AX 2002: Anime-Sci Fi Panel

posted on by George Phillips
How has anime been influenced by science fiction, and where might Sci-Fi anime go from here?

While it may seem that nearly every anime from the 70s contained robots, spaceships, or other futuristic technologies, many of these anime were influenced by science fiction of eras past.

Science Fiction in anime began with Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atom), quickly followed by Tetsujin 28 (IronMan 28), 8 Man and others. These series determined the future of sci-fi animation. These series tend to fall into the category of "Galaxy Patrol" series. The authors of these series knowledge of the "future" descended from American works, many of which were originally released in the 1930s and 1940s. Of course, the yearly Hugo Award winners would be translated, and so more well-known authors such as Clarke and Asimov also carried some influence.

As anime evolved, the concept expanded to small groups of Galaxy defenders -- usually 5 in number, although this was not absolute. Additionally, new storywriters came about, having grown up on manga of the 1950s and anime of the 1960s. Space Battleship Yamato, and Battle of the Planets highlighted this era, formed by memories of earlier science fiction works.

The idea of giant robots harkened from the 1960s Starship Trooper's "powered armor". Although giant robots existed in anime prior to Mobile Suit Gundam, Gundam was the first series to seriously consider the physics of giant robots, as well as numerous other concepts found in both American and other novels translated into Japanese.

By the mid-1980s, numerous companies turned to Japanese science fiction novels for inspiration for OVA series. The Dirty Pair novels, for example, turned into a TV series, an OVA series, and later provided inspiration for a sequel OVA series -- Dirty Pair Flash. Other shows of this era include Vampire Hunter D, Ariel, and Legend of Galactic Heroes.

As the Japanese economy continues to creep backwords, however, large endeavors like adapting novels has become less and less popular. Instead, short stories have provided the basis for modern sci-fi anime. Hideyuki Morioka's Crest of the Stars is one of these titles. Novels continue to be used as a basis for anime though, as Gonzo's newest series, Yukikaze.

Science Fiction has steadily evolved from obvious American roots, to that of a unique Japanese outlook. Roughly 1 000 Japanese science fiction novels are written each year, and 500 American sci-fi novels are translated for publication.

When asked about genres unique to Japanese works, the reply was that of "Space Operas", which exist in English works, but tend to receive less attention than more traditional science fiction works. Obviously, American influence in Japanese culture, as well as vice-versa will continue. As anime grows more popular in print and broadcast formats, "more intimate mutual influence" should begin, pulling traces of Japanese culture into American works and vice versa. In fact, some of this influence can be seen already in some authors.

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