What was the first Anime?

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In the vast realm of animated entertainment, anime stands as a unique and captivating art form that has enchanted audiences worldwide. It possesses a rich cultural heritage that dates back many decades, leaving many enthusiasts curious about its origins. Exploring the depths of history, we embark on a journey to uncover the question that lingers in the hearts of anime aficionados: What was the first anime? Join us as we delve into the realms of Japanese animation and discover the earliest beginnings of this beloved medium.

What was the first Anime?

I. The Pioneering Era:

The Origins of Anime In this section, we delve into the roots of anime and explore the influential figures and groundbreaking techniques that laid the foundation for what we recognize as anime today.

The Artistic Progenitor: The Influence of Edo Period Culture The Edo period, spanning from the 17th to the 19th century, played a vital role in shaping the artistic landscape of Japan. The emergence of woodblock prints, known as ukiyo-e, revolutionized visual storytelling by combining striking visuals with narrative elements. Artists such as Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige pioneered this art form, paving the way for the future convergence of visuals and storytelling that would come to define anime.

The Animator Extraordinaire: The Legacy of Ōten Shimokawa In the early 20th century, Ōten Shimokawa emerged as a prominent figure in Japanese animation. Shimokawa’s works, such as “Imokawa Mukuzo Genkanban no Maki” (1917), showcased his innovative techniques and storytelling abilities. Using traditional hand-drawn animation, Shimokawa explored themes of adventure and humor, establishing a foundation for subsequent anime creators to build upon.

II. The Silent Silver Screen:

Anime’s Evolution in Film Transitioning from the pioneering era, we now focus on the emergence of anime in the realm of cinematic storytelling, exploring the significant milestones that brought the medium to the silver screen.

The Luminary Legacy: Seitarō Kitayama and “The Whale” Seitarō Kitayama, a visionary animator, played a crucial role in propelling anime forward during the silent film era. His groundbreaking work, “The Whale” (1927), captured the hearts of audiences with its beautiful animation and poignant storytelling. Kitayama’s masterpiece set the stage for anime’s growth in the realm of cinema, marking a significant milestone in its evolutionary journey.

The Fantastical Feats: Yasuji Murata and “The Tale of the White Serpent” Yasuji Murata, known as the “Father of Japanese Animation,” revolutionized the industry with his technical innovations and artistry. His work on “The Tale of the White Serpent” (1958) demonstrated the potential of anime as a medium for epic storytelling. By employing techniques such as multiplane cameras and richly detailed character designs, Murata elevated anime to new heights, captivating audiences and solidifying its position as a distinct art form.

III. Television Takes the Reins:

Anime’s Expansion in the Small Screen Realm In this section, we explore the pivotal role that television played in the expansion and popularization of anime, as it reached a broader audience and established itself as a staple of Japanese entertainment.

The Small Screen Revolution: Astro Boy and Osamu Tezuka’s Influence No discussion of anime’s history would be complete without acknowledging the immense impact of Osamu Tezuka, often referred to as the “God of Manga.” Tezuka’s creation, Astro Boy (1963), marked a groundbreaking moment in anime’s journey. This iconic series showcased dynamic storytelling, compelling characters, and striking visuals that captivated viewers of all ages. Astro Boy’s success propelled anime into the realm of television, opening the floodgates for a new era of animated storytelling.

A Cultural Phenomenon: The Global Reach of Dragon Ball In the 1980s, Dragon Ball burst onto the scene, captivating audiences not only in Japan but also across the globe. Akira Toriyama’s epic tale of martial arts, adventure, and powerful transformations resonated with viewers of all backgrounds. Dragon Ball’s widespread popularity introduced countless viewers to anime, sparking a global fascination with the medium and laying the foundation for future international successes.

IV. Shaping the Modern Era:

Technological Advancements and Artistic Innovation As we enter the modern era of anime, we witness the convergence of technological advancements and artistic innovation, shaping the medium into what we recognize today.

The Rise of Studio Ghibli: Hayao Miyazaki’s Masterpieces No exploration of anime’s modern era would be complete without mentioning the visionary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki and the esteemed Studio Ghibli. Films such as “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988), “Spirited Away” (2001), and “Princess Mononoke” (1997) captivated audiences worldwide with their enchanting storytelling, breathtaking animation, and poignant themes. Miyazaki’s films showcased the power of anime to transcend cultural boundaries and touch the hearts of audiences across the globe.

The Digital Revolution: CGI and Anime Fusion With the advent of computer-generated imagery (CGI), anime experienced a new wave of artistic experimentation. Productions such as “Ghost in the Shell” (1995) and “Attack on Titan” (2013) seamlessly integrated CGI elements with traditional hand-drawn animation, expanding the visual possibilities of anime and pushing the boundaries of what could be achieved in the medium.


In this exploration of the origins of anime, we have traced its roots back to the Edo period, where the seeds of visual storytelling were sown. From the pioneering works of Ōten Shimokawa to the silent film era led by Seitarō Kitayama and Yasuji Murata, each creator and their respective contributions have propelled anime forward, shaping it into the beloved art form it is today.

As we conclude this journey, let us appreciate the ingenuity, dedication, and artistic vision of those who paved the way for anime’s growth. The first anime may not be encapsulated within a single definitive work, but rather in the collective efforts of countless creators who dared to push the boundaries of imagination. Anime continues to evolve, captivating new generations and bridging cultural gaps worldwide. With each passing year, the legacy of the first anime grows, reminding us of the vibrant tapestry of creativity that lies at the heart of this beloved medium.

What was the first Anime?
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