Written by MICHAEL KATEREGGA
A whole generation of viewers has grown up with the influences of anime and manga, and will be passing this interest on to their children.
Anime’s beginnings can be dated back roughly to early 1917, with manga dating even further back to the days of images woven onto silk tapestry. The earliest known anime (discovered in the 2000s) was produced circa 1907, but suffice it to say, computer animation technologies have greatly advanced since, Final Fantasy; Advent Children being the biggest testament to this fact, as well as a benchmark in CGI works.
Though Japanese artists and engineers experimented with earlier western techniques for a long time, their first real success came in 1963 with Astro Boy, a brilliant piece from Osamu Tezuka, a Japanese doctor and Walt Disney’s biggest fan. Astro Boy became the launch pad for anime within Japan and would be the first animation series to break into western markets, paving the way for Asian domination of the animation and special effects industry.
During the 1970s, anime began to distinguish itself from its western roots and began to develop unique styles and genres such as mecha. It was in this period that several filmmakers – most largely unknown outside Asian markets – became famous, such as Hayao Miyazaki and Mamao Ohbi. In the 1980s, anime was accepted in mainstream Japan and it experienced a production boom. The start of the Gundam series and the beginning of Rumiko Takahashi’s career was in this decade.
Akira set records in 1998 for production costs of an anime and the 1990s and 2000s saw increased acceptance of anime in overseas markets. Akira and Ghost in the Shell (1995) became famous worldwide. Series like Neon Genesis, Evangellion and Cowboy Bebop attracted attention from the west. Spirited Away, a Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, The Secret World of Arriety, Lupin iii) piece, shared first prize at the 2002 Berlin film festival and won an Academy award for best animated feature in 2003. Innocence: Ghost in the Shell was featured at the 2004 Cannes film festival.
Now at this point it would only be natural for one to ask, so what? Anime, manga, cartoons, comics… I have seen it all, read it all, had the experience in my childhood days. Why bring it up now? After all, it is quite logical to reason, when one gets to a certain age, they begin yearning for a much more sophisticated form of entertainment.
Cartoons are filled with men and women that don’t die, rainbows and continuously warm days, bright colours and eternal happiness – little of which has any basis on the real world. Frankly it isn’t too farfetched to call cartoons mind-eroding fantasies infesting kids’ every second and providing little complexity to challenge their little minds.
Little can be learnt from cartoons, apart from the ‘edutainment’ on BBC kids – Teletubbies, Sesame Street – for those less informed about what toddlers watch these days.
Anime is about ‘real life’. Even the most flashy, spirit-filled, worlds-exploding anime series out their will present important aspects of life worth pondering on for several days – although there are also as many rubbish animes out there as good ones.