Japanese anime culture has gained such wide acceptance in many countries during the past decade, cutting through cultural and communication barriers. Such a trend can be attributed to the characteristics inherent in what constitutes and builds up this culture, or any culture for that matter. These are the communication (language and symbols), cognitive (ideas, knowledge and beliefs, values and accounts), behavioral (mores, laws, folkways, and rituals), and material (physical objects created by humans for use and/or artistic purposes) components of culture.
Animation is the cornerstone
Despite the language barrier, Japanese animators seem to have successfully utilized symbols in the form of anime characters as means of communicating their message to their target audience. These include both animate and inanimate objects that anyone know and/or can identify with. Though Japanese animation is now generally used for entertainment, it was first used in the 12th century when Niaoyu, a Japanese monk, personified animals as ironies to address political corruption. This signaled the start of manga, which were basically satires of the current affairs at that time.
The evolution of a medium
Manga later evolved as a propaganda material after World War II. Today, it is commonly known and appreciated as a material for entertainment. Throughout the years of its existence, manga has become, for the Japanese, a medium for communicating real-life experiences, sharing emotions, and educating the people on their country’s rich cultural heritage. The uniqueness in this Japanese art is what distinguishes it from those of other countries’ whose works fall under the same category. This now forms the cornerstone of Japanese anime culture that has reached numerous countries abroad.
Touching minds, touching hearts, touching lives
What made Japanese anime culture widely accepted is how the stories were written, which were influenced by Japan’s rich cultural heritage. Unlike Western cartoons, anime incorporates a wide-range of genres that includes, but is not limited to action, drama, romance, and comedy. It also deals with various topics from teen suicides, school rivalries, street fights, and others. Unpredictable and flexible story lines of manga, which are similar to real-life events, bring excitement to fans abroad who become “addicted” to them. This is because manga stories touch not only the readers’ minds but their hearts as well. Japanese manga and anime have also influenced other countries in the area of fashion and clothing. These influences have allowed other nations to learn more of the Japanese.
Though the first commercial Japanese animation goes way back to 1917, the characteristic anime art style only emerged in 1960, started by Osamu Tezuka, the “Godfather of Anime.” Through the years the art has grown. In recent years, the Association of Japanese Animations have reported that 60 member anime production companies now provide products in 112 countries, reaching some 87.2% of the world’s population. And in light of the rapid pace of technological innovation, this statistic simply becomes but a minute indicator of the inevitable proliferation of wide-spread acceptance and appreciation of this art – the cornerstone of Japanese anime culture – a window to Japan’s rich cultural heritage.