read, as a thorough study on the topic made it a very informative one and one get’s to know a lot about the background of “anime” from this article.

  3. Congratulations! This article shows how well versed you are in the history of animations. Its really enjoyable and entertaining reading about it. Keep it up.

  4. Congratulations! You’ve done an amazing and absolutely awesome to have had written an article about “anime”. Keep growing and, All the Best!

  5. “Sincere congratulations on your hard-earned success.”I look forward to your next article. Please share it with me when it comes out.

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