By Eric Tran
There was a time when anime was a very niche thing. Like comic books, anime was seen as a very nerdy thing to be into, and people viewed it as these weird Japanese cartoons for kids. However, it now seems as if many are embracing nerd culture. The popularity of anime has gone up, and it can be found almost everywhere from TV broadcasting, to theatres, and streaming services.
TV broadcasting was a spark that helped bring the popularity of anime to the west. In the late 90s, Cartoon Network aired Toonami; an action-packed block of shows consisting of cartoons and anime. Shows like Sailor Moon, Mobile Suit Gundam, and Dragon Ball Z gained colossal popularity from western audiences. Toonami would air a lot of “shonen,” shows that appealed to young boys and “shojo,” shows for young girls.
Denzel Weatherspoon, a senior game designer, had actually been introduced to anime by watching shows on Toonami. “I would generally watch cartoon network as a kid, and Toonami would air anime shows alongside cartoons after 6 p.m. The first anime show I was dedicated to was Dragonball Z, and the experience was good enough to make me rewatch the show multiple times,” he said.
More child-friendly networks like 4Kids TV and Kids’ WB would air shows such as Yu-Gi-Oh, Digimon: Digital Monsters, and pop culture sensation, Pokemon. For more adult rated content intended for mature audiences, the Syfy channel aired anime such as Fist of the North Star, Ninja Scroll, and Akira. These shows and films were “seinen,” shows aimed toward young adult males. Seinen anime were more gory, violent, sexual, and dealt with complex themes.
The localization of anime on TV broadcasting showed western audiences that Japanese anime could be a diverse medium that can target a multitude of different demographics.
Anime has had immense success on the big screen as well. Some of the most highly acclaimed anime to hit theatres were the Studio Ghibli films. Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away became the first anime film to win an Oscar. Ghibli films are known for their beautifully animated visuals, imaginative worlds, and memorable characters and stories. Pokemon movies, Dragon Ball Movies, and more recently Your Name. and My Hero Academia: Two Heroes, have done amazingly well in the box office.
Even Hollywood has noticed the popularity of anime and has adapted some famous works into live action films. A recent Hollywood anime film that was modified for theatres was 2017s Ghost in the Shell. Though it wasn’t well received and was surrounded in controversy because of Hollywood’s trend of whitewashing.
Before the age of the internet, the only way to watch anime was if it was airing on some TV broadcast or if a niche comic shop was selling VHS tapes and DVDs. Now in the 21st century, there are a multitude of streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, Crunchyroll, Funimation, and VRV.
These services have a wide variety of shows to pick from, and some are simulcast, which means fans can watch their favorite programs a few hours after being aired in Japan. The internet has become a huge factor in how anime has become mainstream. In a Ellation article, Crunchyroll alone has been stated to have “crossed two million subscribers and 45 million registered users”. Streaming services are able to give a diverse number of people from around the globe access to anime.
Netflix also isn’t just acquiring licenses to broadcast anime, but have now partnered up with anime studios to create their own original series. They have also been making live action anime films as well.
Weatherspoon expected anime to become more mainstream in America sooner rather than later. “The shows are very entertaining, and I’m glad that more people are getting into it world wide. All the attention has brought in more dubbed audio for great shows, conventions, art forms, and video games as well.”
The anime industry has grown significantly over the past few years and will continue to grow. Anime fans have a lot to look forward to in the future with new titles coming out and other projects in development.