The form first emerged with the work of Osamu Tezuka, who incorporated certain cinematic elements that began to distinguish anime from other forms of animation such as Walt Disney's familiar cel animation, says Joanne Bernardi, associate professor of Japanese film and media studies at the University of Rochester, New York.
"Tezuka was clearly preoccupied with ... a response to Japan's national psyche as it emerged from World War II," says Professor Bernardi. "The devastation of the nation physically, economically, psychically had a lot to do with his choice of subject matter - good versus evil, the conflict between humanmade technology and nature, even the basic questions of the meaning of humanity."
Anime still reflects these early concerns but has now morphed into a wide range of artistic expressions. However, says Bernardi, it is still characterized by its ability to accommodate what Americans might consider "uncartoonlike" or adult subjects "with a sophisticated sense of both narrative and visual style." This includes everything from the Saturday morning cartoons of "Sailor Moon" to bleak, psychosexual adult novels, to the entire world of "cos-play" in which fans adopt the costumes of their favorite characters. It also includes the bestselling works of perhaps the country's most internationally well-known anime artist, Hayao Miyazaki, whose latest film, "Howl's Moving Castle," opened earlier this month in the United States.
Mr. Miyazaki won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003 for "Spirited Away," which was a top box-office draw in Japan. His other films include "Porco Rosso" and "Princess Mononoke." Tokyo's Ghibli Museum is devoted to his work. The playful building underlines how seriously the Japanese take their anime. Crowds of all ages file quietly through rooms papered with his drawings, studying the notations and elegant pictures. "We like anime," says 20-something Rie Tokura, "because it is not American. We like it especially because it is Japanese."