Before writing about this topic I would like to inform you about my experience as an anime fan(or rather known as otaku!) so you can expect this to be some what or even more biased.
During my childhood when other children watched Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, Pogo etc. we (me and my brother) watched some thing else too i.e. ANIMAX, a channel specifically required to broadcast Japanese animation or popularly known as Anime. Some of the earliest anime series we watched includes Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, Digimon, AstroBoy, Naruto, Card Captors Sakura, Yugi-Oh!, Ranma 1/2, Diagunder etc. Later, when I joined college, I resumed my anime streak finishing up several highly acclaimed ones like Death Note, Code Geass. Naruto Shippuden, Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, One Piece, Attack on Titans etc.
You might ask that what is it that makes an anime different form other cartoons, well! to begin with, anime is a form of story telling in which plots usually focuses on psychological, fantasy, post-apocalyptic, mythical origins frequently embedded with extensive usage of violence, crime, romance, magic, super-natural themes following complex plots and story lines. However anime has grown so much over several decades that it is nearly impossible to restrict anime to a set of genres.
Understanding anime is important as it gives a good insight on social impact as a soft power, it has over generations after the rise of internet. Anime as an art form dates back to 1950s but it was only during 80s and 90s it thrived on world stage owing much to the success in North America with advent of internet.
You still may be thinking that its not such a big deal, but if you are a fan of Hollywood movies, anime are a thing to watch for. Creators of hugely popular movie Matrix have openly admitted the influence of anime series Ghost in the Shell, other movies and anime that have remarkably similar plots includes Avatar & Princess Mononoke, Black Swan & Perfect Blue, The Lion King & Kimba The White Lion, Inception & Paprika, Pacific Rim & Mobile Suit Gundam/Evangelion and the Scarlett Johansson starer Lucy & Elfen Lied.
Unfortunately, still anime are considered to be source of entertainment of a cult, niche audience making the other audience a bit hesitant to accept them as a mainstream phenomena, this attitude is what that gives the liberty to director like Christopher Nolan and James Cameroon to get away so easily.
World War 2 and Aftermath
But anime was not always such a big industry, before the first world war Tokyo was flooded with small studios which produced small animated movies for children which increasingly became patriotic under the nationalistic agenda during the second world war under the emperor Hirohito’s reign, who supported the industry. After the WW-2, whose results we all are familiar with, Japan’s animation was stuck by a sudden wave of reform due to increasingly US influence on both social and political spheres of Japan.
In 1960s Astro Boy was released originally named Tetsuan Atom(Mighty Atom) by Hayao Miyazaki who has been nicknamed as Walt Disney of Japan, it broke all the records worldwide particularly in North America earning a cult fan following to anime. However the journey from a cult phenomena to a part of popular culture was not easy, in fact in 1970s anime saw a widespread resentment from social groups, parents and states claiming a ban as it allegedly promotes violence and crime. This began an era of bans, severe censorship and over Americanization of animes. What enabled anime industry to get out of these difficult times was huge fan base that developed overtime, and the demand for good quality and “Japanese” content was soaring.
Animes are unique and those who watch them are also to certain extent, you may find this statement stupid but just measure it against the fact that it were these fans who brought anime industry not only as an acceptable medium of entertainment but also a global one. In fact practice like Fan-subbing was essential for the distribution of high quality anime from Japan to anime fans in North America and parts of Europe. It increased the fan base providing off shore markets to the industry which saw a boom in following years of 1990s considered by many as golden age of animes.
Now that anime industry has grow to be a multi billion dollar giant it is nearly impossible for conventional audience and film-makers to ignore it, hence we can easily expect wide range of anime influences in the coming movies, internet and economy as a whole. But let me tell you this thing that anime industry is much volatile as compared to other entertainment channels largely due to its dynamic and cult fan base which can be a problem as they want a premium product from animation houses every time and we all know how difficult it is to get a good story line let alone doing it consistently and repetitively. As a matter of fact, over the past few years anime industry has actually suffered a dip in gross revenue generation causing a few worry lines on the forehead of anime fans.
Anime industry has raised from some serious lows and resisted fatal blows while becoming truly a global one, and a much bigger reason for its survival is its loyal, cult and exceptional fan base which now runs across the globe be it Japan, Europe, USA, China and now slowly but steadily in India as well. In fact, I was absolutely delighted by the news that we are having a anime meetup by the name of Anime Con India in IIT Guwahati. Here is a snap from the meet.
The point being we tend to imitate what we like and desirable to us be it an actor or an anime character. These are the elements of pop-culture which continue to shape our generation and at the same time getting reshaped by our likes and dislikes, no matter how small there impact is. But if we can not understand these minute details how can we expect us to understand our society fully in which we live in.