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History of Anime – Everything You Need To Know About Anime

Anime is a distinct Japanese animation style that has captivated audiences worldwide and has a long and fascinating history.

Modern anime started in 1956 and gained popularity in 1961 with Mushi Productions, created by Osamu Tezuka, an important figure in the modern manga. Manga is a Japanese comic book style that has greatly influenced anime.

Today’s anime, like Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke (1997), is similar to epic folk adventure stories once made by famous Japanese directors like Kenji Mizoguchi and Akira Kurosawa.

This article will provide an in-depth look at the history of modern anime, discussing its development from the earliest days to the present and future challenges.

The Early Years of Japanese Animation

The origins of Japanese animation date back to the early 20th century when pioneers like Seitaro Kitayama, Junichi Kouchi, and Oten Shimokawa created the first animated short films. These early works were heavily influenced by foreign animation, particularly American and European examples.

During the 1920s and 1930s, animation studios in Japan began to emerge, producing a variety of animation styles, including cutout animation, cel animation, and silhouette animation. These studios helped lay the foundation for the future growth and development of the anime industry.

Pre-War Animation

In the pre-war era, Japanese animation was in its infancy. The first known Japanese animated film, “Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki,” was released in 1917 by Oten Shimokawa.

It marked the beginning of the anime industry. Many animators experimented with different techniques during this period, drawing inspiration from American and European animation styles.

In 1933, Kenzo Masaoka directed “Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka,” which introduced synchronized sound to Japanese animation.

This film unveiled the potential of Japanese animators to create unique and innovative works. As the industry grew, animators faced several challenges, including limited resources and the overshadowing presence of Western animation.

Post-War Animation

Following World War II, Japanese animation entered a period of rebuilding and experimentation. Osamu Tezuka, a prominent manga artist, played a significant role in shaping the industry during this time.

In 1958, his manga “Tetsuwan Atom” was adapted into the animated feature film “Hakujaden,” directed by Taiji Yabushita and produced by Toei Animation. This film began modern anime, incorporating Disney-inspired animation techniques and a more focused narrative style.

The Rise of Modern Anime

The late 1950s and early 1960s saw the rise of modern anime, with the establishment of major studios such as Toei Animation, Mushi Production, and Tatsunoko Production. These studios played a crucial role in shaping the industry and popularizing anime both domestically and internationally.

This period also saw the emergence of television anime series, which contributed significantly to the widespread popularity of the medium.

Innovations in storytelling, animation techniques, and character development during this era set the stage for creating more sophisticated and diverse anime works, capturing the audience’s attention worldwide.

Popular Films

In the realm of modern anime, various films have left an indelible mark on the industry and captivated audiences around the world. Hayao Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988) and “Spirited Away” (2001), both produced by Studio Ghibli, have become iconic examples of the genre.

“Spirited Away” won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003, bringing international acclaim to Japanese animation.

Other influential films include “Akira” (1988), directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, which showcased the potential for mature, complex storytelling in anime, and Mamoru Oshii’s “Ghost in the Shell” (1995), which delved into themes of artificial intelligence and the nature of humanity.

These groundbreaking films contributed to the development of anime and influenced filmmakers and artists worldwide.

The Rise of Television Anime

Television anime, which began in the early 1960s, played a critical role in popularizing the medium and expanding its reach to a broader audience.

The advent of television broadcasting provided a platform for serialized storytelling that would become a hallmark of the anime industry. As the number of television stations grew, the demand for content increased, leading to a boom in animated series production.

One of the earliest and most influential television anime series was Osamu Tezuka’s “Astro Boy,” which debuted in 1963.

This series, along with others like “Speed Racer” (1967) and “Gigantor” (1963), introduced the world to the unique visual style and storytelling techniques that defined Japanese animation.

The Emergence of Anime Genres

As the anime industry expanded and diversified, various genres began to emerge, each catering to specific tastes and interests. These genres have played a significant role in shaping the evolution of anime and continue to define the medium’s unique storytelling and visual styles.


Mecha anime, which revolves around giant robots or machines, is one of the most popular and enduring anime genres. Pioneered by series like “Gigantor” (1963) and “Mazinger Z” (1972), mecha anime often features epic battles, complex political intrigue, and intricate mechanical designs.

The genre reached new heights with Yoshiyuki Tomino’s “Mobile Suit Gundam” (1979), which introduced a more realistic and grounded approach to storytelling and the concept of giant robots as military weapons.

Mecha anime continues to evolve, with modern series like “Code Geass” (2006) and “Gurren Lagann” (2007) pushing the boundaries of the genre.


Shojo anime, which targets a primarily female audience, often focuses on romance, friendship, and personal growth. Series like “Candy Candy” (1976) and “Rose of Versailles” (1979) laid the foundation for the genre, showcasing complex female characters and rich emotional narratives.

In recent years, shojo anime has evolved to incorporate other genres, including fantasy and action. Examples include “Cardcaptor Sakura” (1998) and “Fruits Basket” (2001), which blend romance and supernatural elements to create engaging and heartfelt stories.


Shonen anime, aimed at young male audiences, typically features action-packed storylines, strong male protagonists, and themes of friendship, rivalry, and personal growth. Iconic series like “Dragon Ball” (1986), “One Piece” (1999), and “Naruto” (2002) have defined the genre, showcasing epic adventures and intense battles.

Shonen anime has remained a dominant force in the industry, with recent hits like “Attack on Titan” (2013) and “My Hero Academia” (2016) continuing to attract new fans and push the boundaries of the genre.


Isekai anime, which transports characters to alternate worlds or dimensions, has become increasingly popular. Series like “Sword Art Online” (2012) and “Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World” (2016) have captivated audiences with their intricate world-building and high-stakes adventures.

Isekai anime often blends fantasy, science fiction, and action elements, offering immersive and imaginative storylines that appeal to a wide range of viewers.

Future Prospects and Challenges

The future of anime is full of potential, with new technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence promising to revolutionize how stories are told and experienced.

As the global popularity of anime continues to grow, the industry faces new opportunities and challenges, such as increasing demand for content, the need for sustainable business models, and competition from international animation studios.


The history of modern anime is a story of continuous innovation and adaptation, from its early beginnings in pre-war Japan to the diverse and dynamic industry it is today. Through groundbreaking films, influential television series, and the emergence of distinct genres, anime has carved out a unique identity within the broader realm of animation. With a growing global fanbase and the potential for further technological advancements, the anime industry is poised to reach new heights in the coming years.

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