Hideaki Anno

Hideaki Anno is a Japanese animator, film director and actor. Anno is best known for his work on the popular anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. His style has come to be defined by the touches of postmodernism that he injects into his work, as well as the thorough portrayal of characters’ thoughts and emotions, often through unconventional sequences incorporating psychoanalysis and emotional deconstruction of these characters. He married manga artist Moyoko Anno on April 27, 2002.

Hideaki Anno

Anime directed by Anno that have won the Animage Anime Grand Prix award have been Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water in 1990, Neon Genesis Evangelionin 1995 and 1996, and The End of Evangelion in 1997.

Anno began his career after attending Osaka University of Arts as an animator for the anime series The Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982–1983). Wrapped up in producing the DAICON III and IV Opening Animationswith his fellow students, he was eventually expelled from Osaka.

However, his talent was not recognized until the release of his work on Hayao Miyazaki’s 1984 film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Running short on animators, the film’s production studio posted an ad in the famous Japanese animation magazine Animage, announcing that they were in desperate need of more animators. Anno, in his early twenties at the time, read the ad and headed down to the film’s studio, where he met with Miyazaki and showed him some of his drawings. Impressed with Anno’s work, Miyazaki hired him to draw some of the most complicated scenes near the end of the movie, and regarded his work highly.

Anno went on to become one of the co-founders of Gainax in December 1984. He worked as an animation director for their first feature-length film, Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (1987), and ultimately became Gainax’s premiere anime director, helming the majority of the studio’s projects such as Gunbuster (1988) and Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (1990–1991).However, Anno fell into a four-year depression following Nadia — the series was handed down to him from NHK from an original concept by Hayao Miyazaki (of which Castle in the Sky is also partly based upon) and he was given little creative control.

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Madman Entertainment

Madman Entertainment is an Australian company that distributes Australian and international films as well as Japanese anime andmanga in Australia and New Zealand. Madman is one of the major entertainment companies in Australia. It employs approx 100 people and has an annual turnover of around A$50 million. Its headquarters is in Richmond, Victoria.

Madman has secured the local release rights to popular titles including One Piece, Dragon Ball, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Akira, and almost all of Studio Ghibli’s catalogue. In addition to DVD sales, Madman manages the theatrical release of some of their titles, particularly the Studio Ghibli movies. According to market research, Madman accounts for 97% of the total anime DVD market in Australia.

The logo of Madman Entertainment

Madman Entertainment was founded in 1996 to release anime in the Australia from Manga Entertainment UK, with Siren Entertainment acting as distributor after Siren lost the rights to most of Manga UK’s catalogue. Later on in 1997, Madman started to distribute anime from ADV Films along with Siren Entertainment. In 2001, Madman Entertainment bought Siren’s distribution equipment and established The AV Channel, allowing Madman to distribute their own titles. In the same year, Madman Entertainment became the sole distributor of Manga Entertainment’s UK and US titles in Australia & New Zealand after Polygram Australia relinquished their rights to Manga UK’s back catalog and Siren lost the rights to Street Fighter II V which was licensed from Manga USA.

Madman now sub-licenses anime from ADV Films, Funimation, Harmony Gold, Viz Media, Bandai Entertainment, Media Blasters, formerly Geneon, & recently Sentai Filmworks, although Siren Visual licenses the majority of their English-dubbed titles as well as titles from Manga Entertainment. Madman has licensed titles that were sub-licensed to Madman by Geneon directly though the original Japanese licensors, and this practice is also applied when North American and British licensees do not have Australian rights to their titles. Madman is also the exclusive licensee and distributor of Anime from Namco Bandai Holdings in Australia, licensing titles through Bandai Entertainment, Sunrise and Emotion, despite Namco Bandai Holdings having an Australian subsidiary, Namco Bandai Partners.

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Shinichirō Watanabe

One of the big names of anime, Shinichirō Watanabe is a Japanese anime filmmaker,screenwriter, and producer. He is best known for directing the critically acclaimed and commercially successful anime series Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo.

Watanabe is known for incorporating multiple genres into his anime creations. In Cowboy Bebop, for example, Watanabe blends classic cowboy western with 1960s/1970s New York City film noir, jazz/blues music, Hong Kong action movies, and sets the entire series in space. In his later work, Samurai Champloo, Watanabe unites the cultures of Okinawa, hip-hop, modern-day Japan, and chanbara.

Acclaimed anime director Shinichiro Watanabe

 

Born in Kyoto, Watanabe, after joining the Japanese animation studio Sunrise, supervised the episode direction and storyboards of numerous Sunrise anime, and soon made his directorial debut as co-director of the well-received Macross update, Macross Plus. His next effort, and first full directorial venture, was the 1998 series Cowboy Bebop, which received universal praise and is considered by many to be one of the greatest anime series of all time. It was followed by the 2001 film, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. In 2003, Watanabe directed his first American-produced anime, the short films Kid’s Story and A Detective Story, both part of The Wachowskis’ The Animatrix, an anthology of animated short stories from The Matrix. His next directorial effort was the critically acclaimed 2004 anime series Samurai Champloo which began broadcasting on Fuji Television in Japan on May 19, 2004.

Following the release of Samurai Champloo, Watanabe directed a short film called Baby Blue which was released on July 7, 2007 as a segment of the anthology film Genius Party. In recent years, he has been active as a creative music producer, overseeing the 2004 film Mind Game, 2008’s Michiko to Hatchin, and supervising the storyboards for episode 12 of Tetsuwan Birdy: Decode. In 2012, he directed the anime series Kids on the Slope , a coming of age story about young jazz musicians, which premiered in April 2012 on Fuji TV’s Noitamina block.

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Toei Animation and Mushi Productions

 

Japanese animation has stood on the foundations of several prominent studios. In 1948, Toei Animation was established which made the first color anime feature film in 1958, Hakujaden, The Tale of the White Serpent (1958). This movie had a more Disney-like tone, filled with musical numbers and animal sidekicks. Yet it is generally regarded as the first “anime” ever.  It was then released in North America in 1961 as Panda and the Magic Serpent. From the period of 1958 to the middle of the sixties, Toei constantly released these Disney-like films until creating the three of the most famous anime series ever, Dragon Ball in 1986, Sailor Moon in 1992 and One Piece in 1999.

The distinctive style of Toei Animation was also characterized by the conscious effort of every animator to bring his/her own ideas to the production. The most extreme instance of this idea is Isao Takahata’s movie Hols: Prince of the Sun (1968). This movie is usually regarded as the first main breakaway from the usual anime style and the birth of a later movement of “auteuristic” or “progressive anime.” This genre would eventually include directors like Hayao Miyazaki and Mamoru Oshii.

Hols: Prince of the Sun

One of the significant influences of Toei’s style to contemporary anime was the development of the “money shot”. It is a cost-cutting method of animation that enables the emphasis to be directed on imperative shots by animating these shots with greater detail than the rest of the work. An animator of the studio, Yasuo Ōtsuka started to experiment with this style and furthered it as he entered the world of television. In the eighties, Toei Animation would eventually lend its talent to companies like Sunbow Productions, Marvel Productions, DiC Entertainment, Murakami-Wolf-Swenson, Ruby Spears and Hanna Barbera which lead to the creation of numerous animated cartoons for America during this time. Other studios like TMS Entertainment, were also being utilized during this period and this has caused Asian studios to be regulars in animating foreign productions.

Eventually, Osamu Tezuka’s contract with Toei Animation ended and this has led him to the creation of Mushi Production in 1961. This studio was a significant contributor to anime by pioneering TV animation in Japan. This was the studio responsible for hit TV series like Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, Gokū no Daibōken and Princess Knight.

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Studio Ghibli

One cannot talk about Japanese animation without mentioning the legendary Studio Ghibli, Inc. It’s a Japanese animation film studio which is most known for its anime feature films. Ghibli also has created several short films, television commercials, and one television film. It was established in June 1985 after the success of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984). Ghibli is led by directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and the producer Toshio Suzuki while the funding was from Tokuma Shoten. Before the founding of the studio, Miyazaki and Takahata were already veterans in Japanese film and television animation. Both of them had worked together on Hols: Prince of the Sun and Panda! Go, Panda! On the other hand, Suzuki was an editor at Tokuma Shoten’s Animage manga magazine.

The great Hayao Miyazaki

The great Hayao Miyazaki

It goes without saying that the studio enjoyed plenty of success. Ghibli’s first real box-office success is Kiki’s Delivery Service. In 1991, their work Only Yesterday was the highest-grossing film in Japan. There’s also: Porco Rosso, the highest-grossing film of 1992 in Japan and Pom Poko, the highest-grossing film of 1994 in Japan. Eight of Studio Ghibli’s movies are included in the 15 highest-grossing anime films made in Japan, with Spirited Away (2001) which has grossed over $274 million worldwide being the highest. This particular film was their first one that had grossed over $200 million worldwide even prior to in North America. It is also the film that bested Titanic at the Japanese box office, becoming the top grossing film ever in the history of Japanese cinema. Aside from this, Spirited Away also was the only winner created outside the English-speaking world and the only traditionally animated winner, so far, of an Academy award for Best Animated Feature. Other accomplishments include the first Miyazaki feature to utilize computer graphics, and the first Studio Ghibli film to use digital coloring. They also created the first animated feature in Japan’s history that grossed more than 10 billion yen at the box office and the first animated film ever to win a National Academy Award for Best Picture of the Year which was Princess Mononoke. Also, the first Studio Ghibli film ever to be shot using a 100% digital process was My Neighbors the Yamadas.

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Super Robot Genre

The world of anime has a genre called the Super Robot and it is characterized by the protagonist piloting a colossal, mechanized, or golem-construct humanoid robot. It is complete with an arsenal of outrageous super-powered weapons and it is usually extremely resistant to damage unless it is needed by the plot. Sometimes these robots can transform or from the combination of two or more robots. Characteristic of this genre are the pilots who are young, brave heroes, and usually come from supernatural or legendary origins.

Getter Robo

The anime series of the Super Robot genre are typically titled after the name of the robot like Mazinger Z, Getter Robo, Combattler V, etc. They are also inclined to use the “monster of the week” arrangement where the antagonists bring in one villain or monster at the start of every episode which the heroes usually beat at the end. Usually, the minor villains are shown all the time while there is some development of the main struggle between the heroes and the major villains. The bad guys also usually come from either outer space or ancient civilizations and the things they have in common are their monstrous appearance. A lot of the antagonists have robot or cyborg henchmen, whom they always sent against the heroes piloting their robot. What these antagonists want vary but usually they are megalomaniacal or outright genocidal in their goals.

The concept of a robot being controlled by a young hero was first used in 1956 with Iron Man 28 or Tetsujin 28-go and it was dubbed and released in the US as Gigantor. It introduced a massive robot controlled through a remote-control by a young boy named Shotaro Kaneda who used it to fight against evil.  On the other hand, the very first anime to use the phrase “Super Robot” and the standard setter for the entire genre was Mazinger Z. It was created by Go Nagai and it had debuted in manga publications and TV in 1972. The one thing that’s different between Mazinger Z and previous robots was that the protagonist, Koji Kabuto, would control the robot from inside the robot itself, very much like one drives any vehicle. Mazinger Z enjoyed immense popularity as it lasted several sequels and imitations during the seventies, as well as revivals during the next two decades.

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Partial History of Anime

 

Anime was conceived to the world at the turn of the 20th century, when Japanese filmmakers tried the different animation techniques being experimented on in the West. The 1st generation of Japanese animators emerged during the late 1910s comprised of Ōten Shimokawa, Jun’ichi Kōuchi and Seitaro Kitayama and they are recognized as the “fathers” of anime.

An image that will never be in propaganda materials

During the Second World War, Japan was a superpower and had control over numerous countries. In order to control the occupied and even their own people, the Imperial army made use of  heavy propaganda. Several films with propaganda motifs were created films and these included the Momotarō no Umiwashi (1943) and Momotarō: Umi no Shinpei (1945). Although these films show a light side to the ongoing war at that time, there are a lot of events that can be considered counter propaganda such as the reports about the comfort women system of the army. Chinese, Filipino, Korean comfort women were used as sex slaves by the army in order to “release steam.” Such things are never mentioned and are seldom admitted by those at fault.

 

Momotarou No Umiwashi

In the dawn of the seventies, anime grew bigger and was able to branch off from its Western roots and manifestations of this was the birth of distinctive genres like mecha and its Super Robot sub-genre. Usual shows during this time include the iconic series Lupin III and Mazinger Z and it is also during this period that numerous film producers gained immense popularity, especially Hayao Miyazaki and Mamoru Oshii. Despite the obvious growth of anime, the Japanese film market suffered because of the rising competition from television. The augmented competition from television saw the reduction of Toei animation’s staff and the transfer of numerous animators to studios like A Pro and Telecom animation. Mushi Production suffered bankruptcy but fortunately it was revived 4 years later. The employees from this studio moved on to establish currently prominent studios like Madhouse and Sunrise. These changes pushed young animators into the position of director before actually being promoted to it. The elevation of young talent enabled a wide diversity of experimentation and innovation. One of the successful products of seventies television was Tomorrow’s Joe (1970), a boxing anime which has become iconic in Japan.

The dawn of eighties saw anime becoming part of mainstream Japan, and this was the period when the anime production boom happened. This decade was the period of the rise of numerous classical anime series such as Gundam, Macross, Dragon Ball, and the Real Robot. Aside from these series, the genres of space opera and cyberpunk boomed too. One of the biggest milestones for anime during this period was the film Akira setting records in 1988 for the production costs of an anime film and becoming a big success all over the world.

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Anime and the Seventies

The seventies saw a lot of changes in the world from grass-smoking hippies to the emergence of robot anime. During this decade, the Japanese film market decreased in size due to the competition from television. The greater competition from television caused a reduction in Toei animation’s staff and the animators who were laid off transferred to other studios like A Pro and Telecom animation. Another casualty was Mushi Production that went bankrupt but it was revived 4 years later. The employees that were lost during this time were the ones who established several prominent studios today like Madhouse and Sunrise. The shift of animators from one studio to another caused the rise of young animators that became directors of new studios. This emergence of young talent enabled a massive movement of experimentation. One of the earliest successful television series produced in the first half of the seventies was Tomorrow’s Joe (1970), an anime about boxing that has become an iconic classic in Japan.

Tomorrow’s Joe

Another part of this massive experimentation is with Isao Takahata’s 1974 television series Heidi, Girl of the Alps. The anime initially was hard to sell due to it being a simple lifelike drama that caters to children. The majority of the TV networks in Japan believed that the series would flop because children required excessive fantasy and lore to be attracted to a show. Much to their surprise, Heidi became an international success after showing in several European countries and gaining intense popularity there. Locally, it was so successful that it enabled Hayao Miyazaki and Takahata to create a series of literary based anime. Miyazaki and Takahata left Nippon Animation towards the end of the decade. Two of Miyazaki’s critically-acclaimed creations during this time were Future Boy Conan (1978) and Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979).

Another genre that emerged during the seventies was the Mecha genre. Some of the first series of this include Mazinger Z (1972–74), Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (1972–74), Space Battleship Yamato (1974–75) and Mobile Suit Gundam (1979–80). These series highlighted a movement in the science fiction genre in anime. Shows started to shift from more superhero-oriented and fantastical plots found in the Super Robot genre, to the fairly more convincing space operas that are line with progressively complex plots and blurred definitions of right and wrong that is characteristic of the Real Robot genre.

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