Anime as Art

The history of anime is notably broad, yes, and it will take hundreds of pages if I will make a chapter about it. I could, but it will take a year or more for me to compile it. My primary focus is not to present a chronological dissertation of anime history in its broadened sense, since it is, as I said, broad. But it is part of my cause to present to you, the readers, a simplified presentation of the anime history. So in this article, my cause is to give a simplified yet awakening view for us Christians about anime and its history. Knowing the history, of course, will not make us ignorant of today’s sophistication. Furthermore, as Christians, it is important for us to know or to trace back the roots before we jump into temptations of any kind.

To begin with, the word “anime” is primarily based on the original Japanese pronunciation of the American word “animation.” It is the style of animation in Japan. The Urban dictionary defines it stereotypically as: the anime style is characters with proportionally large eyes and hair styles and colors that are very colorful and exotic. The plots range from very immature (kiddy stuff), through teenage level, to mature (violence, content, and thick plot). It is also important to note that American cartoons and Japanese animes are different. The storyline of an anime is more complex while that of a cartoon is simpler. While cartoons are intended for kids, anime, on the other hand, is more intended for the adult viewers.

Although the creation of anime was basically due to the influence of the Western countries that began at the start of 20th century (when Japanese filmmakers experimented with the animation techniques that were being explored in the West) it was also inspired by the production of manga (comic) that was already present in Japan even before the production of anime.

Around the beginning of the 13th century, there were already pictures of the afterlife and animals appearing on temple walls in Japan (most of them are similar to modern manga). At the start of 1600’s, pictures were not drawn on temples any longer but on wood blocks, known as Edo. Subjects in Edo arts were less religious and were often geographically erotic. Noting this, without a doubt, it gave me this insight:

“The explicit presentations of manga, that would later influence the industry of anime, were already existent in the 13th century. That’s hundreds of years before anime emerged into view!”

Now it shouldn’t be too surprising, right? There are many mangas (also known as comics) of these days that are too vulgar and explicit and if not, there will be at least one character in her showy appearance. I’m not saying that all mangas are full of nudities, if that’s what you’re thinking by now. But rather, this exploitation of eroticism (or at least a hint of amorousness) on mangas is not actually new. They already existed even before the World War I and II. They, however, advanced into something else. Manga, to a great extent, is a factor as to how and why anime existed. In fact, most animes and live actions are adaptations of mangas or comics.

Japanese cartoonists already experimented with different style of animation as early as 1914, but the glorious growth of anime nonetheless began shortly after the Second World War where Kitayama Seitaro, Oten Shimokawa, and Osamu Tezuka were pioneering as then notable Japanese animators. Among the pioneering animators during that time, it was Osamu Tezuka who gained the most credits and was later known as “the god of comics.”

Osamu Tezuka was best known in his work “Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atomu)” the first robot boy with an atomic heart who had wished to be a real boy. His works were notable and his style of animation contributed a lot in the production of Japanese anime, such as large and rounded eyes. Tezuka’s works did not only focus to entertain young viewers but he also conceived and initiated the creation of Animerama. It is a series of thematically-related adult anime feature films made at his Mushi Production studio from the late 1960’s to early 1970’s. Animerama is a trilogy consisting of three films: A Thousand & One Nights, Cleopatra, and Belladona. The first, A Thousand & One Nights, was the first erotic animated film conceived by Osamu Tezuka, the god of comics.

Although anime made its way, it was only in the 1980’s that anime was fully accepted in the mainstream of Japan. Since then, more and more genres emerged into being. From slice of life, drama, mechas, tragic, adventure, science fiction, romance, ecchi, shounen-ai, shoujo and a lot more of genres. While most of the anime shows shifted from more superhero-oriented, fantastical plots to somewhat more realistic space operas with increasingly complex plots and fuzzier definitions of right and wrong-in short, anime in its broadened sense is simply complicated.

Additionally, later during the boomed experience of Japanese animation, a new medium was then developed for anime: the OVA (Original Video Animation). These OVAs were direct-to-home-video series or movies that catered to much smaller audiences. The OVA was also responsible for allowing the first full-blown anime pornography.

As Japanese animation further gained more audience and acceptance throughout the world, a subculture in Japan, who later called themselves “otaku”, began to develop around animation magazines such as Animage or later NewType. These magazines became known in respond to the overwhelming fandom that developed around shows such as Yamato and Gundam in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and during this period the mecha genres were prominent.

It all started from ancient paintings, wood block arts, artistic depiction of life, nature, and animals as early as the 13th century. Until these, nonetheless, evolved into moving frames when different experimentations of mangas and animation were made in the pre and post-wars era.

Even as early as 13th century, mangas on wooden blocks, known as Edo, were already existent not only for the sake of art but it was there I believe as a medium of entertainment… a form of art and entertainment that would gradually evolved in time.

In conclusion, the history of anime was broad in its sense and this article has not presented all of it. But the point is, we must know that anime itself carries a lot of genres and motives that can be alarming more than we can imagine.

As Christians, we should really consider the motives of the heart of the creators or the animators. We should do a background check and if we are convicted to stop watching a certain anime, let’s not take it for granted.