From starting as heavily inspired by Disney to creating animation unique to Japan, the anime industry has evolved a lot throughout the years. Experimentation and a lot of trial and error have led to the diversification of the anime industry in terms of art style and animation style.
Evolution of the art style of anime since the 1950s
In the 1960s, Osamu Tezuka was one of the pioneers of anime. It’s only ideal to start with the first milestone, Astroboy. The first anime to be broadcasted on television and make it big.
The characters seemed to move – an illusion of movements and not actual movements. Dororo was very similar to Astroboy in this sense. Moving on to 1970, Ashita no Joe and Lupin introduced more mature elements such as blood to anime.
The anime industry accelerated in the 1980s, with Dragon Ball and Akira, the anime movie. Dragon Ball introduced anime to many fans internationally. The anime movie can compete with some anime of the present. It was ahead of its time and a technical genius. The animation was smooth and dynamic. The characters and art style were detailed down to the bones.
The ’90s was the age of experimentation with realism. Ghost in the Shell 1995 and Evangelion are some examples of realistic art styles. Evangelion used colors brilliantly to depict realism with character designs. The decade gave a lot of experimental anime to fans.
By the 2000s studios had already started taking on projects on big scales, kickstarting the heavy commercialization. Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Samurai Champloo, Death Note, and Code Geass were some of the top creations of this decade.
With advancements in technology, present-day anime have taken different routes to stand out. The thick black outlines are finer and cleaner with the introduction of more colorful and dynamic movements along with mandatory fan service. Chainsaw Man, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Demon Slayer are some examples.
Different elements of art style
The introduction of colors helped in enhancing the backgrounds. Colors helped in understanding the details and depth of backgrounds. The usage of colors by Kimba of the White Lion was a benchmark for years to come.
Studio Ghibli introduced a great contrast between well-drawn backgrounds and detailed character designs. Makoto Shinkai movies can’t be left out of a discussion about backgrounds. His movies Your Name and Garden of Words featured beautifully detailed backgrounds. Parallels are often drawn between real life and the landscapes depicted in his movies.
Attack on Titan has incorporated 3D elements in terms of background to make the process of keeping up with the release schedule easier. Present-day anime has become more bright and colorful, seemingly more unrealistic as well. There are also more time constraints which lead to the inconsistent art style and animation which peaks mostly during important scenes and fights.
Character designs were extremely simple with exaggerated features, essentially big eyes to depict emotions. Astroboy and Dororo were the first to have characters with big eyes which is still popular. From Astroboy to Dragon Ball, we see the shift in the body structure of characters.
Primarily more squarish with Astro Boy to Dragon Ball exaggerating the body of the characters with buff bodies. Ashita no Joe and Fist of the North Star were also a part of this shift and played the role of inspiration for years to come.
Death Note and Code Geass fall under the same category. But Code Geass sets itself apart by taking heavy inspiration from the mecha art style. The use of color also made it an anime in its league. You can also see big eyes covering most parts of the faces and variations in hair color and hairstyles. Although the characters were taller and looked unique.
Jujutsu kaisen has tall characters but soft edges which can be seen as a mixture of Code Geass and some shoujo anime. But the alleviated muscles balance out the softness and puts it in the same league as Attack on Titan or Demon Slayer. Demon Slayer has darker edges and lines with detailed animations during fights.
The animation started in a very limited format. Instead of actual movements, an illusion of movement was created. As seen with Astroboy, some frames are used on a loop. Astroboy’s simple design helped in depicting movements.
Studio Ghibli introduced realistic animations in 1986 with the castle in the sky. Realism was introduced in the late 80s and early 90’s animation with anime like Cowboy Bebop, Evangelion, and Ghibli movies.
In the present times, Ufotable, MAPPA, Studio Pierrot, and Toei are all competing with their creations Demon Slayer, Jujutsu kaisen, Bleach TYBW arc, and One Piece outdoing each other’s animation with every new episode or season release. This advancement in animation is mostly evident in fight scenes. Over the years the animation has become very clean and fine.
Factors which have affected the evolution negatively:
- There’s less time and abundant mediums and sources, this has led to the flattening of a lot of elements. The lack of creativity can be made up through technology. The graph is back to how it started and the growth which happened in between in terms of the details is left out. This is why a lot of people consider the 90s to be the peak era for anime.
- The introduction of fan service has negatively affected the art style as some features and skin tones are preferred over others. It has led to similar-looking characters no matter which genre or demographic the anime falls under.
As anime becomes more and more of an international phenomenon, the anime industry is trying to incorporate Western elements. An example of this can be the anime series by Netflix. The evolution of anime has not always been uniform, there have been many firsts, experiments, hits, and misses. All of this has led to anime as we know it.