Embracing Anime, from Subculture to Full-fledged Phenomenon

It is rare that a subculture breaks out to obtain massive success in the way that Japanese cartoons, or “anime” has in recent years. The cultural explosion has never been more obvious than now, as millions of anime fans are created every day with the rising popularity of the scene.

“It seems that in a very short time anime fans went from being more of a fringe group to being a vast subculture, only one or two notches below the mainstream,” said senior Roman Imperatore.

Although the mainstream success is recent, anime has actually been around for quite a long time in the United States. It all started in the 1960s, with a Japanese cartoon called “Astro Boy,” which followed the adventures of a robot superhero. After the show exploded in the U.S., anime slowly made its way into the country, but rarely did a show gain the success that “Astro Boy” capitalized on.

The culture of anime could certainly be described as a fringe group throughout the 70s and 80s in America, with many fans struggling to get their hands on the Japanese cartoons.

However, in the 90s, anime became popular once again in the U.S. With 90s anime came two big names: “Dragon Ball Z” and “Pokémon,” both of which continue to be some of the most popular cartoons around.

After a few fruitful Nintendo games, the “Pokémon” anime first landed on U.S. soil in 1998, causing a massive influx of popularity, as children and adults alike fell in love with the show, video games and card game. To this day, there is no anime franchise that even comes close to the “Pokémon” craze, which immediately kick started the wave of anime that would come to the U.S. over the next 16 years.

Although the comic version, or manga, has been around since the late 80s, “Dragon Ball Z” really exploded in the mid 90s when the anime version was dubbed in English and syndicated throughout the world.

The show combines superheroes and martial arts with a unique blend of cartoonish violence and truly stands the test of time nearly 15 years after first appearing on Cartoon Network’s “Toonami” program in 1999.

Both of these shows brought some very different things to the table, and without them anime would likely remain a subculture today.  

Around the same time that “Dragon Ball Z” and “Pokémon” were paving the way for anime shows in the U.S., a filmmaker named Hayao Miyazaki was creating groundbreaking animated films out of his Japanese production company, Studio Ghibli. His films include “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Spirited Away,” all of which are critically acclaimed in the United States.

There is no doubt about the fact that the anime culture has gone from underground to mainstream.

“Its huge. Over the years anime has exploded with popularity," said senior Charlie Ricketts. "Japan in general has become very popular and many people really embrace it. It’s pretty cool."

The Japanese cultural invasion continues to thrive today, with the recent mainstream success of shows like “Attack on Titan” and the introduction of streaming services like Netflix, which are able to provide anime fans with a large collection of shows and films.

Anime will continue to grow in America and will surely be regarded as a staple of both American and Japanese culture.