Anime or animated cartoons originating from Japan are normally dismissed as a niche genre of media. It wasn’t until 1963 when Astro Boy, the first half-hour anime series on Japanese TV, begin syndication in America.[1] However, nowadays large networks are bringing Japanese Anime across seas faster and faster to satisfy the consumption of the American people. Anime in itself, like any animation, is an art form and will constantly evolve to suit the needs of its followers.

Interestingly enough, Japanese anime was actually heavily influenced by the works of Walt Disney. “Anyone who compared the work of anime artist Osamu Tezuka and the work that came out of Walt Disney studios in the 1930s and 1940s could see the obvious similarities between Disney’s characters and Tezuka’s. Of course, Tezuka created all of his own characters and story lines, but he borrowed the bold lines, round heads and large, expressive eyes of Disney characters, making his own characters at once impossibly cute and extremely expressive.”[2] Even today a majority of anime characters are drawn contrarily to the actual population of Japan. Clearly, there were many western cultural influences that directly affected the creation of this media. Yet, anime in its own right has shaped the culture and media of the west as well.

“Experimental anime films were also released in the 1990s, most notably the cyberpunk thriller Ghost in the Shell (1995), which alongside Megazone 23 (1985), had a strong influence on The Matrix.”[3] The mixture and sharing of ideas allowed anime to become the bridge that connected the east and west in terms of capturing the essence of life in films and media. “Ghost in the Shell, alongside Evangelion and the neo-noir space western Cowboy Bebop, helped further entrench the awareness of anime in the international consciousness born out of the success of Akira.”[4] The world was becoming aware of other cultures and respective of their views on life. Famous western artists caught onto this trend and spent their time in Japan trying to understand life from a different perspective. In 1968, “Stan Lee goes to Japan and shakes hands with Osamu Tezuka and Go Nagai. Of course, he’s there to sell Marvel Comics in Japan, not to find foreign comics to translate into English. The fruits of Lee’s trip are things like Ryoichi Ikegami’s Spider-Man manga. Lee talked about how he was trying to learn Japanese in “Stan’s Soapbox” in the back of some Marvel Comics.”[5] This trading of ideas through anime leads to some significant realizations. Americans slowly lean towards the eastern mentalities of life while the Japanese start to embrace the relaxed and powerful nature of the west.[6]

Eventually, anime becomes worldwide, it is probably the most popular form of animated television and the whole world starts to tune in. Japan eventually undergoes a huge change in production as the popularity of anime leads to multiple studios forming all over the country.[7]

In the “Late 1990s: Japanese video games and direct-to-video anime continue to grow in popularity. The names of companies like U.S. Manga Corps and Manga Entertainment confuse thousands of anime fans who think that “manga” means “anime.”[8] This broadness of terms starts allowing anime to bleed into video games, comic books, even movies and tv shows. “Joe Madureira, X-Men artist in 1996, tells Wizard magazine: “If I can have my way, I want to have more special moves, flashier powers and cool effects…slowly but surely, we’ll transform X-Men into a cool manga book.” Manga Entertainment’s “Manga Man” appeared on VHS cases and T-shirts. Todd MacFarlane released a series of “Manga Spawn” action figures. Billy Tucci released Manga Shi.”[9] By 1996 Anime officially became the term for Japanese animation and its content base spread far beyond television. [10]

Fast forward to 2016, anime is everywhere, and its subtle references are well noted. In 2010 Christopher Nolan releases his movie Inception, a complicated mind-bending movie that receives great praise for being so captivating. Inception is the essence of America’s growth with Japan. The film is heavily reflective of a Japanese anime called Paprika. Paprika is art in its raw form, the film is a surrealist trip into the dreams of citizens around the world. “A live-action adaptation of Paprika, to be directed by Wolfgang Petersen, was in development in 2010.[11] However, since the release of Inception, the Christopher Nolan movie which came out that same year and had a similar premise”, this concept fell flat.[12]  “There are some extraordinary surrealist scenes in Paprika, but one gets the sense that surrealism here is not an underlying content or even form (as it might be, for instance, in David Lynch’s movies), but just another pop genre, alongside hard-boiled detective fiction, Godzilla-type horror, and all the rest.”[13] Paprika is an amalgamation of western influences in anime. There are so many references to popular American culture that it deserves a review for itself. “In one sequence, Paprika grows wings in order to escape from her pursuers — she turns into something like a Disney-movie fairy.”[14] In the end, Paprika influenced western cinematography and the movie Inception, and it drew its influences heavily from western cinematography and animation like Disney. Paprika is effectively the essence of the growth of anime. Anime will constantly remain an art form and the more we get into it, the more our two cultures can bridge the divide of distance while embracing a more intercultural and international conscience.


[1] “Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga – A Quick and Dirty History of Manga in the US.” Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga – A Quick and Dirty History of Manga in the US – Anime News Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2017. <http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/house-of-1000-manga/2013-03-21>.

[2] “The Movie Blog.” How Walt Disney Influenced Anime | The Movie Blog. N.p., 19 Aug. 2013. Web. 24 June 2017. <http://www.themovieblog.com/2013/08/how-walt-disney-influenced-anime/>.

[3] Joel Silver, interviewed in “Scrolls to Screen: A Brief History of Anime” featurette on The Animatrix DVD.

[4] Verboon, Nick (June 13, 2013). “90’s Flashback: Neon Genesis Evangelion”. Unreality Mag. Retrieved June 24, 2017.

[5] “Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga – A Quick and Dirty History of Manga in the US.” Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga – A Quick and Dirty History of Manga in the US – Anime News Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2017. <http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/house-of-1000-manga/2013-03-21>.

[6] “What’s Your Country’s Favorite Anime? Find Out on This Map.” What’s Your Country’s Favorite Anime? Find Out on This Map – Creators. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2017. <https://creators.vice.com/en_us/article/ez3q5n/anime-map-country-state-trigun-mononoke-bebop-dragon-ball-z>.

[7] Anime Industry Data | The Association of Japanese Animations. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2017. <http://aja.gr.jp/english/japan-anime-data>.

[8] “Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga – A Quick and Dirty History of Manga in the US.” Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga – A Quick and Dirty History of Manga in the US – Anime News Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2017. <http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/house-of-1000-manga/2013-03-21>.

[9] “Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga – A Quick and Dirty History of Manga in the US.” Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga – A Quick and Dirty History of Manga in the US – Anime News Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2017. <http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/house-of-1000-manga/2013-03-21>.

[10] Anime Industry Data | The Association of Japanese Animations. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2017. <http://aja.gr.jp/english/japan-anime-data>.

[11] “Wolfgang Peterson Talks About His Live-Action Adaptation of Paprika”. /Film.

[12] Andrew Osmond (2010-08-26). “Satoshi Kon obituary”. The Guardian.

[13] Paprika.” Paprika – The Pinocchio Theory. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2017. <http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=587>.

[14] Paprika.” Paprika – The Pinocchio Theory. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2017. <http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=587>.