American Nazis and Benevolent Japanese: A Comparative History of Animation and Comics (part 1)Jun 14, 2001 (Updated Jun 15, 2001) Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line My Title refers to how Americans by being hypocrites, to what our country should stand for, destroyed animation/comics. Whereas the Japanese actually were quite the opposite, creating a diverse market.
The last several articles gave a good prospective on many aspects of Japanese animation, Yusakugo's 3 articles gave good information behind the American market that has developed since the 1980s and HarryJr's review has shown just how diverse the medium is. My review is an attempt to show the History of Japanese Animation and Japanese Comics (Manga) and compare it to their respective American counterparts.
I have decided to divide this article up into two sections, part one will deal with animation/comics here and in Japan (more in Japan due to more innovation that occurred there) from the late 1940s until the late 1970s
The Age of Osamu Tezuka
While there were many advances in manga in Japan prior to WWII, the main turning point of manga, as a separate identifiable medium, didn't come until after the war. This was spurred by a medical student/cartoonist named Osamu Tezuka. Osamu Tezuka wrote a manga called New Treasure Island released in 1947, although it was aimed at kids, it inspired an entire generation of people. What inspired so many children at that time was the innovative way that Tezuka brought his comic to life. New Treasure Island was the precursor to modern manga; it was sold in a novel form (Trade Paperback) and went on for many pages. Within those many pages was a comic style that was very movie-like, one where several pages would be devoted to one movement, making manga very much like production drawings for a movie. His character designs, precursors to the ones that you see today in manga and anime, were actually inspired by early American animation from people such as Walt Disney. Osamu Tezuka was incredibly popular in Japan, so popular that his readers, as they grew up, continued to read manga. During the 1950's one could find manga covering a wide range of genres, a little like the comics market in the United States in the early 1950's, which brings me to my next topic.
What Happened to make America's Market Different
In the early 1950's in the United States, one could find more than just comics about superheroes, their were famous ones about, horror (probably the most infamous), science fiction, war, humor (Mad being the most famous), and just about every other genera imaginable. Although not highly respected (America needed an Osamu Tezuka) they were a new and growing medium, full all sorts of new and creative ideas. So what caused manga to flourish and comics to become dominated by collectable superhero crap? The answer is Censorship. In 1954 a well-respected psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham, (he was also a liberal, which goes to show you that conservatives aren't the only ones who are into censorship) wrote a book called Seduction of the Innocent. In this book he stated that comics, were nothing but rubbish that caused "the CHILDREN" to be corrupted by causing crimes, such as murder, theft, etc. (this sounds a lot like the hysteria surrounding the Columbine incident). This book affected all parts of the fledgling American comic book industry; even mainstream superhero comics were criticized for being homoerotic. (Which I think is kind of true). The main comics targeted in this book, though, were crime and horror comics, some of the most popular at the time.
The publishing of this book sent shockwaves through out the industry. Nationwide protests by parental groups, and complaints by politicians (they held Senate hearings not too much different, only harsher, than the recent McCain hearings over movies, and their relationship to violence from the CHILDREN in schools). These nationwide protests led to the forced establishment of a comic code, a standard not too much different than the standards forced on motion pictures in the '30's, only they were harsher. Women could not be portrayed in a non-traditional manner, bad guys could only be used to illustrate a moral (that 1950's America could accept), ministers couldn't be shown disrespectfully and many others; any violation of this code was considered to be corrupting to our innocent CHILDREN in America. Because retailers would not sell comics that didn't have the code, the American comic industry was reduced to being dominated by superheroes and morality tales. Without a wide flourishing comic market, few of the comic artists could gain enough popularity to produce diverse animation.
On the animation front, things were also bleak. The golden age of American Animation (from the 1930s to the mid-1950s) was coming to an end. Due to the theater bust in the 1950's cartoons became unprofitable for every major film studio but Disney. WB and MGM (many of their cartoons were not solely aimed at children) closed their animation studios. By the '60s, and the last fairly mainstream adult oriented cartoon, for almost 30 years, The Flintstones was canceled halfway through the decade. Children's animation, of mostly low quality would continue to rule until today.
Back to Japan
Unlike America, Japan is not hypocritical when it comes to freedom of Speech. Under the McArthur Constitution, Japan has a provision very similar to the 1st Amendment. Japan wanted to follow its new constitution down to the dot, for if there was a failure in doing so, the United States could possibly attack Japan again (something Japan really did not want to happen). This set the stage for the manga industry in the late 1950s to the 1960s. During this time period, manga-ka (comic writers/artists) were beginning to experiment with bolder and more shocking ideas to accommodate the now predominantly teenaged manga reading audience and were called gekiga. Often these comics were only meant for "shock value" without any other real purpose (Golgo 13 was the most famous gekiga). This caused widespread protests from parental groups, but unlike in America, nothing was done to censor the comics, because the government upheld "1st Amendment rights"! After a few years, these repulsive comics went underground, (but provided some influence for future manga-ka, and contributed to the manga market as a whole) and the market continued to grow in size and grow up. Another change was the establishment of weekly manga magazines, these magazines helped to spread the growth of manga in Japan, and are the primary source of manga today in Japan.
The Rise and (Almost) Fall of Toei Animation Studios
In the late 1950's an animation company with ambitions to be the Disney of Japan was started. This animation company, like Disney used traditional stories (from eastern instead of western mythology) that were mostly aimed at children. The companies name is Toei Animation and their first feature was The Tale of the White Serpent(1957). This feature was quite successful for them and about every year Toei turned out more and more animated features just like it. By the mid-1960s Toei dominated the anime market with their children oriented "manga-movies". Although the leader of the Japanese animation industry, problems began to creep up for Toei. By the mid-1960s Toei was facing stiff competition from studios such as Osamu Tezuka productions, and sales were off. Another problem was that the animators for Toei were being underpaid and movies still tried to keep up with Disney production levels. (From what I've read, the early Toei productions had very large budgets and used full animation, the animation philosophy that is used in most American animation). During this time a series of strikes happened at Toei, causing ripe ground for some of Toei's younger talent to rise up.
This Culminated in Isao Takahata's (Grave of the Fireflies) first film The Adventures of Hols, Prince of the Sun (you might have already seen a dubbed version of this called Little Norse Prince Valiant on TBS during the '80s). This movie had the message that people should be united to get things accomplished, a powerful and fitting message for Toei at the time, who were struggling with many internal disputes. Takahata also adopted the theme of the film during the production, where he allowed many of the young aspiring filmmakers to contribute to the film. The largest and most influential of these filmmakers, was key animator Hayao Miyazaki ( Princess Mononoke). Miyazaki was so enthusiastic and provided so much influence on the final film that he was given a second title, Scene Designer.
Despite glowing critical reviews and a small but dedicated fan base, this film tanked, causing Toei to lose a large sum of money. In the aftermath, Takahata was banned from directing any more Toei features and senior officers at the studio reprimanded many of the people involved in the production. Even though it did poorly in the box office it continued to be shown at college campuses where it was a big hit. Eventually Miyazaki and Takahata would leave the studio, and become some of the most famous animators in the world. As for Toei animation, they managed to survive, but were not nearly as powerful or as wealthy as they were during the 50s and 60s.
Osamu Tezuka's Animation Studio
In the early 1960s, after working on several Toei animated features, Osamu Tezuka decided to make his own entry into the animation business, unlike Toei most of his work was for television. The first fictional anime to air on Japanese television, was Tezuka's first anime, Astro Boy. Astro Boy was so successful that it was translated and shown in many different countries, including the United States. The series lasted 10 years. Tezuka's next series was Jungle Emperor, a.k.a. Simů I mean Kimba the White Lion. You may have noticed that I started to write Simba, there is a good reason for this, Disney completely ripped off the storyline of this one and Disneyfied it into The Lion King, the second highest grossing animated movie ever produced. Kimba was co-funded by NBC due to the success of Astro Boy in America.
Osamu Tezuka Productions eventually went bankrupt, but along the way they made several animated features, including the adult oriented 1001 Arabian Nights (which kept the original erotic edge of the fables). After Tezuka Productions faded, Osamu Tezuka continued to do manga and theatrical productions, including his most critically acclaimed work Adolf. He died in 1988.
Animation and comics in America were at a low point during the 70s, other than Mad Magazine the popular comics were all superhero garbage, aimed solely at kids, and collectors. Underground comics were around, including Heavy Metal and Fritz The Cat which were both eventually made into movies, but those were a rare few. Also most underground comics (like many segments in Heavy Metal) were produced just for shock value. Fritz the Cat was the first alternative animated film in the United States, it was successful enough to spawn a sequel The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat, but these were rare instances in the animation market, which was still solidly dominated by Disney.
In Japan, on the other hand, manga and anime continued to grow to new heights. Manga is usually about 10 years ahead of anime, so it wasn't until the 1970s that the anime market began to really diversify. A TV adaptation of a very popular manga, not aimed at children, spawned this diversification. This manga was Lupin III and it was written by a manga-ka who called himself Monkey Punch. The TV series was wildly successful. Part of the reason for the success was the talent that was hired behind the original TV series, Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, wrote/directed most of the episodes of the first series, and were guest directors in a few episodes of the later series. Eventually Hayao Miyazaki was picked to direct/write/character design (and probably act as an animation director, something that he has done on most of his films) the second Lupin movie The Castle of Cagliostro. Although unsuccessful in its 1980 release, (mainly because it was seen as kind of childish, for the first wildly successful adult-oriented TV series) it is now considered a classic among anime fans, and set the stage for the rest of the Lupin movies (which are now generally considered family fare).
End of Part One
You have read part one of my large article, in part two I will discuss such things as the rise of the Giant Robot, and The Golden Age of Anime. I will also write about how there might be some hope for animation and comics in America. It is already posted and can be found under the same name only with "part 2" in parentheses.
I didn't write this Bibliography formally because I hate doing so, so please don't leave comments about its format
www.nausicaa.net, Various articles, mostly dealing with Miyazaki or Takahata
Animerica Vol 4 no 2, 4 and 6. A History of Manga.
http://gwu.edu/~koulikom/history.html A Brief History of Anime
http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~animage/asindex.html A History of Anime parts 1-5.
Reinventing Comics Scott McClould. 2000
Completely MAD: A History of the Comic Book and Magazine Maria Reidelbach. 1991
And also many other places, articles on www.animenewsnetwork.com and many other minor websites and articles that I have read over the last few years.
Please tell me of any errors and they will be fixed
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