Thursday, March 10, 2011

Anime 101 - Part 6: Worldwide Popularity and Conclusion

Well, this is it; the final segment of Anime 101. In parts one and two, I gave a basic introduction to anime and tried to clear up some misconceptions. I covered manga in part three, and spent parts four and five on history. In this last section, I wrap things up with comments on anime’s popularity and my own experiences with it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading Anime 101 at least half as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it!

Anime managed to cross the world even before the advent of the Internet. In addition to Astro Boy (originally titled Tetsuwan Atomu), some of the other anime that made their way to American television in the 60s include Kimba the White Lion, Speed Racer (Originally Mach Go Go Go), and Gigantor (Patten 46). Many, if not most, of their American viewers in the 60s had no idea that they were watching Japanese shows.

While I never watched Speed Racer on television, I often see it in the channel guide. Not long ago, I viewed a live-action movie based off the show. Still, until I researched anime, it never occurred to be that the title may have its origins in Japan.
In 1988, the ground-breaking movie Akira came to the States. The movie tackled topics that were “shocking, exhilarating, and left audiences wanting more” (Brenner 11). This was no children’s cartoon. Americans saw what anime could be, and the demand for anime and manga in the U.S. skyrocketed as a result.
One of Japan’s biggest anime exports was Sailormoon. Geared towards young girls, the title hit Japanese pop culture first as manga in the magazine Nakayosi, then as an animated feature on TV – with both forms of the plot appearing in the same year, 1992 (Grigsby 59). The anime quickly spread to other countries, becoming “the number one children’s action adventure show in Japan, France, Italy, Spain, and Hong Kong.” An English version appeared in the United States in the fall of 1995, in addition to its showings in Taiwan and Korea. At the time that Mary Grigsby wrote her article for Journal of Popular Culture, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Scandinavian nations were preparing to present Sailormoon as well (Grigsby 59). And the Sailormoon market was not limited to anime and manga. The show is found as musicals and films, on CDs, toys, packages of curry sauce, and notebook paper, to name just a few products. Grigsby summarizes, “Anything bearing the Sailormoon trademark sells well” (59). Sailormoon is just one example of the anime popular worldwide.
Before I began to watch and research Japanese animation, I didn’t realize how much it spread across the world. It’s truly amazing. If I can’t find the anime I want on video or cable, I go online. There, I can often choose between anime with English voice-overs or English subtitles. If I want to, I can type a few words in my search engine and find an anime with subtitles in Spanish, French, Russian, or any of multiple other languages. When I visited Mexico with my church this past summer, I struck up a conversation with another teen about anime and the Japanese words we learned through viewing. I relished our discussion not just as an interaction with a new Mexican friend, but also as proof of anime’s widespread popularity.
Anime is a truly interesting part of pop culture. It combines with manga and over a thousand years of history and cultural development to form a worldwide sensation. Anime travels beyond Japan to viewers everywhere, resulting in an abundance of cultural, sociological, and economical significance. It presents plots and characters to make you ponder, cry, learn, sit in suspense, and sometimes laugh out loud. From Bishop Toba to Dr. Tesuka, anime’s journey to a place in popular culture is rich. There is so much to learn – and, for me, that learning began with a single episode of Naruto.

Picture from Sailormoon.


Brenner, Robin E. Understanding Manga and Anime. Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited,
Grigsby, Mary. "Sailormoon: Manga (Comics) and Anime (Cartoon) Superheroine Meets
Barbie: Global Entertainment Commodity Comes to the United States." Journal of Popular Culture 32.1 (1998): 59-80. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 27 Apr. 2010.
Patten, Fred. Watching Anime, Reading Manga: 25 Years of Essays and Reviews. Berkeley,
Calif: Stone Bridge Press, 2004.


  1. Another terrific post!

    Speed Racer, along with Voltron, were my introductions to anime. I watched the shows at a young age, and all the kids wanted to have the Mach 5 and the 2-3 foot tall Voltron figure. I had neither of those, but I had a heavy regular figure of Voltron that I played with all the time.

    That was a neat story you gave about Mexico. Anime may be just as popular (or moreso) in Mexico than in America. They have a ton of cons as well, and anime is shown unedited in the country.

  2. Thanks!
    When I was little, it was Pokemon (though I have yet to see a single episode), and now I see my younger cousins with Bakugan toys. I don't think they have a clue that the show is Japanese. The interesting thing is that it's mostly boy's shows that are making it onto Cartoon Network and such. At least, I have yet to see any magical girl anime around. Sailormoon was before my time, so that doesn't count.


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