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Anime

Entry updated 15 November 2021. Tagged: Theme.

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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). 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. The terms Original Anime Video (OAV) and Original Video Anime (OVA) entered into marketing parlance around this time. The former describes an anime title originated on video, the latter a sequel on video to an anime that previously existed in Television or Cinema form. However, these subtle nuances in definition have largely eluded most critics (and even some distributors) both in Japan and overseas, rendering them largely interchangeable by the 1990s.

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 ageing 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: Accel World; Adolescence of Utena; Ai City; Akudama Drive; Alien Nine; The Animatrix; Armitage III; Aru Kararu no Isan; Ascendance of a Bookworm; Astra Lost in Space; Attack on Titan; Avatar: The Last Airbender; Bagi, the Monster of Mighty Nature; Baoh; Battle Angel; Beastars; Big O; Birth; Black Magic M-66; Blue Little Bear Ursa Minor Blue; Blue Submarine No. 6; Boogiepop and Others; Boogiepop Phantom; BNA: Brand New Animal; Bubblegum Crisis; Bubuki Buranki; Casshan; Cat Soup; Cells at Work!; Cells at Work! Code Black; Children Who Chase Lost Voices; Concrete Revolutio; Crusher Joe; CyberCity Oedo 808; Cybersix; Cyborg 009; Dai-Guard; Dallos; Deca-Dence; Dennō Coil; Dead Leaves; Devilman Crybaby; Dirty Pair; Dr Stone; Dominion Tank Police; Dorohedoro; Dragon Ball; Dragon Ball Z; Dream Hunter REM; Eden of the East; The Empire of Corpses; Ergo Proxy; FLCL; Flip Flappers; Fractale; From the New World; Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood; Future Boy Conan; Galactic Patrol Lensman; Gall Force: Eternal Story; Garaga; Galaxy Express 999; Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet; Genius Party; Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex; Giant Robo; Girls' Last Tour; Glassy Ocean; Granbelm; Grey; Gurren Lagann; Haibane Renmei; Hare+Guu; Hauru no Ugoku Shiro (Howl's Moving Castle); Heaven's Design Team; Hellsing; Humanity Has Declined; Iczer One; Interviews with Monster Girls; Iria: Zeiram the Animation; Kaiba; Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!; Kemono Friends; Kemurikusa; Kimagure Robot; Kino's Journey; Kill La Kill; Knights of Sidonia; Kyousougiga; Land of the Lustrous; The Legend of Korra; Lensman; Lily C.A.T.; Little Witch Academia; M.D. Geist; Made in Abyss; Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul; Mama Wa Shōgaku Yon-Nensei; Martian Successor Nadesico; The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya; Metropolis [2]; Mind Game; Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid; Mob Psycho 100; Mobile Suit Gundam; Mobile Police Patlabor; Mōretsu Pirates; My Hero Academia; My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!; Neo Tokyo; Nichijou; NieA Under 7; Night on the Galactic Railroad; Nippon Chinbotsu 2020 (see Nippon Chinbotsu); Noein: To Your Other Self; Ō-Atari Sora no Entaku; One Punch Man; Oneamisu no Tsubasa; Otherside Picnic; Outlaw Star; Paprika; Parasyte -the maxim-; Penguindrum; A Piece of Phantasmagoria; Phoenix 2772; Planet With; Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet; Planetes; Pop Team Epic; Princess Mononoke; Princess Principal; Project A-ko; Promare; The Promised Neverland; Psycho-Pass; Puella Magi Madoka Magica; Puni Puni Poemy; Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai; Redline; Revolutionary Girl Utena; Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World; Release the Spyce; Robot Carnival; Rōjin Z; The Saga of Tanya the Evil; Sailor Moon; School-Live!; Serial Experiments Lain; Shadows House; Sky Crawlers; Sonny Boy; Space Patrol Luluco; Space Pirate Captain Harlock; Spriggan; Special Duty Combat Unit Shinesman; Squid Girl; Space Dandy; SSSS.Dynazenon; SSSS.Gridman; Steamboy; Steins;Gate (2011); Summer Wars; Super Dimensional Fortress Macross; Super Sentai; Sweat Punch; Talentless Nana; The Tatami Galaxy; Texhnolyze; Tiger & Bunny; Toki o Kakeru Shōjo; Tonari no Totoro; Trigun; Twilight Q; Urusei Yatsura; Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer; Venus Wars; Violet Evergarden; Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song; Voltron: Legendary Defender; A Wind Named Amnesia; The Wonder 3; Wonder Egg Priority; The Wonderful Galaxy of Oz; Yasuke; Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō; Yuri Kuma Arashi; Zeiram; Zombie Land Saga.

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