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The Pervading Influence of Japanese Culture

Compared to most other countries, Japanese culture is constantly evolving with every generation. It’s not to suggest that nations such as the USA and the UK aren’t a part of a culture – it’s that the unique way in which Japanese art and culture from early in time like the Middle Ages and before has evolved into iconic apps like the popular manga and anime we know to this day.

Many other countries don’t have the ability to claim that their cultural offerings are grounded in as much tradition and history. So, we could start to notice that anime – with its distinctive style – is spreading into Western culture. Just how much does Japanese anime and sci-fi influence the western media and entertainment?

The humble beginnings of Anime: did Anime Begin?

Sources don’t agree on the date at which anime was developed. Some believe that the first anime was created between 1916 and 1917 by Shimokawa Oken, but because of the numerous records and reels were destroyed, the majority indicate that a 1917 release featuring 20 short films was the year it began.

Kenzo Masaoka made the first anime film with sound in 1933, while 1958 saw the release of the first feature film based on anime, Hakujaden. After three years, it premiered in America and the west’s obsession with Japanese sci-fi culture was born.

Japanese Sci-Fi Its adolescent version is being re-introduced by the West

One of the most popular elements of Japanese culture that is seen in western film and TV is the monster trope called kaiju. Early sci-fi featured creatures that appeared out of thin air to cause chaos (usually on Tokyo).

1954’s Godzilla was the catalyst for the films, which have changed shape throughout the years, but remain well-known today. Indeed, there is even an entire array of studies specifically on the influence of Godzilla and Kaiju. The other examples of kaiju movies include the 31 sequels in the Japanese Godzilla series Pacific Rim (2013), Dwayne Johnson’s 2018 film Rampage along with The Cloververse film series including the cinematic surprise of the series’ opening Cloverfield (2008) 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) in addition to The Cloverfield Paradox (2018).

The Pervasive Influence of Japanese Culture

Japanese culture doesn’t just influence TV and films. There are other entertainment fields where anime can be used as an source of inspiration. For instance, the Devil May Cry games were heavily inspired by anime, from the design of its characters through to the development of its story. Additionally, it is a hit on Netflix animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender was so heavily influenced by anime that many are surprised to discover it was developed in America.

The trend has been a catalyst to create a new category of anime that is produced in other countries than Japan. The Japanese sci-fi and anime themes doesn’t only affect movies and television but can be found in a range of products, as an example of the Fortune Girl slot on some casino sites, by way of example. The online slot honors the style of anime and is appealing to players who are interested by using icons and designs reminiscent of classic anime and Japanese sci-fi to create its gameplay.

What is the impact of Anime Influence Western Storytelling?

The story telling genre has also drawn inspiration from anime and traditional Japanese tales. The genre of anime – that includes long-running series like Naruto, Pokemon, and Dragon Ball Z – has distinct methods of telling stories. The arcs are often dominated by the ‘big bad’ (or the antagonist of the day, whereas the protagonists have their own journey to make. However, as many apathetic anime fans can attest that there are many filler episodes. These episodes slow down huge plots and allow the anime to keep pace with the content (often manga comics).

One of the best instances that this is happening in the west is the response to The Walking Dead from AMC is varying to reflect whether it is reflecting the comic books or not. The old-fashioned TV’s Sweeps Week meant that many dramas delayed major events with unnecessary side stories to allow the big set pieces or dramatic denouements which would attract more viewers. Netflix – and the shorter sequence of episodes it proliferates – combats this and eliminates the need for filler episodes.

The 1998 Japanese animated science fiction film Akira is often praised as one of Japan’s finest cinematic exports, along with Studio Ghibli’s 2011 film Spirited Away. It’s a fact that George Lucas turned down an invitation to screen the previous film to Western audiences in 1987 as he believed they would not be interested. The film, when it was eventually able to find its target audience, changed people to Japanese science-fiction and anime and also became a standard for which other media wanting to reflect the vibe would use. Indeed, Kanye West’s music video for Stronger is heavily influenced by Akira – according to its director.

Japanese storytelling is a reflection of the culture and traditions handed down to us, which are now reconstructed into one of the most immediately recognized media trends worldwide. The ideas behind Japanese sci-fi and anime are universal and can be applied to TV, film gaming, and entertainment in the west. As culture is beginning to cross the borders of a country, we should anticipate more anime-influenced content across western media.