Asian history Youtuber Wookong recently posted a detailed video essay titled “Post-War Anime: The History of Japanese Animation & Japan.”
Starting in Japan after the end of the second World War, Wookong parallels the rise and evolution of the Japanese animation industry with the development and rebuilding of the country between 1945 and 1963. Parallels can be seen, as is almost always the case with any art form, between the struggles of the people and what its artists were creating at the time.
The video is chock-full of history and spends as much time detailing the outside factors that influenced Japanese animation during the period – technology, economy, politics, live-action cinema, foreign influences, and most importantly manga – as it does on the output of the animation industry.
For those who would rather skip the history lesson – tsk, tsk – Wookong also put together a supplemental 32-minute video of animation from the period:
Immediately after WWII, the United States occupied Japan and imported nearly as much American culture as it did soldiers. For years after the war, animation from abroad (namely the U.S.) was more popular and profitable in Japan, while much of the animation produced in Japan during the period was relegated to advertising or propaganda.
Wookong includes a wonderful segment about how the normalization of in-home electronics mirrored the growth of the Japanese animation industry. He then goes into great detail about how anime changed after the end of the U.S. occupation, laying the foundation for what would become one of the world’s most prolific and profitable animation industries.
Other key historical bullet points covered by the video include the exponential growth in the popularity of manga, the Toho Labor Dispute of 1946-1948, the rapid expansion of Toei through the 1950s, Tadahito Mochinaga’s relationship with Rankin/Bass (originally known as Videocraft International), and, of course, the origin and rise of Japan’s most popular cartoon protagonist of the era, Astro Boy.
Pictured at top: Astro Boy