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Early History of Japanese Animation (Anime)

Updated: Jan 15, 2020

Anime dates back to the birth of Japan’s film industry in the early 1900s and has emerged as one of Japan’s major cultural forces over the past century.

It wasn’t until after WWII—in 1948, to be precise—that the first modern Japanese Animation production company, one devoted to entertainment, came into being: Toei. Their first theatrical features were explicitly in the vein of Walt Disney’s films (as popular in Japan as they were everywhere else). One key example was the ninja-and-sorcery mini-epic Shōnen Sarutobi Sasuke (1959), the first anime to be released theatrically in the United States by MGM, in 1961.

What really pushed animation to the fore in Japan was the shift to TV in the Sixties. The first of Toei’s major animated shows for TV during this time were adaptations of popular manga: Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s Sally the Witch

The first 17 episodes of the original 1960s TV series were filmed in black and white, and the remainder of the series was filmed in color, making it one of the earliest color anime.

Japan’s first major animated export to the U.S.: Tetsuwan Atomu—more commonly known as Astro Boy. Adapted from Osamu Tezuka’s manga about a robot boy with superpowers, it aired on NBC thanks to the efforts of Fred Ladd. Astro Boy became a nostalgia touchstone for several generations to come.

Tezuka created and wrote more than 700 manga series containing over 170,000 pages and he also penned over 200,000 pages of anime storyboards and scripts. His impact on anime and manga is impossible to overstate. His influence on the industry was nothing less than miraculous. He made Japanese anime what it is today and popularized it internationally with his great success. He inspired many others and continues to do so today even after his death.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of anime come to CultureCon where you will be introduced to the culture, the art, the videos of japanese animation.




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