Loanword in Japanese, derived from "animation", thought to be in occasional use since the rise of locally-made feature cartoons in the late 1950s, but popularized through its appropriation by Osamu Tezuka on the production of the Television series Tetsuwan Atomu ["Mighty Atom"] (1963; vt Astro Boy 1963 US). Tezuka used the truncated term to refer to a truncated product, the "limited" animation, often at eight or less new images per second, as opposed to the "full" animation in cinemas that usually offered twelve new images per second. His reduction in overall quality (sometimes derided as barely a step above Kamishibai), combined with many cost-cutting measures and strategies, made it possible for his studio to produce 25 minutes of animation a week, initiating a boom in Television cartoons. The creator of many Manga stories in many genres, Tezuka was partly led to adapt a science-fictional work by the space-race mood of the Sputnik era, but also by the possibilities it offered for easy-to-animate Space Flight scenes, and the relatively clean lines of Robot characters. Legendarily, the spartan, minimalist future of Astro Boy led Stanley Kubrick to offer Tezuka the production designer job on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), although Tezuka declined.
Anime, however, is not merely "animation from Japan", as the term tends to be parsed in the Anglophone world. Japanese critical discourse has come to define it as a particular kind of Japanese animation, often owned by a committee of investors, usually unable to go into profit without the injection of cash from promotional sources, particularly as a means of marketing Toys. By the 1970s, much of the anime product that made its way to English-speaking markets comprised such glorified adverts (although there were exceptions such as Uchū Senkan Yamato), while some directors such as Yoshiyuki Tomino oddly flourished by finding narrative pathways that made virtues of the restrictions on their creativity (see Mecha). Anime also functioned as an unrecognized patron of the arts, offering early employment to artists such as Yoshitaka Amano, script-writing side-jobs for prose authors such as Shinichi Hoshi and Yasutaka Tsutsui, forming its own tropes and traditions, as industrial and economic concerns steered many creatives into repetitive templates of action and narrative (see Takao Koyama; Haruya Yamazaki).
The 1980s saw the anime market transformed through the introduction of the video cassette recorder, which not only created the means for fans to preserve and share their favourite shows, but also allowed creators to bypass television and cinemas entirely in order to reach smaller, more adult niches. Famously, the first straight-to-video anime release was Dallos (1983), a four-part tale of a revolt on the Moon, heavily indebted to Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (December 1965-April 1966 If; 1966) Although the domestic market was soon swamped with straight-to-video pornography, the prospect presented by video for making more adult sequels to what had previously been children's entertainment created a minor boom in genre titles, many of which formed the spearhead of anime's progress into foreign markets. Akira (1988), Kaze no Tani no Nausicaä (1984) and Ghost in the Shell (1995), as cinema releases, are arguably unrepresentative; more fannish works that capitalized on this video sector include Top o Nerae (1988). According to Yasuo Nagayama's history of Japanese sf, post-war Fandom underwent a palpable shift in the 1980s as a new generation of anime and manga fans, the "otaku", largely displaced the old guard at Japanese conventions, altering the composition of fan events, but also of the Seiun Awards.
Video anime and some of the classier cinema works rode the wave of Cyberpunk and Japanesquerie into global markets in the 1990s. In the middle of the decade, the domestic success of Shinseiki Evangelion (1995-1996) and Cowboy Bebop (1998) transformed this flood into a tide of Television serials, although this was often a misnomer; many subsequent so-called television shows of the later twentieth century were actually Japanese graveyard-slot broadcasts better regarded as video releases for which the consumer was expected to provide his own tape, and hence substantially more violent or sexualized than one might expect from primetime shows.
More recent anime can often be divided into sub-sectors of material aimed at a family audience, the usual bait for toy companies and computer games, and a third sector of anime aimed at the otaku crowd, often appealing to an increasingly closed circle of consumption. In the latter case, some titles can barely sell into four figures, leading some critics to warn of the phenomenon of Silver Otaku, in which the output of much of the industry is essentially crowd-sourced for an increasingly bespoke and diminishing audience of aging fans. In particular, these male viewers are often regarded as the target audience for the many modern anime based on "dating simulation" games, in which the process of wooing and bedding a partner of the opposite sex has been so commodified and codified that female characters often appear to be little more than a selection of a handful of quirks and mathematically solvable problems. Such "gamified" female characters are ill at odds with the stronger heroines of older anime, many of which, albeit still often presented for male gratification, were at least characters (see Women in SF). Some critics reject the drawing of such a decline merely along gender lines, pointing out that much of what was once "character" is now diminished and shortened as "chara", less to do with telling of a narrative fiction, but with creating readily identifiable icons on which to hang merchandise and memes. It is this sector that largely gets the blame for Fan Service, an ongoing trope for leering at objectified female characters in gratuitous up-skirt or down-blouse shots, which persists presumably because there is a market for it. The term, however, is misleading, not the least because the Nomura Research Institute estimates that fully 12% of anime-watching fandom in Japan is female; the demographic rises even unto gender parity in the Anglophone world.
In the twenty-first century, anime forms an integral part of the sf experience for many younger viewers, particularly as one facet of an overall "media mix" that also encourages the consumption of Manga, Videogames and other spin-offs. In the English-speaking world, the term encompasses a wide spread of genres and exhibition modes, from salacious comedies sent direct to cellphones, to the ninja and Cyborgs of many a kids' television show, to the Oscar-winning cinema feature Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (2001; trans as Spirited Away), the director of which, Hayao Miyazaki, vehemently denies any personal connection or investment in an "anime" tradition. Arguably, anime connections have also formed a strange attractor for prose fiction, steering many, but by no means all, of the translation decisions made by Anglophone publishers in bringing authors such as Nagaru Tanigawa, Chōhei Kanbayashi, Hiroyuki Morioka and Tow Ubukata into print. At its production peak in 2006, the anime industry produced 135,530 minutes of new animation in a single year, although this figure includes not only science fiction but also Fantasy, pornography, horror, melodrama and numerous other genres. The sheer size of the industry, and the likely addition of new epitomes and examples in years to come, makes it a wise move for the interested reader to use this encyclopedia's Incoming feature to determine which other entries point at this one, rather than hoping that such multitudes can all be contained within a single overview such as this. A list of entries for more or less notable anime productions also appears below. [JonC]
see also: The Animatrix; Dennō Coil; Dead Leaves; Ergo Proxy; FLCL; Flip Flappers; Girls' Last Tour; Grey; Interviews with Monster Girls; Land of the Lustrous; The Legend of Korra; Made in Abyss; Mama Wa Shōgaku Yon-Nensei; Martian Successor Nadesico; Mōretsu Pirates; NieA Under 7; Ō-Atari Sora no Entaku; One Punch Man; Oneamisu no Tsubasa; Paprika; Planet With; Puella Magi Madoka Magica; Rōjin Z; Serial Experiments Lain; Sky Crawlers; Spriggan; Steamboy; Steins;Gate (2011); Summer Wars; Toki o Kakeru Shōjo; Tonari no Totoro; Voltron: Legendary Defender; Zeiram.
Previous versions of this entry