- Since its introduction to the West, anime has been a growing part of American and Western pop culture.
- The growing popularity of anime is similar to the popularization of superhero movies.
- Video streaming services have given a much wider range of audiences access to anime.
First off, what is anime. Anime is simply animation created in a specific style that originated in Japan. The majority of anime are based off graphic novels called manga. Manga is similar to comics with a few differences. In regards to anime’s presence in America, it still can’t be considered mainstream, and is still not viewed in high regards by the majority of society. Despite this, there is no doubt in my mind that anime will become a major part of American Pop Culture.
Since Dragon Ball was released to the U.S. in the 1990s, anime has been a growing part of American and Western popular culture. The introduction and popularization of anime and manga into American pop culture seems to be extremely similar to the introduction and popularization of superheroes and comic books. There was a time when being a fan of superhero movies was looked down upon, you were the underdog of society. Now people are blown away if you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame.
So what changed? When did it become not only acceptable, but mainstream to like superhero movies? I believe that the change truly began with the release of The Dark Knight Trilogy. All movies belonging to the trilogy were blockbusters, with two of the movies grossing over $1 billion at the box office. The Dark Knight won two Oscars and is currently number four on IMDb’s Top Rated Movies list. It wasn’t just comic book nerds that went to see these movies; everyone was flocking to the theaters to see Christian Bale dawn the cape and cowl.
A few years after the Dark Knight brought superheroes into the mainstream, something happened that would changes the face of American cinema forever. Marvel Studios released the first Iron Man. This was the start of the most successful movie franchise in the history of cinema.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe films have grossed over $21 billion in box office revenue. That’s well over the box office earnings of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Titanic, and James Bond combined! MCU movies have received Oscars, Golden Globes, and praise from both critics and movie goers alike. Theaters are almost constantly showing the latest MCU movie and are packed following the release. It’s reaching the point where not having seen an MCU movie is about as uncommon as not having seen a Star Wars movie.
It’s pretty clear that anime hasn’t reached this point yet. I think the largest reason for this is the fact that anime is undeniably different from the entertainment that most Americans, and people in general, are accustomed to. Despite that, there have been huge leaps in regards to anime’s journey into the mainstream market.
If there was one studio that has had the largest effect on anime becoming popularized in America, it would undoubtedly be Studio Ghibli. Studio Ghibli’s movies are for anime, what the Dark Knight trilogy was for superheroes, just on a much smaller scale. Studio Ghibli movies have been able to make it onto the screens of some of the largest movie theater chains in the United States.
Cinemark and other nation wide theatres, partnered with Fathom Events and G Kids, are currently having a Studio Ghibli film festival where they will be showing Howl’s Moving Castle, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Whisper of the Heart, Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, The Secret World of Arrietty, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and The Tale of The Princess Kaguya.
Not only have they been able to get into some of the largest theaters in the country, but at one point Studio Ghibli’s films were distributed by the largest animation power house in the world: Walt Disney Studios. Studio Ghibli movies are not only popular with fans but have also gained high praise from critics, with one of their movies, Spirited Away, winning an Oscar. Studio Ghibli has been able to change many people’s views of what anime is, and what anime can be.
Another industry that has helped anime make its way into the world of American pop culture is the video streaming industry. With companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon stocking their libraries full of some of the most popular anime ever to be produced, as well as producing a multitude of their own, anime has become available to new and widened audiences who have most likely never experienced it before. Just within the last few months Netflix alone has added dozens of anime to their lineup.
Anime in the United States is not just a fad, but something that will come to dominate American pop culture.