Many are passionate about and dream with Japanese souls (or the cartoons of the Rising Sun), but few know the origins of one of the most exported cultural products from modern Japan, as well as one of the most profitable market sectors for the country of far East.
The term “anime” is a transliteration of the English word “animation” or animation understood by the Japanese as animation in all its forms.
Japanese animation began about 100 years ago, when the first film was screened in 1896 just one year after the official birth of the cinema. The first anime short films were screened in 1914, while the first cartoon made in Japan was presented to the public in 1917.
Only between 1917 and 1945 did Japan make at least 400 anime films, unfortunately lost due to bombing, earthquakes and censorship. While since the post-war period there are at least 600 film productions, with 900 television series.
Although not made by the Japanese in 1914, the first animated film was shown at the Asasuka cinema, obtaining many positive consents from the audience in the theater. Shortly thereafter, three Japanese production companies decided to invest in the anime.
Seitaro Kitayama belongs to the first generation of animators and cartoonists Oten Shimokawa and Junichi Kouchi who were struck by western animations began to want to experiment. And after years of study, the first productions began to appear, which appeared in the cinema as single sequences of comic strips
Just in 2005 the first comic strips believed to have disappeared after a century were found in an Akibara shop, with a style similar to the western one and also influenced by Japanese painting.
The core productions were initially completely independent, but at the end of the 1920s Japanese animation began to replace the paper used so far with expensive celluloid sheets. Until then, all animations were widespread in silence, but since 1929 almost all anime films imported into Japan are sound. In 1931 the Shochiku company made the first film with actors who act in Japanese, also producing the first sound cartoon, with voices loaned by famous actors, a detail that favors great success.
And in the wake of the first success the Shochiku company produces a second short film. Unfortunately, stifled by American competition, Japanese animation is initially struggling to take off. Only after the post-war years, a period where souls undergo a dramatic decline, thanks to the protagonist of a famous Japanese fairy tale, Momotaro, do they manage to re-emerge around the 1930s.
Cardboard that was very successful and that was also shown for soldiers at the front, so much so that the same navy commissioned a similar film from the Shochiku company. Made after 14 months of work and at an expense of 270,000 Yen, the 74-minute long film praised the liberation of Asia, but paradoxically, just when the film was screened, American troops were razing the Japanese islands to the ground. And this film despite few people seeing it represents the pinnacle of 30 years of Japanese animation.
In full American occupation in 1948 Toei Animation was born, which would later become the largest Japanese animation studio.
In the mid-1950s, Japan is preparing for a rapid impetus towards economic well-being. This aspect will influence the Toei Animation which launches the first 13-minute anime short film “The scribbles of the kitten” an educational film for children.
After 20 months of work in 1958 the first Japanese color feature film Hakujaden is finally ready. Although the animation is rather fluid, it remains technically 10 years behind the American one. The film is equally appreciated both in Japan and abroad, Venice, Berlin and Mexico, as well as distributed also in America.
In 1961 Toei produced an “Anju e Zushiomaru” melodrama but despite the technique of realization, it was considered too naive to be intended for an adult audience.
The Toei company has marked several firsts over the years, one certainly is the realization of the first series of souls in 1961 in addition to the first series on space in 1974.
One of the prominent figures of the Japanese panorama of the world of souls is Osamu Tezuka. An ingenious author who brings within the Japanese artistic panorama several innovations that are often even questionable, such as the typical “disproportionate” eyes that guarantee greater expressiveness to anime characters.
Osamu in 1961 opened his own production house Mushi Production with the main objective of creating a strong competitor in opposition to Toei. But the studio went bankrupt in 1971 and its founder was forced to settle any debt by selling the rights to his manga.
In the middle of the cold war, the spread of TV increases the competition of TV products over film ones, and for these reasons new animation studios are founded, Sunrise and Madhouse. And right from the mid-70s the genre symbol of a generation was born, or robots like Mazinger Z, up to the exit in the 80s of Jeeg Robot. The supremacy of Japanese cartoons continues in the 90s with cartoons such as Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon scratched a bit in recent years thanks to competition from other countries such as the United States, England and Russia.