Japanese Animation


Exactly what is Japanese Animation? There is a century worth of story behind this word, yet it is not well known. The short term for Japanese Animation is "anime", which is French. In America, cartoons have a connotation of "children‘s only," whereas in Japan this is not so due to a different development in its history. Animes are highly regarded and they are not considered to be just cartoons by many of its viewers. While America considers animation to be a single category, Japan considers animation to be more than that. The categories of Japanese Animation ranges from pornographic Hentai to satirical comedy. Japanese Animation is an adaptation of Mangas, which was first created in 1702 by Shumboko Ono. By 1868, Mangas started to appear in newspapers in Japan.


Many animes are based on Mangas, which resulted in the complexity of Japanese Animation. These mangas are sophisticated unlike ordinary Western-styled comics, which have one to four frames. While most themes of Western comics are story orientated, most Mangas base their themes on the words, actions, and development of individual characters. This is because Mangas were developed from "emonogatari," which were simple pictures telling stories. The wording and positioning of the words were more important than the picture itself. Mangas fulfill this complexity by the complex frame arrangements, slow scene shifts, and narrations attributed by emonogatari. This is why many readers compare complex Mangas to moving films. Because of the complex themes and ideas, even the most sophisticated of scientists and intellectuals read these Japanese form of comics in a serious tone. These complicated themes from mangas have passed onto Japanese Animation. It could even be said that animes are film versions of these books.


It is important to learn about the history and evolution of Japanese Animation in order to understand the themes. Seitaro Kitayama led the way for doga, also known as "moving images" at the time. In a couple of years, he started to use India ink to do his doga, which gave it more of an etched or grainy look. During this time, India ink was one of the few mediums in which animated films were created. Created in 1918, Seitaro’s film Momotaro was the first to show in other countries. By 1921, Seitaro created his own studio, in which six films were created per year. Other improvements made on animation in general was by Juichi Kouchi. He was the first to use grey nuances instead of India ink to create his doga. Oten Shimokawa, improved anime by using chalk for practicing before drawing in the picture. The man who was most well known in Europe was Noburo Ofuji. He used a clear paper, called Goyami, which was only available in Japan. By using Goyami, he was able to create shadows and evanescent views. Ofuji’s technique offered a more flowing movement. On the side of his techniques, he believed that animation was not just for comic or young viewers. His belief had changed animes, making it much different than American cartoons. His films were meant for older viewers.


Ever since 1930’s to World War II, Japanese Animation was no longer being used for entertainment, but for war propaganda. With a strict control from the government, films were limited to creating a milieu of war and hatred. Producers such as Kenzo Masaoka and Mitsuyo Seo were forced to create such films. An example is Mitsuyo‘s film, "The Assault Troops of Sankichi the Monkey," which was created in 1935. This film represented the attacks of the Japanese army against the Chinese. This film shows the Japanese army thoroughly devastating a fortress guarded by panda bears, which represents China. Because of the negative propaganda of the Japanese government during this period, there were little improvements in animation from Japan. Immediately after Japan signed the peace treaty during the 1940’s and a growing economy, Japanese Animation saw a large growth.


The person responsible for the development of Japanese Animation after WWII was Osamu Tezuka. Known as the "god of anime," he had lead the way of Japanese Animation in a new direction. Although there was no development for two decades, he was able to get some inspiration from Disney. By the age of twenty, he was able to teach