Anime: Japan’s Unique Animation Art Form

Compiled by: Zen Lynch

Cityscape of Shinbashi area viewing street

While anime in the western world has been seen as a small part of entertainment, in Japan it has a massive amount of followers which is now breaching western entertainment. Some directors and artists have broken through like Japan’s legendary animator, Hayao Miyazaki. For awhile now, his fanbase here in the US has been steadily growing. His animated films, along with others from studio Ghibli, have become staples of many American kids childhoods. Slowly but surely I, myself, am making my way through his entire body of work. My love for his films stems from when my mom, dad, and I first watched his 2001 film “Spirited Away”.  For me, his films have a nostalgic element to them and factored into my decision to minor in Japanese studies in college. Being able to appreciate pieces of work in their native language is something particularly special.

Animated films and anime in general has a wide following though. There are entire streets dedicated to anime and manga where fans from around the world can experience their favorite shows up close and personal. Groups of fans can even be seen reading manga, comics or graphic novels originating in Japan, in a community setting. Anime and manga have made an immense impact in connecting people from around the world. According to The Wall Street Journal, Japanese was the fastest growing language in the US and the UK. Anime has such a profound impact on todays youth that new Japanese learners consist of 13-17 year old’s.

Due to the amount of copy written material I talk about in this article, I cannot provide a lot of images. However, I’ve included links in the article so please do check out the linked material!

Museums

Suginami Animation Museum

With rotating exhibits and a cinema floor, this museum allows you to learn about the history of animation and how it developed. The museum includes a library of anime films that’s open to the public. There are vintage TV clips, interactive displays and human-sized figurines (characters like Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion). Through visiting you will also have the chance to do a voice-over and learn how to draw animations.

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Toei Animation Museum

Toei Animation Studio was an early home to famous animators like Rintaro, Yasuo Otsuka and Hayao Miyazaki! The museum has interactive exhibits and an expansive garden where different anime characters can be seen hidden throughout the grounds. Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon and One Piece are all examples of Toei Animation’s work.

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TeamLab Digital Art Museum

Japan’s art collective, teamLab is behind the world’s first digital art museum. The museum is split into five zones and the art is meant to dissolve the boundary between artwork and visitor through an interactive experience. The digital artwork is powered by 530 computers and 470 projectors that cause the works to transform physical space through graphics, color, and light. The various zones include Borderless World, Athletics Forest, Future Park, Forest of Lamps, and EN Tea House. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the art.

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Anime Around Japan

Tokyo akihabara night

Akihabara District of Tokyo

The renaissance of Akiba, as it is affectionately known, has taken place thanks to a steady stream of new developments and infrastructure improvements. In 2005, the Tsukuba Express train line opened a station in Akihabara, linking the electronics town to Tsukuba, the scientific research hub of Japan located in Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo. However, the main attraction for most visitors is the gleaming, massive Yodobashi Camera Multimedia Akiba, which is  the country’s largest electronics store. Spread out over 23,000 sq. meters (about 247,000 sq. feet), the shop has a dizzying array of products throughout nine floors. One could easily spend an entire day browsing, assuming the blinking lights and the store’s theme song, which loops endlessly (in tune to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”) does not cause sensory overload. The influence of Japanese pop culture has spread throughout Akihabara, with most electronics shops now offering manga, figurines, and game software. On weekends, the main street is closed to traffic, and people of all ages gleefully roam the streets in costumes mimicking characters from their favorite manga, otherwise known as “cosplay” (costume play) in Japan.

woman anime cosplayer with purple japan hair

Anime Japan Expo

Held annually in March, this event attracts over 100,000 people every year. Companies like Toei animation, mention earlier, and others like it showcase what’s new to come. With a seemingly endless array of event-exclusive merchandise, mascots of fan favorite characters and life sized statues/posters this event is an anime lovers dream.

Blade runner Style Shinjuku Crossing at night

Nakano Broadway

Visit Nakano Broadway, which has many old school anime and idol shops for fans. Similar to Akihabara, Nakano Broadway has plenty of merchandise and items to geek out over. The difference between the two being that Nakano Broadway is in fact a mall with all these items condensed. Instead of one singular shop with anime items, Nakano Broadway is a series of shops. Thousands of people buy manga, collectables and anime here every week.

Personal Anime Recommendations

Personally, I prefer romance or supernatural anime so my opinion is a little biased here. However, I think that a lot of these can be enjoyed by anyone, any age. I even think that some of these could be watched as a family!

Attack on Titan

A dark fantasy anime that started as manga, Attack on Titan is one of the most widely known shows by both anime watchers and non-watchers. Known for it’s colossal enemies, unconventional soldiers and battle sequences, Attack on Titan is a great place to start if you’re a new anime watcher. If you have young children, you might wanna skip this one considering there is quite a bit of gore involved. This was my first anime watch and I still enjoy watching it. With its fourth and final season coming out, viewers like me are eagerly awaiting the next part.

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Ouran High School Host Club

Ouran High School Host Club is on the complete opposite of the spectrum from Attack on Titan. This anime is a dramatic comedy about a group of rich boys, and one non-rich ambiguous girl, who spend their time wooing rich girls at their school. Personally, I love this anime because the characters are so funny. I like how serious the characters are about something that is frivolous and unimportant in the grand scheme of life. It’s a show that you can watch again and again and never be bored of it.

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Kamisama Kiss

Kamisama Kiss focuses on a young girl who is homeless thanks to her fathers debt. She’s given the supernatural title of “land god” of a shrine and more supernatural events steadily follow. In Japanese Kami means god and -sama is a respectful title that raises the individual to a higher rank than oneself. The title then translates to God’s kiss. This follows the plot since the pervious land god gave her the title by kissing her on the forehead. The supernatural and spirits/entities called Yokai or Ayakashi interest me so this romantic and action filled anime heavily appealed to me.

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Kakuriyo – Bed & Breakfast for Spirits

A young woman, Aoi, is faced with the dilemma of either marrying an oni, or ogre, to pay off her grandfathers debt or work it off until it’s paid. This anime is centered around food and it’s effect on those around you. Kakuriyo is a one of my favorite anime’s that I think deserved better. It only received one season and I wish there would be another one. Even though it’s a somewhat shorter anime, I still think it’s worth a watch. The food she cooks made me so hungry in bed and the world that the writers and animators built is truly beautiful.

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How to Keep a Mummy

How to Keep a Mummy is a truly pure anime. Sora finds that his dad sent him another supernatural package, which he thinks will be something sinister, but it turns out to be the cutest, tiniest mummy. The mummy never speaks but instead communicates through animated emotions. I would completely recommend this anime to anyone of any age. It’s a fun, light hearted anime through and through.

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From me to you,

happy binge watching!