Anime has largely been seen as a niche area of popular culture. The style of animation originated in Japan and is instantly recognizable. Anime is simply a shortening of the word “animation”, and with its vibrant blazing graphics depicting energetic characters, it is a style that jumps off the screen.
A large part of anime’s appeal is that it focuses on futuristic, fantasy themes that take viewers out of the real world. There are often more serious themes in the undercurrent of anime storytelling too, something that teenagers, during those often-confusing years of pre-adulthood, have come to relate to.
Anime is a genre where characters defy social norms. It is at times boundary-defying and far more nuanced in plot depth than most standard animation offerings from the Western world. It has also had quite an impact on the modern movie market.
What is anime?
Within Japanese culture, anime is simply a term for all animation. Step outside that bubble and look in from the Western world, and the name becomes a specific genre noun. It’s a style of Japanese animation that has some very common identifying traits.
For example, most anime characters have large eyes, block-colored mouths and some wild hair. They also tend to be slender and have long limbs. There is something very basic about the appearance of anime characters, but that is purposeful.
Anime dips into many adult themes, including supernatural, revenge and romance, and characters show a wide range of emotions on their journeys. The simple emotional atmosphere of a storyline can quickly be displayed on the face of a character.
It’s common to see extreme close-ups of characters’ faces, putting those emotions – be they turmoil, despair or boundless joy – front and center against blank backdrops.
When you start to look around, the influence of anime can be found in a number of sectors. Alongside standard leading online casino titles like Sweet Bonanza, you can find anime-style character-driven slot games. Tattoo styles, fan art, fan fiction and video gaming have also heavily embraced the anime style. So too, has the world of movies.
Origins of anime
As an art form, anime has been around for more than a century. There have been countless characters and series that have come to define generations. Among the most famous are DragonBall and DragonBall Z, which brought dynamic martial arts animation to the table.
Pokémon is another of the massive anime franchises with proven longevity and appeal. With its range of unique monsters, from Pikachu to Charizard, Mewtwo and Squirtle, the series is a nuanced portrayal of humanity’s flaws and strengths.
The One Piece franchise, featuring the main character, Luffy, leading a band of pirates as they search for famed treasure,has been going for more than two decades and is still a highly popular series. Naruto is another major anime title, its eponymous name being the show’s ninja protagonist, and the show is acclaimed for its in-depth character development.
Just looking at some of the aforementioned major anime titles, something jumps to the fore. Even if you have never dipped a single toe in the waters of anime, you are likely to have heard of at least one of them.
That’s because anime has been increasingly lapped up and explored by Western culture, particularly in the medium of movies. Hollywood mega-star Ryan Reynolds starred in the 2019 Pokémon: Detective Pikachu movie. Major streaming platform Netflix has developed One Piece into a live-action series.
But it’s not only the direct aim of silver screen developments that has expanded the popularity of the genre. There have also been many examples of anime simply influencing movies on a more subtle, understated level.
The quiet influence of anime
In Creed III, director Michael B. Jordan used Dragon Ball Z to influence a style of punch delivered by Dame Anderson in the fight. But the director also used influences from other anime titles like My Hero Academia to help develop a creative new approach to filming the fight scene in the boxing movie.
The Matrix is said to be inspired by Ghost in the Shell, Avatar by Princess Mononoke, Black Swan by Perfect Blue, and Inception by Paprika. Guillermo del Toro’s brilliant and acclaimed Pan’s Labyrinth movie draws from Spirited Away.
While not all influences are stated outright, dedicated fans of anime may well have seen common threads winding their way through from the animation to the silver screen in such movies.
Spirited Away breaks barriers
In 2001, the movie Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi)was released in Japan. This animated movie’s launch was a pivotal moment in the tour de force that is anime. It dispelled the notion that moving animation was just something innocent for children.
It crossed barriers and arguably changed the world of cinematic animation forever. Spirited Away went on to resonate with audiences around the world. While based on magical Japanese folklore, the main character, Chihiro, a young girl, has to dig deep into herself to survive in a strange new world and look for a way to get back home.
To put the influence of Spirited Away into context, it held the box-office record in Japan for 19 years and grossed around $300m. Almost two decades after its release, Spirited Away was picked up by Netflix, delighting fans of the movie and introducing it to a whole new audience.
Cultural streaming force
Anime is riding a positive crest at the moment and the demand for more gives rise to further distribution opportunities. The rise in popularity of online streaming services has been a massive boon to the world of anime.
Its broad reach breathes new life into the genre and further legitimizes anime as being worthy of holding a significant place in the movie industry, particularly with proven commercial viability.
Across the world, the appetite for anime has grown. All the major streaming platforms have picked up on the genre and it is no longer such a niche area of culture – it has exploded into the mainstream and continues to influence movies, series and spin-offs.
The themes of anime arguably give it a wide appeal, because while it is animation, it is not all cozy, comfortable, family-friendly viewing. It’s more than its medium – it’s cutting edge, with characters not afraid to creatively express the darker side of emotions through unique, magical storylines.
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