In the early 1900s in Japan, some artists started experimenting with a recent invention: the animation of drawings. The term "anime" is derived from "animation" and "art," meaning that one of its earliest interpretations was as a synonym for animation.
In the years that followed, Japanese animators became known for creating anime films aimed at adults. In the 1960s, famous directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata started making movies together under their production company Studio Ghibli, which went on to win numerous awards both nationally in Japan and internationally in Europe and North America. Today, the company continues to release new films every year.
One of Miyazaki's most famous works is "Spirited Away," a story about a ten-year-old girl who follows her parents' instructions to explore an abandoned amusement park, where she meets a mysterious boy named Haku and must call upon courage she never knew she had in order to escape from the spirit world. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2001 and has since become the highest grossing anime film of all time.
Anime Goes Global
In the 1980s, anime became popular in North America and Europe after being broadcast on television.
The English dubbing of the movie "Akira" was shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1993. The film is set in post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo in 2019, and it involves five teenagers who control their destinies through drug use and violence. The role of Tetsuo, a member of a biker gang called the Capsules, is done by Michael Paul Girard (a stage name).
The characters from "Dragon Ball", which debuted in 1986, were also popular among Western audiences. The show features Goku and other characters who work to collect seven magic balls that each have a dragon inside.
The English dubbing of the movie "Ghost in the Shell" premiered on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim in 2005. The movie is set in the year 2029, when people are able to enhance themselves with cybernetic enhancements and have become more dependent on technology than ever before. In this dark cyberpunk world, the main character, Motoko Kusanagi, is a member of an elite counter-cyberterrorist organization called Public Security Section 9 who has been enhanced with a full body prosthesis called a "shell."
One of the most popular anime series released in North America is "Naruto," which debuted on Cartoon Network in 2005. The plot revolves around Naruto, a young ninja who wishes to become the leader of his village. He is determined to achieve his goal, no matter what it takes.
"Mobile Suit Gundam", another popular series released in North America, was produced by Sunrise Inc. and ran from 1979 to 1986 in Japan. It tells the story of a war between Earth and its colonies in space – called Space States – over three resources: space, the Moon's O'Neill cylinders and the mineral Ragnite. The main character is Amuro Ray, a teenager who becomes involved in this conflict after he discovers an advanced mobile suit at one of his family's construction sites.
The English dubbing of "K-On!" premiered on Cartoon Network in 2010. The story is about a group of high school girls who form an after-school music club. As they work together to make their high school's light music club successful, the girls learn more about teamwork and the ups and downs of being in a band.
In recent years, "Sailor Moon," which was produced by Toei Animation from 1992 to 1997, has gained much attention from anime fans around the world as well as from critics who have studied anime on many levels. A reboot titled "Sailor Moon Crystal" began airing in July 2014 and offers a retelling of the original series with some notable differences.