A new documentary dropped to Netflix looking into the popularity of anime in Japan and following filmmaker Alex Burunova as she tries to find the essence of the genre.
Alex’s journey becomes an “anime quest” for her to figure out how a country which is known for its civility and conformity also goes hand in hand with the wacky, wild and most-often violent world of anime. And how the genre has gone on to inspire swathes of creators and fans across the world.
Here are the five crazy things we learned about the genre from Enter the Anime!
From manga to anime
Manga – comic books or graphic novels – dates back to the mid-19th century in Japan and is a term which refers to ‘cartooning’. But the style’s history stretches way back to earlier Japanese art traditions and is a foundation on which anime was built.
Japanese animation dates to 1917 but the anime we recognise today as characteristic of the genre comes from Osamu Tezuka’s cartoon and manga of the 1960s.
Baki director Toshiki Hirano explains how this shift from manga to anime works, stating: “when you’re creating a film based on manga, breaking it apart and rebuilding is the way to go.”
But when it came to Baki, Toshiki took a different route and built his anime style on traditional manga, using the comic books as “keystones”.
The sub-sub cultures of anime
One thing which has become a major part of maintaining anime’s popularity is the sub-cultures.
From the variety of animated styles and content comes to a variety of sub-cultures and sub-sub cultures throughout Japan, which have all become more nuanced as anime’s popularity grows.
Rockabillies, goths, lolitas, Gothic Lolitas, steampunks, jocks, metal heads… you name it, the list of different cultures goes on.
While they used to be seen as subversive, now these different cultures make up an important part of Japan’s overall modern culture. As Alex says, it’s “the contradictions of Japan” that are “vital” for the country.
Kawaii culture’s origins
Kawaii culture – translating to cuteness culture – is a style popularised in Japan and become world famous.
The colourful kawaii culture spread across the world through Hello Kitty, Pokemon, as well as fonts and stylistic choices for brands.
And while kawaii might be a globally recognised Japanese sub-culture, not many know its origins trace back all the way to the 1960s.
In the documentary, it is described as “the rebellion to adulthood and authority” and that in protests of the 1960s, students threw away their schoolbooks and insisted on only reading manga!
Japan’s answer to Disney
Toei Animation – one of the original forms of anime – was founded as a response to the American Disney company.
As Toei Animation chairman, Kozo Morishita, explains it “started right after Japan lost the war… It was a way to give kids hope after losing the war”.
So instead of Mickey Mouse, children in Japan had Pero the cat, the protagonist from 1969’s The Wonderful World of Puss ‘n Boots.
When inspiration strikes…
One thing that Alex took away from interviewing all the anime creators, was that when inspiration strikes, it strikes.
Nearly every interviewee had a different, hilarious spot where their ideas flow best.
Most agreed that their best ideas came while they were in the bath or shower, with the others saying their commute home, or walking around their local area helped get their creative juices flowing.
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