Since the post-war economic boom of the 1950s, the Japanese anime forum has blossomed and reached a golden age in the 1980s that carries on to today with critically acclaimed movies and manga. They all work with the themes of adventure, folklore of the past, spirits, action, friendship, love, and others in between. From child-friendly to the edgy areas, both anime and manga have each sold hundreds of millions of dollars around the world besides their home in Japan. Here are a few of these famous anime/manga tales.
Spirited Away (2001)
Studio Ghbili and writer/director Hayao Miyazaki’s fantasy tale is the highest grossing film in and from Japan with $289 million. Following the coming-of-age theme and influenced by Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, it tells the tale of a ten-year-old girl who moves into a new neighborhood and becomes entrapped in a world full of spirits. Critically outside of Japan, it won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature and is listed among BBC’s Best Films of the 21st Century at number 4.
Based on his popular manga, Katsuhiro Otomo’s dystopian; biker gang story became a staple of Japanese anime cinema, cited as an influence in American films such as The Matrix and Inception. Technically, it was the first anime movie to record the dialogue first so that it can match the lip movements of the characters, as well as some use of computer-generated imagery. It also made a very coincidental prediction: it is set in 2019 and just prior to the Olympics in Tokyo, which is hosting the 2020 Olympiad.
One Piece (1997-Today)
Twenty years after its release, it is the best-selling manga at 430 million copies and counting. Eiichiro Oda’s popular manga follows a young man, Monkey D. Luffy, who establishes the Straw Hat Pirates and travels across the world to find that, “One piece,” which would make Monkey the King of Pirates. Thirteen theatrical films and 800 episodes later, the story goes on and is in continuous circulation.
Dragon Ball (1984-95)
Before the evolution to Z and the massively popular TV series, the original version sold 240 million worldwide and had an influence on the manga mentioned above. The story of Son Goku and his life in becoming a master at martial arts while on a quest for the seven orbs, the dragon balls, utilized progressive drawings of the action with a training-like emphasis. Infusing Chinese and Japanese mythology, the series lasted 42 volumes, yet it lives on with the spin-off and beyond.
Speed Racer (1966 – 68; 1997)
Before becoming one of the first manga/anime series to crossover into the United States for the same acclaim at home, the series was made by Tatsuo Yoshida, who desired to make a contemporary story based on his liking for auto racing. The combination of futuristic race cars and fast pace with the action brought a broad appeal, which included the American adaptation and live action movie in 2008.
The anime and manga genre will not go away and the legacies of these stories stand as proof of their popularity. They are timeless, among many others, and appeals to just about everyone. It has the same effect on people as the fantasy tales written by J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolken as original masterpieces in storytelling and raising peoples’ imagination.