History of Anime (Part 3) (アニメの歴史)

Before this, I’ve mentioned to you about the common types of anime produced before and during the Second World War. In the years leading up to the War, most of the animes produced focused on Japanese folklore and culture, whereas during the years when Japan was actively involved in the War, the anime industry was largely controlled by the Japanese government and military forces in order to make use of animes as war propaganda tools. However, right after the War ended with Japan’s unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces, the anime industry made a rather slow recovery, as Japan was badly impoverished in the succeeding years after the War.

Nevertheless, animators did make an effort to produce some animes during the post-War years. From 1945 onwards, up to the mid 1950s, the anime industry diverged into two different directions. The first involved the usage of personified animals as major characters in animes, as practiced in the 1920s and 1930s. Prominent examples of such animes include “A Trouble in the Forest” (鶏と友達, Niwatori to Tomodachi, 1947) featuring a chicken as the protagonist, and “Carry the Hatchet” (鉞担いで, Masakari Katsuide, 1948) featuring a bear cutting trees unscrupulously in the forest, resulting in a large flood. “Animal Baseball Match” (動物大野球戦, Doubutsu Daiyakyuu Sen, 1949) is yet another example of such an anime, in which it features animal characters playing in a great baseball match, as its name suggests.

Carry the Hatchet (鉞担いで, Masakari Katsuide, 1948)

On the other hand, the second direction which the anime industry of the era took involved the adaptation of foreign folktales into Japanese animes. For example, elements from Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, have been adapted into an anime entitled “The King’s Tail” (王様のしっぽ, Ousama no Shippo, 1948). Other examples include “Dream of a Snowy Night” (雪の夜の夢, Yuki no Yoru no Yume, 1947), an adaptation from “The Little Match Girl”, another one of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale; and “Princess of Baghdad” (バグダッド姫, Bagudaddo Hime, 1948), which is an adaptation of one of the stories from 1001 Arabian Nights.

Princess of Baghdad (バグダッド姫, Bagudaddo Hime, 1948)

The King's Tail (王様のしっぽ, Ousama no Shippo, 1948)

While all animes produced before this were merely black and white in colour, some colour animes started emerging during the immediate post-War era, though they were only of short lengths, normally not more than 30 minutes. Some examples of these colour animes include works of Ofuji Nobuo (大藤信郎) whom I’ve mentioned in Part 2 of this article. These include “Flower and Butterfly” (花と蝶, Hana to Chou, 1954), “Whale” (鯨, Kujira, 1952), which won the second prize in the 1952 Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France; and “Ghost Ship” (幽霊船, Yuureisen, 1956), which was awarded the first prize in the 1956 Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy. This brought worldwide recognition for Ofuji Nobuo’s work and contribution in the field of animation.

Whale (, Kujira, 1952)

Toei Animation – does that ring a bell to any one of you? Yes? No? If no, then maybe the names of some of its most popular animes must have been embedded somewhere in your mind. Ever heard of animes such as Dragon Ball (ドラゴンボール, Doragon Bouru), Sailor Moon (美少女戦士セーラームーン, Bishoujo Senshi Sera Mun) and Digimon (デジモン, Dejimon)? Well, for your information, these animes are productions of Toei Animation!

Digimon (デジモン, Dejimon) - surely many of you must have heard of this before!

Established in 1948, Toei Animation (東映アニメーション株式会社, Touei Animeshon Kabushiki Gaisha) was initially a small film producing company, but has since then grown into one of the most prominent anime companies in Japan today, producing quite a number of the most popular animes in circulation worldwide, such as those that I have mentioned above. As far as history is concerned, Toei Animation is undoubtedly responsible for producing Japan’s first ever colour anime feature film of considerable length in 1958. Running at a duration of 78 minutes, this honour goes to “The Tale of the White Serpent” (白蛇伝, Hakujaden). Adapted from the Chinese Song Dynasty folktale “Madame White Snake” (白蛇傳), this anime tells the love story between a young man and a magical princess who has the power to transform into a snake.

The Tale of the White Serpent (白蛇伝, Hakujaden, 1958)

With the advent of television and broadcasting technology in Japan, animes started making more significant strides in the arena of Japanese entertainment. In 1960, the Japanese anime industry made its initial step into the world of broadcasting when the first ever anime to be broadcasted on television appeared on TV screens nationwide in Japan. “Three Tales” (三つのはなし, Mittsu no Hanashi) was a black and white anime which ran for 30 minutes, telling the stories of three separate fairy tales, namely “The Third Plate” (第三の皿, Daisan no Sara), “Oppel and the Elephant” (オッペルと象, Opperu to Zou) and “Sleepy Town” (眠い町, Nemui Machi).

About a year later, in 1961, the anime industry made history again by airing its second anime on Japanese televisions. “Otogi Manga Calendar” (おとぎマンガカレンダー, Otogi Manga Karenda), though being a black and white anime just like its predecessor above, actually bore the additional honour of being the first ever anime series to be aired on TV. This anime series ran from 1961 to 1964 over two seasons. It was aired in the first season as “Instant History” from 1961 to 1962, covering 312 episodes in all, each running for a mere 3 minutes. Only in its second season was this anime then known as “Otogi Manga Calendar”, whereby it covered 54 episodes from 1962 to 1964, each being about 25 minutes long. Based on my research, the best (and only) description of this seemingly unknown anime is that it features historical events portrayed through a character who was not aware of “what happened on this day in history.” Nevertheless, it was this anime that subsequently paved the way for the production of more anime series after it.

Surely many of you anime fans out there must have heard of Osamu Tezuka (手塚治虫, Tezuka Osamu) before? Well, for those of you who don’t know who he is, Osamu Tezuka is officially crowned in manga and anime circles as the “Father of Manga and Anime.” He is best remembered as being the most prominent Japanese animator and comic artist who paved the way for the expansion and development of modern manga and anime. Feel free to view an accompanying article in my blog entitled “Dr Osamu Tezuka – The Father of Manga and Anime (手塚治虫)” if you’d like to know more about him.

Japanese stamps made in honour of Osamu Tezuka and his manga / anime creations

Anyway, back to the story! Osamu Tezuka was formerly employed by Toei Animation before he left the company when his contract expired and started a rival company against it in 1961. As such, Mushi Production (虫プロダクション, Mushi Purodakusyon) became Toei Animation’s ultimate rival in the anime industry in the years to follow.

From Mushi Production was born the first ever anime that actually captured both Japanese and international eyes on a significantly large scale. Indeed, the company, under Tezuka’s leadership, succeeded in producing Japan’s first ever anime series to feature regular characters in a continuous plot. Although being the second anime series to be produced and probably the third anime to be broadcasted on Japanese TV, this anime is actually the first ever anime to embody most of the elements of what we are familiar today as “anime” i.e. the artistic form of modern anime and regular characters portrayed in an exciting and smooth-flowing plot. This honour goes to none other than the renowned “Astro Boy” (鉄腕アトム, Tetsuwan Atomu).

Astro Boy (鉄腕アトム, Tetsuwan Atomu)

First broadcasted on Japanese TV from 1963 to 1966, it was an adaptation from Tezuka’s manga of the same title, which was produced in 1952. “Astro Boy”, which was also directed by Tezuka himself, originally covered 193 episodes. It garnered so much popularity that it eventually penetrated into the American market, and there have been several remakes of this anime in succeeding decades up to now.

Now, why is it that “Astro Boy” is the first anime ever to be actually recognized as an “anime”? This is because “Astro Boy” is the first ever anime to contain most of the elements and styles that we now see in modern animes. Unlike all other animes before it, including “Otogi Manga Calendar” and “Three Tales”, this anime carries two main features which make it distinct as a “modern anime.” Firstly, it has the artistic style that many modern animes now have. A simple example, amongst others, would be the exaggerated physical features which sometimes render the “cute and appealing” looks, such as large and shiny eyes as well as shiny faces and skin.

Secondly, “Astro Boy” is the first anime series to have an exciting and smooth-flowing plot or, in other words, a storyline appealingly and excitingly out of the ordinary. Set in a futuristic world where humans and android coexist, the plot revolves around a robot named Astro who is invented by Dr Tenma, the head of the Ministry of Science. Astro, despite being a robot, has not only superior powers, but also human emotions. He then takes up the task of battling against injustice and evil. Unlike “Otogi Manga Calendar”, “Astro Boy” has a smooth-flowing, clear, regular and coherent plot throughout the course of the series. The artistic style and format of “Astro Boy” pioneered the way for the development of animes into its modern form which we are now familiar with.

However, “Astro Boy” was still not the first colour anime to be broadcasted on Japanese televisions. Instead, this honour goes to another one of Mushi Production’s production, entitled “Jungle Emperor” (ジャングル大帝, Janguru Taitei), which is also known as “Kimba the White Lion.” “Jungle Emperor” consists of 52 episodes aired from 1965 to 1966, but the anime was not directed by Tezuka. However, this anime was an adaptation of Tezuka’s manga work in 1950 under the same title as well. A remake of this anime was produced in 1989 after Tezuka’s death.

Jungle Emperor / Kimba the White Lion (ジャングル大帝, Janguru Taitei)

Also featuring the “cute and appealing” looks of modern animes, “Jungle Emperor” or “Kimba the White Lion” features a young white lion by the name of Leo (in the American version, Kimba), who is born in a circus train. His father is a prominent leader of the jungle animals in the mid-20th century Africa, but is killed brutally for his hide. His mother, on the other hand, is placed in a circus train bound for the zoo. Leo’s mother teaches him his father’s principles of peace and justice and he soon escapes from the circus train before swimming across the sea to an unknown land. While on the unknown land, Leo is cared for by the natives and in the process learns the human culture, which becomes an advantage for him later in his life. Leo then returns to his ancestral land and does his level best to uphold peace, mutual understanding and cooperation between the animals of the jungle and the humans in order to ensure universal peace, just like what his father did before.

The 1970s saw the emergence of a new genre in animes which has now become one of the most popular genres amongst anime circles. As animes in this decade started to take on more science-fiction and futuristic elements, a new genre known as mecha emerged. Mecha (short for “mechanical”) refers primarily to gigantic robots or vehicles used in futuristic battles and space wars. Mecha animes garnered much popularity within a short period of time and has since then become one of the most favoured and celebrated genres in the world of anime up to now. Such animes frequently portray themes of science-fiction, space exploration, military battles and, of course, humungous robots.

Mazinger Z (マジンガーZ, Majinga Zetto)

Common examples of mecha genre anime series include “Mazinger Z” (マジンガーZ, Majinga Zetto, 1972 – 1974), “Science Ninja Team Gatchaman” (科学忍者隊ガッチャマン, Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman, 1972 – 1974) and “Space Battleship Yamato” (宇宙戦艦ヤマト, Uchuu Senkan Yamato, 1974 – 1975). However, the mecha anime series which succeeded in gaining the most popularity during the 1970s is none other than “Mobile Suit Gundam” (機動戦士ガンダム, Kidou Senshi Gandamu), which was originally aired from 1979 to 1980. Due to the overwhelming popularity this anime series received, numerous sequels and spin-offs were subsequently made, not to mention the large number of video games this anime has been adapted into as well. Even until now, its popularity, both in Japan and worldwide, has not waned.

A scene from the anime "Space Battleship Yamato" (宇宙戦艦ヤマト, Uchuu Senkan Yamato)

Mobile Suit Gundam (機動戦士ガンダム, Kidou Senshi Gandamu) - one of the most popular animes up to now

Well, here ends Part 3 of this article. In the last part of this article, I’ll then run through the later advancements and developments which have occurred in the world of anime, from the 1980s right up to the present era.

A scene from the anime "Yakitate!! Ja-pan" (焼きたて!! ジャぱん)

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