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How America sees Anime: Childish or Naughty? (Part 2)

September 25, 2010

The Dark Age of Animation

Following the take over of the industry by Disney, animators needed a new market for their trade. They found their salvation in the form of television. However, there was one major problem: quality animation was expensive, hard to produce, and went through lengthy development cycles. Thus, if an animation company wanted to churn out enough shows for a television season, the standards had to be lowered. Limited animation became the law of the land, as noticed in repeating backgrounds, stock poses, stock footage, and the strange collars anthropomorphic characters wore around their necks (to be the subject of a future post).

This was the era of Hanna-Barbara, whom produced the majority of titles from this time, and became well known for their cost-saving shortcuts and rushed shows. Though some shows early on were saved by good writing, by the time of the 60s and 70s the Dark Age of Animation was in full-swing.

Due to the fact that these shows would never fly with adults as the target-base, the shows were made specifically with children in mind. It soon got to the point in which nearly all animation was targeted to either children, or in the case of Disney, the family.

However, over in Japan, a different story unfolded.

After the war, Japanese writers had a difficult time competing with western writers, especially in the areas of fantasy and science-fiction. Thus, comic books and animation were sometimes the only way a writer could do what they wanted. Thus, the reason why most early anime focus around adventures with caucasian characters, and sci-fi, a notable example being Astro Boy.

Thus, as the Japanese audience got older, so did their shows. The animation industry in Japan, over time, developed into a “legitimate” method of story-telling, the opposite of what happened in the West. In the eighties, young adults starved for quality animation in the States were searching for animated shows that told a story, had a comprehensive plot, and most of all, didn’t treat the audience like they were stupid. Which led to the


In the eighties, the Japanese animation industry made it’s first tentative steps into America with Star Blazers, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and Mobile Suit Gundam, and later Dragonball Z, Ranma 1/2, Sailor Moon, and Tenchi Muyo.

Anime, though starting out as a fringe element, was quickly developing it’s niche in American culture. It seemed that it would always be just that: a niche. However, that all changed with one thing, a thing that would leave a lasting mark on Pop-Culture and Animation in general:

Long story short: Pokemon was the greatest. Craze. EVER. It truly opened the doors for the vast majority of Anime and Manga fans from nineties, playing the greatest role in anime’s journey to the west. However, it was a double-edged swrod: not only did it introduce anime, but it introduced anime as a kid thing, something that only existed to keep the kids entertained, thus reinforcing the concept of the Ghetto. Which, in turn, led to Anime such as Urotsukidoji, Ninja Scroll, and La Blue Girl ending up in the animation section.

Which leads to incidents like this:

Thus, the initial reaction: Anime is for kids, thus any adults/teens who watch it are childish/mentally under-developed.

However, this quickly developed into something else: The opinion nowadays, that, essentially, all Anime is violent, gory tentacle porn.

Like this, but with more blood and violence.

Which takes me back to the beginning of Part 1: due to clueless clerks in video rental stores and libraries, animation has gained quite a nasty reputation in the west. Parents expecting something along the lines of Pokemon or a Hayao Miyazaki picture instead wind up with Ruroni Kenshin, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Serial Experiments Lain (in the best case-scenarios) or the three violent/pornographic ones listed earlier, among countless others (in the worst-case scenarios.).

Thus, we the Anime community are confronted with the question: what is Anime’s future in the U.S.?


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