East to West: The Rise of Anime

Cora-Laine Moynihan

Anime’s popularity has undoubtedly grown in recent years, going from its origins in the East to the current dominance of the Western world. Cora-Laine looks back on the rise of this popular genre to find out how it was born and why we love it so much today.

Summer 2017: My GCSE exams were over and 6 weeks of freedom awaited me. The world was my oyster.

I could do whatever I wanted, within reason of course. At only 16, there were still many limitations on what “anything” was. So, like the curious, outgoing, social teenager that I was not, my “everything” became an endless summer of anime-watching binge.

And since then, it seems like the rest of the western world has caught up to my binge, obsessing over magic, robots, and slice-of-life romances too.

“Modern anime” first evolved in the 1950s and since then it has dominated screens around the world. A golden age of anime – the 1950s saw what were traditionally just anime movies and shows like any other around the world burst into a plethora of tropes, genres and themes.

The anime crosses over many topics that affect the inner workings of our society and human emotions.

Anime became uniquely defined by the hand-drawn, computer-generated style of Japanese animation and secured its success in the early 21st century with films like Miyazaki Hayao’s Princess Mononoke (1997) and ever-popular shows such as Pokemon (1997) and Naruto (2002).

As the 21st century continued, the popularity of anime also increased. With the rise of online streaming services and, controversially, I might add, pirate sites; the anime has become increasingly accessible to fans outside of Japan. Animation studios began to export their creations to other cultures, providing subtitles and dubbing in several different languages. Therefore, in 2017, the industry benefited from this decision, reaching a record turnover of $19.8 billion. This record is largely due to demand from foreign audiences.

With vibrant colors, captivating characters, and intricate storytelling; anime is like any other TV drama or Hollywood blockbuster. Still, it’s distinct enough on its own to attract a global audience. More recently at the end of March 2022, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 ranked second only to The Batman in the box office charts, demonstrating how popular Japanese animation has become in mainstream media.

Although I can’t say for sure that anime has overtaken Western animation in popularity, with hits such as Death threat and The attack of the Titans, he influenced him enormously. Some studios have even gone so far as to replicate the style in their productions. I’m talking about ‘Americanimes’ like RWBY, Voltron: Legendary Defender, and even Batman: The Animated Series. There are even shows that you’d assume were anime in the traditional sense without prior knowledge like Avatar: The Last Airbender. These all pull a similar art style from anime and touch on many mature themes that originally drew audiences of all ages to the medium.

From heartbreak to self-discovery, the anime crosses over many topics that touch on the inner workings of our society and human emotions. raising moral issues, debating society and addressing issues of discrimination; as an average anime, it doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff – which is why so many people are drawn to it. Take the Studio Ghibli films, for example. Each of their productions is intended to make you vibrate. It’s hard to leave one of their films without tears in your eyes. My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and even Howl’s Moving Castle all explore mature themes like war and coming of age, dressing them up in pretty fantasy packaging.

So among the engaging art style, relatable characters, accessibility, and emotional roller coaster that is the plots; anime has over time ticked off the necessary criteria to attract global audiences and achieve ultimate stardom.

It was exactly this checklist that attracted me to the medium in the first place. And maybe after reading this article, you will also find yourself binge-watching anime throughout your summer.

Cora-Laine Moynihan

Featured image courtesy of Dex Ezekiel Going through Unsplash. Image License Found here. No changes made to this image.

In-article trailer courtesy of AnimeHype????? through Youtube.com. No edits made to this video.

Image in article courtesy of ghibliuk via Instagram.com. No changes made to this image.

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