Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

Japanese movie, tv and video animation. Experiments with animation by Manga (comics) artists began in about 1914. Progress was slow, with isolated achievements being the first sound short, Chikaro To Onna No Yononaka ["The World of Power and Women"] (1932) dir Masaoka Kenzo, the first colour feature, Hakujaden ["The White Serpent"] (1958), 78 min, dir Taiji Yabushita and Toei Doga, and the first tv series, Manga Calendar ["Manga Calendar"] (1962; 54 episodes; Otagi). The modern anime industry began a year later with the tv series Tetsuwan Atom ["Astro Boy"] (1963 onwards; 193 episodes; Mushi) dir Osamu Tezuka (1929-1989), adapted by Tezuka from his bestselling manga Atom Taishi ["Ambassador Atom"] (1951-1968 Shonen Magazine). Tetsuwan Atom's success in Japan and the USA stimulated an enormous increase in tv anime production. Many of these early shows, like Tetsujin 28-GO ["Iron Man #28"] (1963 onwards; 96 episodes; TCJ) dir Tetsuo Imazawa, continued Tetsuwan Atom's theme of the robot saviour. From the 1970s onwards there was an increasing variety of shows, usually with sf or fantasy elements: among the more popular were Lupin Sansei ["Lupin III"] (1971 onwards; 23 episodes; Monkey Punch/TMS) dir M Okuma, Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, the comedy adventures of a gentleman thief; Devilman (1972 onwards; 39 episodes; Go Nagai/Dynamic Productions) dir Go Nagai, a Horror fantasy; and Uchu Senkan Yamoto ["Space Cruiser Yamoto"] (1974 onwards; 26 episodes; Westcape Corporation) dir Reiji Matsumoto and Yoshinobu Nishizaki, a space opera. The popularity of these led to further tv series and to big-screen treatments: Uchu Senkan Yamoto ["Space Cruiser Yamoto"] (1977; 130 min; Westcape Corporation) dir Reiji Matsumoto and Yoshinobu Nishizaki; Lupin Sansei – Mamo Karano Chousen ["Lupin III – Secret of Mamo"] (1978; 100 mins; Monkey Punch/TMS) dir Soji Yoshikawa; and others.

Original feature movies re-emerged in the 1980s. Hayao Miyazaki (1941-    ), the "Japanese Disney", directed some of the most popular and accomplished anime movies, notably the eco-fantasy Kaze No Tani No Nausicaa ["Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind"] (1983; 118 mins; Nibariki/Tokuma Shoten/Hakuhodo/Toei) and the enchanting Pastoral Tonari No Totoro ["My Neighbour Totoro"] (1988; 85 mins; Nibariki/Tokuma Shoten). Katsuhiro Otomo directed the influential and acclaimed cyber-psychic movie Akira (1987).

A new format, the OAV (Original Animation Video) appeared in 1983, allowing high-quality animation to be produced and released on video at a fraction of the cost of movie and tv anime. This further increased the diversity of anime, which by now was firmly established as an integral part of Japanese popular culture. OAV particularly enabled the growth of sexually explicit anime like Chojin Densetsu Urotsukidoji ["The Wandering Kid"] (1987; 3 episodes; Maeda/Javn) dir Hideki Takayama, which mixed sex, violence and fantasy. Nudity and sexual subjects are common in anime in general, even in family tv series like the popular Ranma Nibun No Ichi ["Ranma 1/2"] (1990; Takahashi/Kitty Film) dir Rumiko Takahashi (1957-    ). Takahashi is a rare female creator in a male-dominated industry; her strong female characters are, however, not the exception, as women are generally well represented in anime, with all-female teams like those in the tv series Dirty Pair (1985 onwards; 24 episodes; Studio Nue/Sunrise/NTV) dir Haruki Takachiho and the OAV series Bubblegum Crisis (1987 onwards; 8 episodes to date; AIC/Artmic) dir Akiyama Katsuhito presenting images of independent, capable women.

The influence of anime on Japanese society and culture extends far beyond the movies, tv shows and OAVs; and, as the strong visual identities of anime characters are eminently marketable, merchandising covers everything from soundtrack CDs to stationery, model kits and junk food. In the West, anime has become particularly popular in the form of videos, Akira probably marking the point where it emerged from obscure cult status, and there are now flourishing monthly magazines covering the subgenre. [RM]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.