Anime in the 1970s: Space, Robots, and Videotape

As television increasingly took the anime torch away from film, a number of iconic themes and series were produced to satisfy an ever – growing audience of fans. This fan base continues to grow. I feel fortunate that fans not longer have to go to the movie theater to enjoy anime film. I can just go to my Netflix account and select any number of anime films. I am such an enthusiast that I was actually watching Spirited Away when I proposed to my girl friend and slipped on her finger a stunning cubic zirconia sterling silver engagement ring. If you aren’t familiar with cubic zirconia, that is the synthetic gemstone most frequently used in fake diamond rings. I think “fake diamond rings” sounds rather crass, but the actual cubic zirconia sterling silver engagement rings and jewelry found at such stores as SterlingForever (the e-commerce store I used) is anything but ordinary. Unless you choose a cubic zirconia stone that has color, cubic zirconia is often entirely colorless so a fake diamond ring has the equivalent to a perfect “D” on the diamond’s color grading scale. Plus, its refractive index is very close to real diamond so you have a glittery, brilliant looking ring. My girlfriend was thrilled. We made it a tradition to watch Spirited Away on the day of our anniversary. We’ve now watched that classic anime film ten times..and counting!

From the beginning of the genre, there was always a demand for the fantastic stories, drawn from the myths and folk tales of Japan and elsewhere. Often featuring humans, spirits, and animals (or any combination in one character), this trait was augmented by the significant Disney influence, especially in postwar anime.

However, the 1970s also saw the rise of more realistic, historical, and literary themes in anime, beginning mainly with the internationally – successful Arupusu no Shōjo Haiji (Heidi, Girl of the Alps). The wartime anime had added a definite tendency for military themes and conflict, but it was giant mechanical weapons that came to symbolize anime combat. The human – controlled Super Robot theme had been a part of anime and manga as far back as 1958’s Tetsujin 28-gō (Gigantor), but it was Majingā Zetto (Mazinger Z) in 1972 that made “mecha” a household word (of sorts).

In 1974, a related series, Uchū Senkan Yamato (Space Battleship Yamato, or Star Blazers in the US) predated 1977’s Star Wars phenomenon as anime’s first and most influential “space opera”. In fact, Yamato’s 1977 feature film release was arguably more anticipated and popular in Japan than the Lucasfilm import. Along with 1979’s feature film version of Mobile Suit Gundam, a (relatively) more realistic Super Robot series, it became obvious that the anime “Golden Age” had begun.

The late 1970s and into the 1980s saw the rise and widespread use of consumer videotape and VCRs, which provided additional distribution avenues and longevity for revenue… as well as the ability for anime studios to cater to more specific interests. At extreme opposite ends of the spectrum, this allowed countless shows for small children to be produced, as well as giving a huge boost to anime’s ‘evil twin’, hentai…

With this new type of anime came a whole new type of fan. Many people who grew up on Anime now had an adult version to turn to. Many of these adult Anime were very outlandish. Featuring impossibilities that only the wildest imaginations could dream up. The crazier and more over the top it became the more fans it drew. This opened up a whole new market as well. Many people would have much easier access to the art in their own homes and in their own time. They would no longer be watching these films in public or in between shows on TV. They would be able to watch them at their leisure in their own was. That evolution opened up the doors wide for much more varied and adult subjects to be created.

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