Japanese anime is unique. People who have not seen the animation films of Japan will find them to be very different from those in America. This industry is a new and rising part of the popular culture of Japan. In fact, several Japanese animation series have been televised in North America due to their rising popularity in the West. These would include Sailor Moon, Gundam, and the popular Dragon Ball Z. Sound familiar? It should be noted that these films are considered to be very “mainstream” animation works. They are set apart from the more obscure animation which has not had the chance to be seen in most of North America. Many of these films are extremely in demand and are accepted widely back in Japan. It almost goes without saying that Japanese animation is becoming increasingly in demand outside of its homeland. So it is necessary for the Asian fan in the West to be aware of this exciting trend.
Japanese animation’s popularity is evident through the critically acclaimed anime, “Princess Mononoke,” by director Hayao Miyazaki. This was the highest grossing film in Japan until the release of “Titanic” some years ago. Such incredible sales deserve some investigation into this rising phenomenon in East Asian culture. Japanese animation sets itself apart from the traditional animation films in distinct ways. Often, this happens through its unique storylines and visual drawings. Quite frequently these films are adapted from comics like “Manga.” The so-called heroes of these animation works are not conventional creations at all. They can arise from a variety of different backgrounds. Some of them have come from kinds, outcasts, ninjas, samurais, robots, and others. It is interesting that there is almost no limit to a character’s origin in this form of anime. For this reason, these films are not limited to a certain look or even to a particular sort of character. Other animation films would not dare deviate from strict conventional rules on this point. However, this departure may indeed be a major part of what makes Japanese anime so radically unique. In addition, the storylines of these kinds of films are equally diverse and without limits. What is spectacular is that the settings for these films can take place in the Old West or in Outer Space or almost anywhere in the journey of human history. To go a step further, the storylines of Japanese anime are a blend of two or more different genres!
Does this not sound like an extreme departure from convention? It is probably true that this is precisely what makes the Japanese a step ahead of animation from the West. There are a few very distinct characteristics about Japanese anime which people new to the art will notice at once. One characteristic is quite obvious. These films frequently draw the eyes of their characters very large… extremely large! It is beyond realism. It is done on purpose for this very reason. It is true that many animation films do not create their characters in the way the Japanese do. This characteristic became popular through the famous animator Dr. Osamu Tezuka. Oddly, Dr. Tezuka got his inspiration for the feature through Walt Disney animation. The reason for the large eyes is so that different emotions can be more obviously displayed. The characters in the films are able to react in a more emotional way which helps the viewer understand the characters more easily. With greater understanding comes greater sympathy and involvement in the story itself.
Dr. Tezuka did not stop here though. Another characteristic of Japanese anime is the animator’s passion for drawing robots or “mecha robots.” Science and technology have played pivotal roles in shaping what we call modern society. It makes sense that these concepts would be incorporated into the background of many Japanese films. Basically, these films question the role that science and technology play in all human societies. Japanese films then try to portray possible consequences of such dependence for future generations of people. There is even a hint of a “moral” consideration in this technique.
Asian decor which includes Japanese anime is probably marketed for the youth culture. However, it remains surprising how many adults enjoy this type of entertainment as well. The appeal goes beyond the Asian teenager. Japanese anime poses fundamental questions about the meaning of life in a scientific and technological age which any person can appreciate. To the art of the anime industry of Japan there is a deserved congratulations!