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The Rise of Anime culture in the United States

In the past decade, anime has experienced organic growth in popularity in the United States. This art form, originating from Japan, is rapidly becoming an influential player in pop culture here. It was Netflix, back in 2014 who first released anime on their platform, with the ‘Knights of Sidonia’, capturing the interest of thousands of viewers across the country. It soon caught on and, today, this engaging art form is now available across many other leading streaming sites like Hulu, VRV, Crunchyroll, Amazon Prime and Funimation.

So, what is the art form called anime? Most anime are based on Japanese stylized cartoon-like art, drawn in panels to create a story usually in an ongoing series, in print form. Manga is the umbrella term used for these Japanese comics or graphic novels which are normally published in black and white. Typical manga tell the stories of heroic young characters generally exhibiting especially large eyes, small mouths and wild hair styles, who often gain superpowers and use them to fight for justice in the world.

The popularity of this form of in-print story-telling in Japan was soon adapted to animation, and anime was born. This culturally unique visual art form quickly made its way around the world in the form of television shows, movies and video games. Often, the Japanese language was dubbed with voiceovers, or subtitles were used. Some of the most popular anime series that have been adapted from manga include 'Sailor Moon' and 'Dragon Ball Z', which were both released on American television in the 1990s, immediately capturing devoted audiences.

Good triumphs over evil

The very popular anime, ‘Death Note’, like so many anime established on the entertainment scene in the USA today, started life in 2003 as a manga series in Japan. Now it enjoys wide consumption throughout, not only in the United States but globally. Basically, the series follows the exploits of a teenage genius, Light Yagami, who gains supernatural powers when he discovers a mysterious notebook, the ‘Death Note’. Becoming a vigilante, he takes it on an international quest to eliminate evil criminals. From the manga, it has beenanimated into a TV series and various video computer games, several live-action films, and released on DVD video. The American film adaptation was released in August 2017, exclusively on Netflix.

Possibly the best-selling manga ever released, ‘One Piece’ has captured a huge audience, originating in Japan in 1999, but now enjoying worldwide acclaim as an animated series.The story follows the exploits of Monkey Luffy and his crew of pirates who are racing to locate a lost pirate treasure, the One Piece. The manga has been adapted into many films and TV specials and has gained enthusiastic audiences throughout the United States.

A widely successful, dark fantasy anime television series has been adapted from the popular Japanese manga, ‘Attack on Titan’. It has enjoyed widespread acclaim throughout North America and is available on many of the top streaming platforms. The setting is a post-apocalyptic world where people survive behind protective walls keeping out terrible Titans. The Titans breach the wall and destroy the city. The hero, Eren Jaeger, and his friends rise up and vow to fight the humanoid giants. Debuting in 2013, the quality production has won considerable praise and popularity, winning audience loyalty with its compelling soundtrack, characters, storyline, action sequences, voiceovers, dark themes and quality animation.

Rating in the top three highest-selling manga of all time, ‘Naruto’ is a series about a young ninja who is ostracized by his village yet he aspires to become the Hokage, a position of leadership, to lead his people. The original manga has evolved into films, video games and original video animations. His personality growth and character development have won wide praise for avoiding the stereotyping typical in this media.

And then there was Dragon Ball Z

Second only to ‘One Piece’, ‘Dragon Ball Z’ is one of the highest manga earners of all time. This highly successful Japanese anime television series is a sequel to the 1986 ‘Dragon Ball’ series, adapted from the original manga. With the anime rapidly conquering the globe, DBZ became a cultural icon and was welcomed in the United States with open arms. The plot involves the adventures of Goku and his companions, defending the planet against evil villains, magical beings, and aliens. DBZ's crazy battles and over-the-top transformations have captured the imagination of its audience. The secret to its allure is the exaggerated extent of the power scaling, which seems to increase each time a sequel is released.

The Rising Popularity of Anime

Recent times have seen this stylized Japanese animation, or anime, grow into an explosive cultural phenomenon across the United States. As its popularity has soared, it has become a boost to the diversity and inclusiveness of cultural conversation. Enjoying media entertainment with such a strong foreign cultural background is having a positive impact on our society by encouraging people to become more diverse in acceptance and tolerance.

But why are more and more people choosing to watch anime? The American audience has fallen in love with anime for its rich diversity in genres and the way it stretches the boundaries of the real world with impossible characters and over-the-top stories. It provides an enjoyable escape into a crazy, fantastical realm where logic and physics don’t seem to apply, but amazing, unique heroes can triumph. The sheer lack of realism provides a portal that people can crawl through, forget all their day-to-day challenges for a while, and not take things too seriously.

America’s love affair with anime is expressed in the ever-rising popularity of conventions that provide merchandise and promote interaction like cosplay, as a means to celebrate our fandom. Such huge events, regularly heldright across the country, are an undeniable expression of the massive presence that anime now has in our community.This cultural phenomenon is here to stay.

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