Have you ever heard of "Japanimation"? Japan is the world's largest producer of animated films. Japanese animation has been so popular and highly evaluated that the special term was created. Yes, "Japanimation" means "Japanese animation". Even the Japanese word "anime" is accepted and used in English now. Japanese anime have established their own independent field.

The pioneer of the field was Tezuka Osamu, who made the TV series "Tetsuwan Atomu" in the 1960s.@ It was soon introduced toAmerica as "Astro Boy", and then to many other parts of the world.

In the 1970s, a lot of Japanese TV anime started appearing abroad. They were "Mazinger Z", "Magical Sally", and "Sailor Moon", to name a few. At the end of the 90s, there was a craze for "Pokemon"across America.

And now we have another remarkable animator. He is Miyazaki Hayao, whose films such as "Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind"(1984), "My Neighbor Totoro"(1988), and "Princess Mononoke"(1997) have all become big hits. In 2001, "Spirited Away", one of the most expensive animated movies ever made, topped "Titanic" and became Japan's highest-grossing movie in Japanese box office history. His studio, Studio Gibli, is sometimes called Japan's Disney.

"Spirited Away" tells the story of a girl's fantasy adventure as she is trapped in a strange world of gods and spirits. In spite of Japanese things that seem unfamiliar to people abroad like a public bathhouse and the idea of gods existing in everything, this blockbuster won the Golden Bear, the top award at the Berlin International Film Festival. The judges said that the film is rich in imagination and sophisticated in its depiction of fantasy. Now it is playing in America and Canada presented by Disney.

The world has come to appreciate animated films. At the U.S. Academy Awards, a new prize for full-length animated films was established this year. (It went to "Shreck")  The Japanese Government Policies in Education, Science, Sports, and Culture (2000) says that animation, along with films and manga, is the foundation for new media arts, and that it will be necessary to further its promotion.

It sounds as if animation should not be limited to be only an entertainment for children. When you next see anime, you will probably see it with more respect.

   (October, 2002)