Anime 101: A Beginner’s Guide to the World of Japanese Animation

Anime, short for Japanese animation, has captured the hearts of audiences around the world. Originating in the early 1960s with Osamu Tezuka’s Tetsuwan Atom Astro Boy, anime has grown to encompass a wide range of genres and styles.

From the epic battles of Dragon Ball and One Piece to the heartwarming tales of Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away, there is something for everyone in the world of anime. But anime is more than just entertainment; it’s a cultural phenomenon that has sparked a global conversation about art, storytelling, and representation.

Join us as we explore the history, tropes, and future of anime, and discover why it’s more than just a cartoon.

History of Anime

Anime, short for Japanese animation, has its roots in the early years of the 20th century. The first anime series, called “Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors,” was created in Japan in 1945 by Osamu Tezuka, a manga artist and animator who is widely considered the “father of anime.” The series was created during World War II and it was intended to boost the morale of the Japanese people.

The 1960s marked a turning point in the history of anime. The first major animation studio was established in 1958, and in 1963, the original animated series Osamu Tezuka’s Tetsuwan Atom Astro Boy premiered on Japanese television. This series was a huge success and it helped establish anime as a popular form of entertainment in Japan.

In the 1970s and 1980s, anime began to gain international recognition. Shows like “Star Blazers,” “Robotech,” and “Voltron” were dubbed and broadcast in the United States and other countries, introducing a new generation of viewers to the world of anime.

The 1980s also saw the rise of anime in the global market. The success of films such as “Akira” and “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” helped to establish anime as a serious art form. The increasing popularity of home video and the Internet in the 1990s and 2000s further expanded the reach of anime and made it more accessible to audiences around the world.

Toonami

Toonami was an anime programming block that originally aired on Cartoon Network from 1997 to 2008. Toonami was known for airing a variety of popular anime series such as “Dragon Ball Z,” “Naruto,” “Gundam Wing,” and “Outlaw Star.” The block was created by Cartoon Network executive, Jason DeMarco, who aimed to introduce American audiences to anime and introduce them to the world of Japanese animation.

Toonami was a popular block among young audiences and it was known for its unique presentation, featuring a host, TOM (short for Toonami Operations Module), who introduced the shows and provided commentary during commercial breaks. The block also featured music videos and interstitials, which were animated segments that aired between shows.

In 2008, Toonami was cancelled by Cartoon Network, but it continued to air in a limited capacity, only airing on weekends. However, the block returned in 2012 but only lasted until September 20, 2013. In 2017, Adult Swim (a sister network of Cartoon Network) announced that they would bring back Toonami as a regular programming block, airing on Saturday nights and it’s still airing today.

Toonami is widely credited with introducing many people in the United States to anime, and it continues to be a beloved programming block among anime fans. It’s considered a staple of Cartoon Network and an important part of anime culture in the US.

Today, anime continues to be a major force in the entertainment industry. Streaming services and online platforms have made it easier than ever to access anime from anywhere in the world, and the success of blockbuster anime films like “Your Name” and “Demon Slayer” have demonstrated the global appeal of anime. From its origins as a way to boost morale during wartime, anime has grown to become a beloved and influential art form that has captured the hearts of audiences around the world.

Popular Genres and Styles

Anime encompasses a wide range of genres and styles, each with its own unique characteristics and appeal. Some of the most popular genres include:

Shonen: This genre is characterized by action-packed storylines and strong male protagonists. Popular shonen anime include “Dragon Ball,” “One Piece,” and “Naruto.”

Mecha: This genre features giant robots or “mechs” as the main characters. Popular mecha anime include “Neon Genesis Evangelion” and “Gundam.”

Magical Girl: This genre centers around young girls who possess magical powers and fight against evil. Popular magical girl anime include “Sailor Moon” and “Puella Magi Madoka Magica.”

In addition to genres, anime also features a wide variety of art styles. Some anime have a more realistic and detailed style, while others have a more cartoonish and exaggerated style. Some examples of notable art styles in anime are:

Mob Psycho 100: Known for its unique art style that combines traditional animation with digital effects and unconventional camera angles.

Dragon Ball Z: Known for its high-energy action scenes and exaggerated character designs.

Sword Art Online: Known for its realistic art style and attention to detail in its depiction of virtual reality.

No one style is better than another, it all depends on the story and the audience. Some anime such as “Naruto” have been known to use two or three different styles between episodes. The art style is a crucial aspect of anime storytelling, and it plays a major role in creating the atmosphere and tone of a series.

In short anime offers a wide range of genres and styles, allowing the audience to choose what they want to watch. From the epic battles of shonen anime to the heartwarming tales of magical girl anime, there is something for everyone in the world of anime.

Some really good fast-paced anime like “Love is a Cocktail” are only a few minutes long per episode. This format is great in the age of streaming or just doesn’t have the time to dedicate to longer shows. These short Shows started as filler in Japan when they had a short drama/program that would not fill up a time slot fully. You may even find some that are better than fully-fledged anime.

Tropes and Conventions

In anime, tropes and conventions are common elements or motifs that are used to express a figure of speech. Tropes are not unique to anime, they can be found in any form of storytelling, but anime has developed its own set of tropes and conventions over the years. Some common tropes and conventions found in anime include:

The overpowered protagonist: This trope refers to a protagonist who has an overwhelming amount of strength, often to the point of being invincible. The greatest example of this trope is the show “One Punch Man.”

The high school setting: Many anime take place in a high school setting, often involving a group of friends or a romantic triangle. This trope is often used as a way to explore themes of growing up and coming of age.

The mysterious transfer student: This trope refers to a new student who arrives at a school and is revealed to have a secret past or special abilities. This trope is often used as a way to introduce a new character or to create conflict.

The “big eyes, small mouth” style: This is a characteristic art style in anime, it’s used to express different emotions in characters, and it’s often used to make characters look more cute or innocent.

The “big battle-small planet” trope: This trope refers to the idea that the fate of the entire world is at stake in an anime series, but the characters are only fighting in a small area.

The “hot-blooded” trope: This trope refers to characters who are passionate, emotional and energetic, often seen in shonen anime.

These are just a few examples of the many tropes and conventions found in anime. While they can be seen as cliches, they can also be used in creative and innovative ways to tell unique and engaging stories. In recent years, some anime have begun to subvert or play with tropes, creating new and unexpected twists on familiar elements.

In summary, tropes and conventions in anime are not to be seen as negative but rather as a way for the audience to relate, to understand and to enjoy the story. They are an essential part of the language of anime, and they help to create the unique atmosphere and tone that makes anime so beloved by fans around the world.

The Future of Anime

The anime industry is currently facing a number of challenges, but it also has many opportunities for growth and innovation. Some of the major trends and issues in the future of anime include:

Streaming and online distribution

Streaming services like Netflix and Crunchyroll have made it easier than ever to access anime from anywhere in the world. This has helped to increase the global popularity of anime, but it has also led to challenges for the industry such as piracy and the decline of DVD sales.

Blockbuster anime films

The success of anime films like “Your Name”, “Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero”, and “Demon Slayer” have demonstrated the global appeal of anime and the potential for anime to be a major player in the film industry.

Expanding audience

The audience for anime is becoming more diverse, with more women, older viewers, and international viewers. This has led to a demand for more varied and inclusive representation in anime.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

With the advancement of technology, anime creators are looking for ways to incorporate VR and AR into their storytelling, which could open up new possibilities for how audiences interact with anime.

More collaboration with other industries

Anime is no longer just a Japanese product, it’s also a global one. Collaborations with other industries such as games, music, and fashion are becoming more common, this helps to expand the reach of anime and create new opportunities for creators and fans.

With that said, streaming and online distribution have made it easier than ever to access anime, and the success of blockbuster anime films has demonstrated the global appeal of anime. The industry is also facing challenges but also opportunities for growth and innovation, as well as a more diverse audience, and collaborations with other industries. The future of anime is full of possibilities, and it will be interesting to see how the industry continues to evolve and change in the coming years.

Conclusion

Anime has come a long way since its origins in the early 20th century. It has grown to encompass a wide range of genres and styles, and it has captured the hearts of audiences around the world. From its early days as a way to boost morale during wartime, anime has grown to become a beloved and influential art form that has sparked a global conversation about art, storytelling, and representation.

In this article, we explored the history of anime, from its earliest origins to its current state. We also delved into the popular genres and styles that make up the world of anime, and we discussed the tropes and conventions that are unique to anime. We also looked at the future of anime, and the challenges and opportunities it faces.

Anime has something for everyone, whether you’re a fan of action-packed shonen or heartwarming tales of magical girls, there’s always something new to discover. The art style is also a crucial aspect of anime storytelling, and it plays a major role in creating the atmosphere and tone of a series. And the tropes and conventions are not just a cliche but rather a way for the audience to relate, understand and enjoy the story.

Ultimately, anime is more than just a cartoon, it’s a cultural phenomenon that has captured the hearts of audiences around the world. Join us as we explore the history, tropes, and future of anime, and discover why it’s more than just a cartoon.

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