I am currently viewing the Anime series Fullmetal Alchemist, which I am renting through my Netflix account. I have been viewing Anime for some time, now. I have long appreciated the telling of short stories through animated cartoons, and wanted to familiarize myself with one of the more current modes.
Being over half a century old, I have experienced quite a range of animated fare. I recall my youth being particularly influenced by Fleischer cartoons. Disney was a significant factor, but Fleischer cartoons seemed more commonly available on the new medium, the television. Warner Bros. became more significant over the years, followed by Hanna-Barbera.
Disney had set the standard, both for quality of animation and story content. However, the economics of the industry compelled the plummet toward the H-B form of animation. Unfortunately, the aspiration of Disney was progressively sold out over time.
On the positive side, the art form was kept alive. Massive libraries of cartoon materials were developed. While a great part of this volume is just fluff and filler, there exist some very fine pieces of art as a result of the explorations and experimentation.
Cartoons reflect and even comment on culture. Magilla Gorilla may still run endlessly past the same poorly rendered backgrounds somewhere in history. However, today South Park proudly recognizes that The Simpsons have already done everything cartoonishly possible. Today the President of The United States is lampooned, lambasted, and perversely celebrated in his own cartoon series.
So, cartoons developed with our national character. They also shaped our national character. They embodied our national characters. They provide a means of sharing ourselves with the world.
Other cultures also are part of this exchange. Japan produced the style known as Anime. One of my friends defined Anime as "bad cartoons." This is in reference to commercial cartoons farmed out to Japanese animators, working at low animation standards to produce half-hour commercials for toys and other products. Unfortunately, it is Magilla Gorilla all over again.
It is difficult to get many Americans to sample quality Anime. Spirited Away is a good avenue for entering into the realm of Anime. Though the story is influenced by Japanese story telling culture, it is digestible by Americans. Japan has a rich story telling culture, and given expression through Anime, it is exportable.
What will prove interesting over the next ten years or so is the proliferation of computers and software which can serve any individual in producing animation. They will need to find stories to tell. Generally, short stories. The short story, now practically extinct in the commercial printed marketplace, is finding revival on the Internet. How much more powerful might it become with multitudes of animators telling those stories?
The future of animation is exciting. If I have the pleasure of another half-century, or so, I expect to see many wonderful short stories come to life through animation.