It’s no secret that anime has become one of the most popular mediums in the world. From music to conventions and cosplay culture, anime has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals from all walks of life; and all nationalities regardless of their country. Everybody knows somebody who’s into anime, but how did something that was once laughed at by the adversaries of the people who embraced it, now a part of mainstream culture?
To figure this one out we’ll have to travel back 60 years into the past; when titles like Astro Boy and Speed Racer were one of the few titles to make their way into America. Back during this time those shows in particular gained popularity with American audiences; for many millennial anime fans (like myself), our parents may have been fans of those shows growing up. (Plus my mama loves Speed Racer!)
From the 1960’s to the 1980’s a lot of the anime titles that were imported from Japan ended up being heavily altered and localized (even to the point of changing the name of the titles themselves). So if you’re familiar with the show Robotech, it’s real name and title was actually Macross. We all know about Transformers and all of the series and spin-offs that came from its original, but the basis of the ‘Robots in Disguise’ came from two series called Diaclone and Microman. Here’s a lil’ fun fact; the first (and I mean FIRST) anime meetup group was called the Cartoon Fantasy Organization (C.F.O.) which was created in 1977 in Los Angeles, California. Yep, L.A. In fact the very first English-dubbed anime distribution company was Streamline Pictures; way before we had BangZoom, Viz Media, Aniplex, Funimation, and Sentai Filmworks.
Once the 90’s kicked in, the overall popularity of anime was at an all-time high. Being a 90’s kid myself you guys already know all of the heavy hitter titles; Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, Inuyasha, Gundam Wing, Evangalion, and Cowboy Bebop! The level of popularity began to give birth to a subculture of people who identify themselves as “Anime Fans”, and is still growing to this very day. America’s influence on anime has even translated into more recent cartoon titles from Cartoon Network; like Steven Universe or The Amazing World of Gumball.
Right now it looks like due to anime’s overwhelming popularity throughout 60% of broadcast anime throughout the world, American animation companies are adjusting their productions and animations styles as a ‘reverse-influence’ competitive strategy. If you’ve seen shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Boondocks, and the 2003 Teen Titans, you’ll notice what I’m talking about right away!
All-in-all; America’s influence on anime has opened the minds and the imaginations of the individuals who invest in the medium. It’s given us anime conventions, cosplay culture, anime hip-hop and nerdcore, and new ways to tell stories. Thanks to America’s influence anime has also become more diverse in its story telling; with some anime titles being produced, directed, and even dubbed by people of color. (D’ART Shtajio comes to mind.) The influence of anime can be seen in many other countries such as Brazil and The UK, so American anime fans are not the only ones connected to the medium.
For me personally; I think this is awesome! Having something that you can connect with as you go through life can really boost your overall morale and quality of life. Toonami’s done that with so many people, and there have been stories where anime has saved the lives of the ones who watched it. Although we’re not sure what the future will hold for this once-niche medium (that still is in some parts of the world), we already know that as long as there are anime fans and the demand is high, there will always be anime! 🙂