How much did Japan's defeat in World War II influence anime?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
15,749
SoCal
#1
As we all know, Japan has a thriving and extremely popular animation industry. Indeed, Japanese anime is extremely popular in many parts of the world right now.

However, what I am curious is this--how much did Japan's defeat in World War II influence the development of anime? In other words, would Japan's anime have still developed in the same way and still become extremely popular worldwide had Japan not lost to the U.S. in World War II (and not picked a fight with the U.S. in the first place)? (An easy way to achieve this might be to have France avoid falling in 1940 and thus cause Japan to avoid attacking French Indochina and thus triggering a U.S. oil embargo on Japan.)

Any thoughts on this? Indeed, did Japan's World War II experience and defeat along with the U.S.'s post-World War II reconstruction of Japan significantly affect the development of anime and anime's eventual global popularity?
 
Mar 2011
5,047
Brazil
#2
First, Japan's visual culture is not centered on anime in fact it's centered on manga (Japanese comic books). What westerners call anime are just TV shows adapted from manga that are animated and drawn in the same style as the manga. Often people think anime is huge in Japan but actually it is a marginal by-product of it's manga industry, which is enormous (sales of manga in Japan during the 90's peak were 15 times larger than sales of novels measured by number of volumes sold and also 13 times the number of movie tickets sold). Yes, anime is the world's biggest animation industry but manga is still about 10 times bigger than anime.

I think that the main influence of WW2 on manga came with American influences through post-war occupation. Western influence on Japanese popular culture was present since the 19th century, in fact Manga began to develop in the late 19th century and before WW2 was already a large industry. Although it's explosive development came from 1950 to 1970, with animation developing a few years later as many manga were adapted into animation (for example, Miyazaki's animation director career in the 70's began when he worked on an adaptation of a manga from the 1960's: Lupin the 3rd).

However, the American occupation changed Japan's constitution into a liberal democracy which allowed freedom of expression and economic prosperity that allowed Japan's visual culture to blossom to a degree that wouldn't be possible before. Also, comics were in it's golden age in the US in the late 1940's and early 1950's so American soldiers stationed in Japan often read American comic books, this inspired more Japanese to think of comics as being a medium for adults besides children. So it probably helped to developed the adult manga industry which began to blossom in the late 1950's with the Gekiga comics, which had a quite more "realistic" style than typical manga.

Adult Japanese comics from the 60s looked like this:


Compare to a children's comics from the 1950's:


By the way, there is no real evidence that American visual culture had any particular influence on the styles used in manga/anime. Of course, Western culture had tremendous influence since comics (sequential art) were imported from the West but Japanese comics from the 1950's didn't look particularly American as opposed to Belgian/French, for instance.

Some Japanese comics and drawings from the 1930's already look way closer to modern manga than anything American:

Art from the 30's featuring large eyes:




Manga from the 30's:


The idea that there was American influence on anime comes from Tezuka who claimed that his art was inspired by Disney but Tezuka was influenced by many people besides Disney which included many other Japanese artists working at the same time as he was. His style doesn't look closer to Disney's movies than other manga artists of the 1950's and 1960's.

Manga in the 1950's looks kinda continuous in terms of evolution from earlier manga:

Although Tezuka's style started to have a bigger impact.

Now, the reason why Japan developed such huge comic book culture while Western culture has no comparable equivalent is a more interesting question in my opinion. According to a Japanese scholar on otaku culture Japan developed this distinguished visual culture because it doesn't follow Greco-Roman aesthetic principles, which put emphasis on physical realism. If you look at American comics from the 1950's they look quite more realistic than manga from the 1950's, even gegika manga are more stylized than US comics tend to be.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
15,749
SoCal
#3
Excellent post, Guaporense! :)

First, Japan's visual culture is not centered on anime in fact it's centered on manga (Japanese comic books). What westerners call anime are just TV shows adapted from manga that are animated and drawn in the same style as the manga. Often people think anime is huge in Japan but actually it is a marginal by-product of it's manga industry, which is enormous (sales of manga in Japan during the 90's peak were 15 times larger than sales of novels measured by number of volumes sold and also 13 times the number of movie tickets sold).
That's very true and an important distinction which I forgot to mention here.

I think that the main influence of WW2 on manga came with American influences through post-war occupation. Western influence on Japanese popular culture was present since the 19th century, in fact Manga began to develop in the late 19th century and before WW2 was already a large industry. Although it's explosive development came from 1950 to 1970, with animation developing a few years later as many manga were adapted into animation (for example, Miyazaki's animation director career in the 70's began when he worked on an adaptation of a manga from the 1960's: Lupin the 3rd).

However, the American occupation changed Japan's constitution into a liberal democracy which allowed freedom of expression and economic prosperity that allowed Japan's visual culture to blossom to a degree that wouldn't be possible before. Also, comics were in it's golden age in the US in the late 1940's and early 1950's so American soldiers stationed in Japan often read American comic books, this inspired more Japanese to think of comics as being a medium for adults besides children. So it probably helped to developed the adult manga industry which began to blossom in the late 1950's with the Gekiga comics, which had a quite more "realistic" style than typical manga.
Why exactly was manga originally primarily designed for children?

Adult Japanese comics from the 60s looked like this:


Compare to a children's comics from the 1950's:


Is the cowboy in the 1950s kids' comic book the result of the spread of American culture to Japan after the end of World War II?

By the way, there is no real evidence that American visual culture had any particular influence on the styles used in manga/anime. Of course, Western culture had tremendous influence since comics (sequential art) were imported from the West but Japanese comics from the 1950's didn't look particularly American as opposed to Belgian/French, for instance.
OK; understood.

However, I was thinking of whether U.S. culture affected the themes of anime in Japan. Indeed, do you have any thoughts on this?

Some Japanese comics and drawings from the 1930's already look way closer to modern manga than anything American:

Art from the 30's featuring large eyes:




Manga from the 30's:
How different were the themes in Japanese comics back then in comparison to Japanese manga right now, though?

The idea that there was American influence on anime comes from Tezuka who claimed that his art was inspired by Disney but Tezuka was influenced by many people besides Disney which included many other Japanese artists working at the same time as he was. His style doesn't look closer to Disney's movies than other manga artists of the 1950's and 1960's.

Manga in the 1950's looks kinda continuous in terms of evolution from earlier manga:

Although Tezuka's style started to have a bigger impact.
Is Tezuka the most important Japanese manga artist ever?

Now, the reason why Japan developed such huge comic book culture while Western culture has no comparable equivalent is a more interesting question in my opinion.
What exactly do you think is the reason for this?
 
Mar 2011
5,047
Brazil
#4
Excellent post, Guaporense! :)
Thanks. I haven't posted much on historum the last couple of years because I was too busy reading manga. :persevere:

Why exactly was manga originally primarily designed for children?
Because comics were originally primarily made for children over the whole world. So Japan followed the global trends.

Is the cowboy in the 1950s kids' comic book the result of the spread of American culture to Japan after the end of World War II?
Japanese people were watching American westerners before WW2. Akira Kurosawa was heavily influenced by American westerners he watched before he started directing (which was before WW2). Kurosawa's samurai movies are basically Westerners set in Japan.

In fact, Japanese directors were making American style gangster movies in the 1930's, as Ozu even made a gangster movie before WW2.

However, I was thinking of whether U.S. culture affected the themes of anime in Japan. Indeed, do you have any thoughts on this?
Certainly. Cowboy Bebop is super American influenced for instance, it's writing is directly inspired on many American shows from the 70's.

But American influence on Japanese visual culture is similar in scale to American influence on let's say, Korean visual culture or Indian. The degree in which American fiction influences the themes in manga/anime is as great as the degree it influences Bollywood movies and I think has been decreasing. In recent years most anime has pretty much near zero American influence.

How different were the themes in Japanese comics back then in comparison to Japanese manga right now, though?
I don't know because I haven't read pre-war Japanese comics. I have watched some anime shorts from before 1945 and they were very simple.

The more complex and sophisticated manga began in the late 50's with gekiga. Today the themes and topics in manga are a general reflection of it as a medium for fiction.

Yoshihiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life is a autobiographical manga about the artist who invented the term gekiga. He narrates there the first 15 years of his career as a manga artist in the late 1940's and 1950's.

So today manga has developed into a full medium like literature or film.

So there is pretty much any genre of fiction in existence in manga although it's true that the highschool setting tends to be tremendously popular. The reason for the popularity of highschool as a setting in manga is due to the Japanese workaholic culture: after finishing school people are supposed to "work, work, work" so they have less free time and tend to idealize their school years which makes the school setting very popular even among adults.

Is Tezuka the most important Japanese manga artist ever?
Certainly. He has developed manga as an art-form more than anybody else.

His main contribution was the development of the sense of the passage of time in manga. Manga is distinguished from other comics mainly by it's dynamic visual style which Tezuka invented in a manga he wrote in 1947.

What exactly do you think is the reason for this?
Western visual culture is based on Greco-Roman aesthetics which puts emphasis on realism.

So American comics from the 50's tend to be more realistic in style. Like these ones:





But, why make realistic comics instead of film? Manga became popular because it abandoned realism in favor of dynamism in the representation of emotions.

So they were making very stylized titles in the 1960's but that were very powerful like Ashita no Joe:



Western comics failed to become similarly popular because they didn't.

And I think that Japan was the first "manga country" because it was the first industrialized country outside of the Western cultural sphere so it was the first middle class society that didn't follow Greco-Roman aesthetic principles.

China is now becoming a industrialized country and so they are also developing it's own "manga-anime" visual culture by the way: 9 Chinese Manga That Are Ready To Beat Their Japanese Competition, although their styles are still very derivative from Japanese comics their culture already shows more acceptance of graphic stylization than Western culture does.
 
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Feb 2011
6,233
#6
China is now becoming a industrialized country and so they are also developing it's own "manga-anime" visual culture by the way: 9 Chinese Manga That Are Ready To Beat Their Japanese Competition, although their styles are still very derivative from Japanese comics their culture already shows more acceptance of graphic stylization than Western culture does.
I'm translating one right now: http://historum.com/asian-history/134151-stabilizing-western-desolation-translated.html