What Is Anime? A Brief History

The word anime probably conjures up some very specific images in your mind: vivid colors, spikey-haired characters, and big round eyes. You’ve probably even heard of shows like Dragonball Z, Robotech, and Pokémon. But true anime fans know there’s so much more to the art than just the most popular cartoons. In fact, you might be surprised that some of the most popular movies of this generation have been influenced by anime — films like The Matrix have credited its influence with its rich storyline and digital graphics. Here are a few more interesting facts.

What Is Anime? A Brief History
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What is anime?

Merriam-Webster defines anime as “a style of animation originating in Japan that is characterized by stark colorful graphics depicting vibrant characters in action-filled plots often with fantastic or futuristic themes.” In fact, the word “anime” is simply how you say animation in Japanese.

When did anime start?

The earliest origins of anime are recorded around 1917, but the beginnings of the art we know today are probably more attributed to an artist named Osamu Tezuka who started drawing after World War II in the 1940s. His work is where the colorful art and big doe eyes originated. But the art form wasn’t necessarily an overnight success internationally, and in fact, the first show to broadcast in the US was Tezuka’s Astro Boy, which aired in the 1960s. And although anime had a large Japanese following and a small, devoted American following, it didn’t gain huge international popularity until the 1990s.

How is anime different from cartoons?

If you don’t know much about anime, you might be wondering how it differs from cartoons. If you ask any anime enthusiast, they will tell you that anime is as far from cartoons as a western is from a musical. Anime storylines tend to be more complex and serious, while cartoons lean more toward humor, although there are certainly exceptions on both sides. It’s also important to note that even though anime appeals to older audiences, most of it is also appropriate for younger audiences as well.

Where to watch anime

It’s true that anime is becoming more mainstream and a lot of the popular shows are available on a variety of networks. But if you really want to feed your inner geek, you’ll want to know about other good animes to watch and where to find them. A few great animes to start with which you may not be aware of Inuyasha, One-Punch Man, Trigun, Tokyo Ghoul, and Attack on Titan.

Now that you know what to look for, finding them shouldn’t be too difficult. There are some shady websites out there that upload content, and these sites are tempting because they offer free anime streaming. However, it’s best to find out what’s legal and stick with paid sites like Crunchyroll and Funimation. Hulu also carries a good variety you can find by simply searching for “anime”. This is a good site to start with if you’re just checking anime out for the first time, since you may already have a Hulu subscription anyway.

Anime has generated a culture and community all its own. With its developed storylines and fascinating characters, it’s no wonder that it’s managed to weave its way into international pop culture. And once you find out what the informed “anime geeks” are watching right now, you may find yourself immersed in the community in no time.

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