The public’s attitudes toward Anime has gradually changed as Japanese Anime, and Eastern Asian anime in general expanded its influence into major line theaters in the past few years. No matter how much professionals and art lovers loath or admire the mingling of anime art and contemporary western art, anime art has made its mark on the Western contemporary art world.
Not so long ago, the art world still viewed Anime as a minor influence. Many would not consider Anime as a type of high-end art, in other words, fine-art, even if the work was done with traditional media.
Nonetheless, it would be impossible to deny the influence of Anime in contemporary art, from Japan, its origin, to the rest of the world. Independent Curators International commented that anime “has attained almost cult status among young people globally during the past several decades, is increasingly breaking into the mainstream. (2002)” As early as 2002, curator Jeff Fleming and Susan Talbott presented My Reality: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation in order to investigate the influence of Japanese animation on contemporary Japanese art and art in other Asian regions, and it seemed like a study of anime’s impact on contemporary art Western countries from the UK to the States was only one step away.
In 2011, a curated show Sugi!Pop went around the United States, featuring “the work of more than 30 artists tracing the origins of manga, the rise of Japanese Contemporary Art and into how the art forms have influenced artists around the world (artweek.la, 2011).”
The art forms of Anime and Manga have had a huge impact on contemporary art and particularly global pop-culture in general. While many contemporary artists are not obviously influenced by the Japanese forms, upon closer inspection a viewer can begin seeing how the style has been absorbed and re-imagined by many an artist. (artweek.la, 2011)
Due to a difference in popular taste, for a very long time the American artists, and western artists, in general, stuck to the classic anime titles such as Dragon Ball and titles considered to be made for Otakus — a stayed-at-home man who lacked a real life.
One problem with these “old” anime is that they shared a strong retro drawing style that emphasized on large eyes out of normal proportion, and distorted figurative structure to achieve what was believed to be sexy or handsome, which lead to most of the critiques against Japanese anime and its artistic values (or if they even existed)
Nonetheless, the anime genre itself had been developing in regards to styles and depth. In the past few decades, they have gradually diverted from Otaku-centered love stories or shojo (young girl) manga that often focused on romance, and headed towards a more complex direction of social, philosophical, and political discourse whilst incorporating various contemporary art styles from American pop culture to Impressionism and modernism.
While the majority anime remained in the popular “main-stream” genre such as adventure, action, detective, and romance, the style and depth of anime has undergone significant changes and improvements and now displayed a higher understanding of aesthetics.
In the past decade, largely due to the increasing exposure of diverse types of anime on social media, both the audience and the creators of anime have developed significantly.
Today, anime has gone beyond illustration and rooted its styles, color choices, concept-building, and character design into many major contemporary artists across the world. Love of anime or even the adaption of an Otaku identity no longer equalizes shame and stigma. More artists now publicly admit their favor of anime and anime characters while blending the up-thriving genre into their art.
One of these artists who were proud of their passion was Takashi Murakami. Known as a pop artist who embeds iconic anime characters and images into his painting, Murakami transferred the Otaku culture into a brand new aesthetic. In the western culture, Murakami was best known “for his collaborations with pop icon Kanye West and fashion house Louis Vuitton or whose work joins the art collections of celebrities like Beyoncé, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Brad Pitt. “
“I am one of the losers who failed to become an otaku king. Only a person who has a superb memory in order to win at a debate can become a king of otaku. Since I didn’t have that ability, I became an artist.” — Takashi Murakami
However, Anime is not just for otakus, aka guys who can’t find a real job and a real life. In the past few years, a growing female population has been confirmed to be falling into the anime fandom community, whereas their consumption has also expanded from traditional romance anime to a more comprehensive genre of interest. As a result, these female artists approach the anime characteristics in their artwork from a much distinguishable perspective.
One of these female artists turning the female anime culture or the “kawaii” culture in a new direction was comic book artist Junko Mizuno. As she said in an interview: “I didn’t have a choice in being influenced by [kawaii]. That was the way all little girls drew people.” Therefore, the artist decided to embed what has grown into her as a culture, and turn the little cute anime style into something powerful.
The artworld is constantly growing and changing. The more Western contemporary artists interact with elements outside their own culture, the more interesting the artworks will become. Contemporary art started as a versatile genre that continually blends modern, pioneer, and experimental methods into its main body. How an artist makes use of their own culture and external influences decide the potential of art.
In the future, it is clear that the influence of anime will continue to grow, as manga artists being celebrated in British museums and entering mainstream publicity. Meanwhile, it is also interesting to see how contemporary and classic art value affected the creation of anime, giving the iconic Japanese genre more robust energy.