By Jonah Morgan
Ask the average fan where anime originates from and chances are you’ll get the following answer: Japan. But where in Japan? Cultured fans can take it a step further offering up Tokyo or Osaka perhaps. It’s true that Tokyo hosts about 80% of the country’s animation companies with Osaka hosting around 16%. Beyond this point though, you will probably be hard pressed to find many foreigners at all who could tell you where in these massive metropolitan areas anime is actually being centered as an industry. In recent years, some have been successful on an international scale at associating their particular geographic location within Japan with some facet of anime or manga. Mitaka city is now well known for Studio Ghibli and their museum. Manga circle, CLAMP, is known to hail from Osaka. In an effort to mark their regions on essential pilgrimage maps for otaku, various other cities and towns are flocking to create memorials, shrines, museums, libraries and assorted structures to their locally born mangaka stars.
The sharpest otaku, those who read this site regularly, those who have lived in Japan or happened to visit there probably know the true heart of Japan’s modern animation industry – Suginami. This area, northwest of the Tokyo metro hosts over 60 anime production houses. Here you can find the likes of TMS Entertainment, Madhouse, A.P.P.P, Sunrise and Bones. 80 more can be found directly north in lesser known Nerima-ku. Nerima is the northwestern-most of the 23 wards comprising the urban center of Tokyo. It’s in this area that Japanese Animation was born and almost all the companies involved in production from the beginning in the 1950’s can be found. Rumiko Takahashi’s (Inu Yasha) home is in Nerima and her manga Ranma 1/2 took place there. Major studios include Toei Animation, Mushi Productions, and AIC.
In July, 2004, The Nerima Animation Conference launched a major promotional effort to establish Nerima as “The Cradle Of Japanese Animation” and to rejuvenate the local industry. The conference is composed of over 50 member companies, and recently opened a liaison office to collectively engage in negotiations over sales of character goods and joint productions. It is also consider collecting and preserving animated works and fostering human resources for the next generation.
According to a statement released by Mayor Toshiro Shimura of Nerima City: “Placing animation as a flagship local industry which characterizes Nerima City, we have stepped up our efforts to promote it’s publicity within and outside of our community. In short, we will strive to invigorate the local economy by animation.” 10 member companies of the conference were exhibitors at the 2005 Tokyo Anime Fair and several students Nerima-based College of Art and Nihon University showed off their original works in the special category of the competition.
In December, 1956, Toei Animation Pictures Studio (today’s Toei Animation Co., Ltd.) was setup in Higashi-Oizumi. They had only 2 artists who could draw original pictures, which were illustrated the typical action poses of different characters in the story. There weren’t enough assistants either to draw the succession of 1000’s of frames that would go into a piece of animation. In those days it was necessary to foster young artists employed in increasing numbers , while producing short piece works. In Ocotber, 1958 the studio produced Hakujaden, Japan’s first all color feature length animation film. At the time, Osamu Tezuka was the most popular comic creator who regularly contributed serials in 10 different publications monthly. When he saw Hakujaden he was so impressed that he began to tell others “I want to create a pice like that myself.”
Capitalizing on the successful performance of Hakujaden, Toei Animation decided to produce it’s third animation Saiyuki, which was adapted from Tezuka’s Boku No Songoku. With this connection, Tezuka became an affiliated staff for Toei. After accumulating his experience in animation production, Tezuka established Mushi Productions in 1962 located in Fujimidai, Nerima City. On January 1st, 1963, Japan first saw the broadcast of Astroboy. it was followed in 1965 by Jungle Taitei, Japan’s first color TV animation program. In 1965 a total of 15 TV works including Obake No Q-Taro. 1966 saw 9 new animations including Sallly The Witch and 14 new series including Mach GoGoGo followed in 1967.
Takahata, Miyazaki, Rintaro and Gisaburo Sugii all got their professional start in Nerima. Popular comic artists including Tetsuya Chiba, Mitsutoshi Furuya, Reiji Matsumoto and Makoto Adachi have locatd their homes near Nerima to carry on their creative activities.