Anime—the latest of America’s many imports from Japan—is a genre of animated film that developed out of manga (printed comic books) and retains the raw energy of that popular format. Anime began by attracting younger viewers, but developed diversified content and spread steadily to wider audiences.

At the same time, it has progressed from the jerky, rough action and economical drawing of its early productions to the aesthetic sophistication and stylization of more recent projects. It is as if the panels of a comic had been directly translated onto the big screen. Anime characters are often entangled in extreme situations, and the stories delve into up-to-the-minute subjects like the Save the Earth movement, the overlap between humans and robots, and those staples of popular film everywhere, growing up and the mayhem that comes with transition. Anime emerged shortly after World War II, and took off with the advent of Japanese television in the late 1950s. Early works reflect the tensions in a Japanese society urgently reinventing itself. The films presented here follow the development of anime chronologically: the classics of the ’50s are closer to their manga sources, while the recent productions are hybrid assemblages demonstrating everything high tech has to offer. The program includes short works, often episodes from television series, and full-length theatrical features.

All works subtitled except where noted.

Organized by Barbara London, Associate Curator, Department of Film and Media, with Fabienne Stephan, Andrew Maerkle, and Anri Yasuda. This exhibition is supported by Walt Disney Studios, The Japan Foundation, and The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.

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