The History of Manga and Anime

This is part of a series that aims to educate anime fans about the history of the medium.

Japan: The literal translation of Manga is “whimsical pictures” and referred to a range of picture books, sketchbooks, comics and drawings from the 18th century onwards. Manga as we know it today originated from post WWII Japan (1945 onwards) when American culture permeated throughout Japan due to the U.S. occupation of Japan. Modern manga is influenced by both traditional Japanese culture and art as well as American cultural influences. Manga artist Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989), widely known as the father of manga and anime, created the manga series Astro Boy (Tesuwan Atomu, lit. “Mighty Atom”) which was first published in 1952 and the anime first broadcast in 1963. The other great influence on manga was Machiko Hasegawa who was responsible for Sazae-san which was a comic strip that ran from 1946 to 1974 in the Asahi Shimbun. The anime series of Sazae-san began in 1969 and continues today making it the longest running television series ever.

The origin of the Japanese word Anime came from the abbreviation of the English word animation. This term became widely used from the 1970s onwards but the Japanese had experimented with animation since 1917. It was only until the 1960s and 1970s that anime became popular and became distinct from the western influence of animation. Astro Boy was the first 25 minute per episode anime series, while Three Tales was the first ever Japanese anime broadcast in 1960. Some other early anime series were Tetsujin 28 (1963), Mazinger Z (1972), Space Battleship Yamato (1974) and Mobile Suit Gundam (1979). Hayao Miyazaki, the most widely known anime film maker, started his directorial career with the anime series Lupin III (1971-1972) and it’s film The Castle of Cagliostro in 1979.

Rest of the world: Manga refers to comics originating from Japan and Anime refers to Japanese animation. In the U.S. one of the first commercially translated manga was Keiji Nakamura’s Barefoot Gen in 1980 (fan translations pre-date this by a couple of years). Other early translated works included Lone Wolf and Cub, Akira, Golgo 13, Ranma 1/2, and Nausicaa.

Anime entered the worldwide markets in the 1960s and it’s popularity was a major reason that contributed to the introduction of manga to the world. Astro Boy was also the first anime series broadcast outside of Japan in 1963 where NBC adapted 104 of the 193 episodes into English for syndication. Later on popularity of anime exploded with titles such as Robotech/Macross, Dragon Ball and more recently Sailor Moon, Pok√©mon,¬†Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop.

The next part in this series will be on the genesis of the manga/anime art style and go into more detail about the pioneers in the industry.