There is a good reason why anime has become quite popular today as there are a lot of different high-quality animated shows produced by Japan. In that regard, anime has invaded all of the other nations because of how popular it is and how different people from all over the world love watching different types of anime series. But the thing is that, while anime has a huge influence on the world today, it was originally influenced by American culture. And the influence of America on anime is what we are here to look at.
Where Did Anime Come From?
While we often look at Astro Boy as the first anime series in the history of anime, that really isn’t the case as far as the early roots of anime are concerned. In fact, anime has been around for a long time in Japan, even though it wasn’t really called anime before that. And the early beginnings of Japanese “animation” began in the late 1910s when Shimokawa Oten released an animated film made with chalk.
Meanwhile, in the 1930s and 40s, Japan eventually improved its technology, especially with the fact that the country was becoming more westernized. Kenzo Masaoka released Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka in 1933 as this was the first animated Japanese movie with synced voices. He eventually released Chagama Ondo, which was the first anime that was made entirely of celluloid.
In that regard, animating with celluloid became quite popular in Japan, especially with the fact that the traditional form of technology in animated films and television shows was introduced by the western world. During the 1930s, more and more animated movies were coming out of the US, as Japan was steadily embracing the different western movies and the technology that came with them.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that the first animated television shows were released. In fact, before the 60s, people had to go to theaters to watch anime. Of course, it was after the Second World War that Japan steadily embraced western technology and began inventing their own televisions as well. The rise of the TV in Japan opened the gateway for Astro Boy, which is regarded as the first animated television show in the history of anime.
Since then, anime television shows steadily evolved into what they are today as more and more studios adopted western technology and innovated them to fit the style that made anime so popular in Japan. And that was when more and more anime TV shows that were inspired by their western counterparts became more popular in Japan and all over the world.
How America Influenced Anime
The rise of anime in Japan and all over the world led to huge development in the way the writers and animators created their masterpieces. That’s because globalization meant that it was best for them to make sure that their creations were also able to attract the attention of global audiences, particularly those from the west, as America is still the largest market in the world. So, because of the fact that anime needed to be as international as possible, there were subtle American influences in anime.
You can find subtle American influences in the way different anime shows include food in the daily lives of their characters. For example, in the popular anime Hana Yori Dango, western food like ice cream and hamburgers were quite common throughout the entire series as there was a need to make the anime enticing to western audiences as well while also exposing domestic viewers to American food culture, which is often centered on fast food.
Even in the anime, The Devil Works As a Part-Timer, the series revolves around the Devil himself working part-time in a fast-food restaurant. We also see in Weathering With You that the lead female character also works for a fast-food restaurant instead of the usual traditional Japanese restaurant.
The appearances of anime characters themselves already give us a hint in relation to how American culture has affected anime. As early as Astro Boy himself, we already know for a fact that the characters in this 1960s anime don’t really look like your prototypical Japanese person.
Male characters in anime are often portrayed to be tall and muscular, even though most Japanese men aren’t even taller than 5’7”. In fact, shojo anime often portray their characters to be large and muscular men, similar to how the characters of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure are tall, muscular, and commanding men that don’t resemble Japanese men. Their looks, of course, were influenced by the common American male appearance as most Americans are taller and more muscular than their Japanese counterparts.
Women in anime are also portrayed differently. Teenage high school women are already given mature features that allow them to look like their western counterparts in the sense that they look like adult women that have generously proportioned breasts and buttocks, even though most Japanese women aren’t as voluptuous as American women are.
Of course, the fact that the characters all have large eyes tends to be the biggest western influence on anime character design. Allowing the characters to have large eyes makes them more appealing to non-Japanese audiences, as even the Japanese audiences themselves have gotten used to the fact that anime characters are given large eyes that resemble the ones that Americans have.
Despite the fact that people with African heritage are quite rare in Japan, more and more anime characters are portrayed to be African precisely because of the fact that a huge market of anime viewers in America are black. In fact, the English dubbing of these characters is also handled by African-Americans. Meanwhile, their Japanese voice counterparts are given darker and more imposing voices due to a Japanese stereotype regarding Africans.
There is also the fact that there are a lot of themes that are western in nature in relation to the storyline of the anime and how the characters talk and converse with one another. While Nihongo is still the original audio in anime, more and more anime series are dubbed in English to appeal to American audiences
In terms of the themes covered by anime, we often see subtle hints of the blue and white (America) vs. the red (Russians) in anime series like Gundam. It is more often than not that the main characters in Gundam use blue and white colors while their antagonistic counterparts of ten use red.
The rich vs. poor theme has also been used quite extensively in anime, as the rich characters are often portrayed to have Caucasian American features and are often dressed in western fashion. On the other hand, the poor anime characters are given common Japanese features and are often dressed in the usual clothes that the Japanese wear.
Still, despite the fact that western culture has invaded anime, there is no doubt that anime is still a purely Japanese phenomenon that’s simply laced with American themes and subtle references to make the shows more marketable to western audiences. In fact, most of the themes covered by the narratives of different anime series tend to be quite Japanese in their nature, such as the focus on family and traditions. Nevertheless, American culture has still influenced anime due to the fact that western influences tend to be quite difficult to avoid in this globalized world we live in.