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The Effect of Japanese Animation on American Culture

Updated on March 3, 2012
Varied styles and genres of commonly known anime
Varied styles and genres of commonly known anime


Here in America our society was raised on the slapstick, mickey-mousing, nutty characters that cartoons were intended, for children. While I can appreciate that, cause I was obviously a child at one point. It's sad to say that our youth is extremely sensitive to the onslaught of cat and mouse, talking animals and frankly lots of goofy violence. But America, paved with gold has been blessed with something else entirely. The worlds most powerful movie industry. The technology and effects, the talent and the history that has been invested into "Hollywood" has definitely carved a permanent place in the books. So while having cartoons on that early Saturday morning that kids nowadays don't even get up to watch. It isn't necessarily a vital thing.

Japan, a vastly smaller country with a different upbringing. They have never formed a movie industry that could compare anywhere near to American movies. Thailand, in recent years has become more prominent but otherwise, Eastern cultures just don't put out the volume nor quality that American films do. (I'm not saying Eastern movies aren't of good quality, I love tons of foreign films)
However Japan did have something that was sparked by the creation of one of the most timeless characters in anime history. Astro Boy.

In 1952, Osamu Tezuka created one of the most influential characters in animated history. As a young boy he was raised into a family that was rather well off. Luckily enough his family was well off enough that his mother would often bring him to the theater. (he watched Bambi, a lot) It was because of this, his interest and creativity grew and he would become known as "the God of Manga."

Wars, they Affect Cartoons Too

World War II was a difficult time for thousands, if not millions of lives. It was during this time that Tezuka-san took the opportunity to spread his manga. Selling them at bus stops, it was a much needed morale boost for the Japanese during these times. His success labeled him the "Walt Disney" of Japan. His career would span over almost an entire century and his influence will be known for eternity.

Now as the years drew on (that's a pun) Manga became very popular, especially in the 70's. Yet this idea of moving pictures, or cartoons was the ideal scene. Osamu Tezuka took the designs from the popular, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He adapted and simplified many Disney animation techniques to reduce costs and to limit the number of frames in productions. He intended this as a temporary measure to allow him to produce material on a tight schedule with inexperienced animation staff. Unbeknownst to Tezuka-san the cost of movies were great and the relative size of Japan to America would directly leave Japan in wanting for a larger movie industry.

However, Japan was unaware of the already vast power it had exuded on the world through its unique styles and stories. Anime had been born and to make up for the cost and production time, cartoons in Japan weren't designed for children. They were drawn for all ages. Darker, more vivid, the action sequences of very famous anime are seen today in some of America's most powerful films. For example, if you ever get the chance, Ghost in the Shell by Shirow Masamune in 1989, the manga was adapted into an anime in 1995 and it's breathtaking visual designs and masterful detail was implemented in one of today's most prolific trilogies. The Matrix movies.

Poster for the "Animatrix"
Poster for the "Animatrix"

Red Pill or Blue Pill? That is the Question.

The Matrix was first introduced in 1999 and it immediately set fire to huge controversial ideas. However, looking past the ideologies founded in that movie the cinematography and action sequences were almost all derived for the Ghost in the Shell movie drawn and produced 4 years earlier. If you don't believe me, it's out there. I'm not saying that makes any less of the Matrix movies. No way! I love both Ghost and the Matrix immensely. I'm just pointing out one of the most noticeable effects that Japanese animation has had on the development of American movies. It's 2011 now and for the last decade the effect has grown even more. It excites me to no end that the impressive angles and shading and raw-ness of anime is being brought into Hollywood. It shows that Japan has something worth emulating and that we can look past... the past and move towards a future of creativity.

There is a wonderful documentary that better gives details and the direct correlation of Japanese animation into American Hollywood. It was actually from that documentary that spawned my desire to write this hub. It's called "Starz Inside: Anime: Drawing a Revolution" and if this has anything to do with your interest I highly recommend it.


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