In the English speaking world, anime is the term reserved for animated (either by computer or hand drawn figures) productions originating from Japan, often produced in a highly stylised and characteristic manner. Whereas people of different nationalities may follow the same style of drawing used in anime, this is usually said to be “anime styled”. In Japan itself, “anime” may refer to any form of animation as the word “anime” finds its origins in Japan itself, and is a phonetic abbreviation of the word “animation”. The actual sounding of the word, however, is quite different in the two languages (English and Katakana) as the stress patterns in the languages differ from one another.
Anime includes everything from short stories, full length feature films, television series, computer and video games, Internet based releases, commercials for a vw polo for sale in Cape Town, information releases, etc., and is often identified by the exaggerated cartoon style of the characters and the world in which they live. Whereas the anime style will be mentioned elsewhere on this site, it will hopefully suffice here to say that central characteristics include vivid and colourful graphics, fantastic (and sometimes otherworldly) themes, and vibrant characters.
Early Japanese animation dates back to the First World War, and the technological developments in the following decades meant that animation artists could grow their number and art. Anime as we know it today can be seen to have an enormously influential figure in Osamu Tezuka who, in the 1960s, did a lot to outline the styles seen currently.
It was only in the 1980s and 1990s that this characteristic anime style became known outside of Japan, but in contemporary times, anime and anime styled animations enjoy considerable success in a diverse range of countries both within and without Asia.
Early pioneers in animation techniques arose around the turn of the twentieth century in France, Germany, the USA and Russia. These early progenitors of the medium did much of the ground work, and only in 1917 was the first Japanese animation produced (a short pantomime about a samurai warrior who, wanting to try out a new sword, is defeated). Notable Japanese animators during this period included the likes of Shimokawa Oten, Junichi Kouchi, and Seitaro Kitayama. Owing to the mass production capabilities of animation, by the nineteen thirties the medium had become as popular as live action dramas in the arena of storytelling, but the emerging product faced fierce competition from foreign entities.
The Japanese government saw the potential of animation, and backed local artists, primarily within the sphere of education and governmental propaganda, which reached a definite apogee in the full length feature film “Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors” (1945) which received funding from Japan’s Imperial Navy. It goes without saying how the latter was a vehicle for propaganda, but to the defence of anime it can be seen that governments around the globe have used animation for the same ideological purposes. Another factor contributing to the success of contemporary anime was Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” (1937): the techniques used in the production where quickly latched onto by Japanese artists, and were still used into the influential period of the 1960s. These techniques include, but are not restricted to, the use of cel animation, exaggerated eyes for the conveyance of expression, and the continuing development of the use of sound and speech in production.