Anime. It is simply the Japanese word for animation. But what a world it spans! You will find something for everyone. Not only for kids but parents, grandparents, nerds, jocks, and everyone in between. You will find genres in action, comedy, horror, romance, fantasy, science fiction and certainly ones that combine them.
For some reason, even though it didn’t start that way, America started believing that animation was “just for kids”. That’s right folks – all those old Warner Brothers, Fleisher Studio, MGM Studio, even Disney cartoons were made for grownups. As time went on in the U.S. of A. animation became more expensive to produce until computers came along. Quality suffered and you ended up with fewer people working and fewer cels (individual images) per minute. (The more cels per minute, the more fluid and smooth the animation will be.)
By the 1960’s and 70’s Saturday morning cartoons by Hanna-Barbera and Filmation among others, were made for kids. Some had some pretty cool character designs or concepts, quite a few were definitely not of the visual or story quality of previous decades.
It turns out that during that time American studios were beginning to outsource animation to Japanese studios among other countries in efforts to further save money. Animation studios in Japan had already been around for awhile themselves. In addition to the outsourcing, some original Japanese titles started to be shown in the U.S. mass market, such as Speed Racer and Kimba the White Lion. During the 1980’s with more financial backing and public interest in the medium closely tied to the comic book industry (manga) Japanese animation began to flourish even more. And people started to take notice.
Anime fan clubs popped up all over the world. For the cost of mailing and a blank VCR tape (remember VCR tapes?) you could get a 3rd or more generation copy of an anime TV show or movie usually not translated by subtitles or dubbing. And if you were a fan, you didn’t care. Fortunately quite a few fans who were fluent in Japanese were willing to share their knowledge and would provide free transcripts in fan club newsletters or magazines as the years rolled by. Enough people became interested as the 80’s became the 90’s that small companies in the U.S. began purchasing the rights to translate and sell Japanese titles. It led to a renaissance of animation quality in U.S. titles as well, especially in Warner Brothers and Disney afternoon TV shows for kids as the writers were exposed to anime from the previous few decades. And these studios were almost exclusively outsourcing to Japan for them. So you may be an anime fan without realizing it.
As the 90’s progressed, anime films began getting more showing in art film theaters and anime conventions took off in popularity. You know where it goes from here. Anime fandom is mainstream. Disney began a contract for releasing or re-releasing Studio Ghibli films. (Nausicaa straight to video and Totoro theatrically had already been released in the U.S. on a smaller scale.) Regular movie theaters began releasing anime movies or running marathons. A couple of cable stations either began showing anime in blocks or devoting to it altogether. Anime references pop up in American movies, tv shows, comic books, and books. And I like to think there is plenty more to come.
P.S. If you are convinced you are not an anime fan but liked any of the following shows from your childhood, you are after all.
Speed Racer, Kimba the White Lion, Robotech, Battle of the Planets, Star Blazers, The Hobbit and The Return of the King (animated 80’s versions by Rankin-Bass), The Real Ghostbusters, Gummie Bears, Duck Tales, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Tail Spin, Animaniacs, Batman, the Animated Series, and Tiny Toons.