"Japonism," a boom in the popularity of all things Japanese, started after a presentation at the 1867 World Expo in Paris. Quickly sweeping through Europe, ukiyo-e paintings became an inspiration to Impressionist painters. And now in the 21st century, worldwide attention has shifted its focus to anime and comics, the contemporary versions of these 19th-century ukiyo-e prints.
Developing apart from American comics and French “bandes dessinées,” Japanese comics are enjoyed by kids and adults, men and women alike. They cover a range of themes, including sports, school life, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, war and even social issues of the day. Manga artists and writers are considered of the same status as more traditional authors. Still known and read to this day, “Astro Boy” and “Sazae-san” are two of the first popularized and widely-published comics of the modern age.
Developing alongside the comics culture, anime has been continuously evolving to produce more refined stories with both adult and child themes. You don't have to look further than “Pocket Monsters” ("Pokémon") or “Dragon Ball” to see the worldwide influence anime has had. And don't pass by Studio Ghibli's many masterpieces, including Oscar winner “Spirited Away.” Check out “Kimba, the White Lion,” “Paprika” and “Akira,” and see if you can't spot the similarities to “The Lion King,” “Inception” and “Looper.”
When discussing anime and comic culture in Japan, you can't overlook the most fervent fans, the otaku. People who can be described by this moniker have exhaustive knowledge about the subject matter and are always on the lookout for related products. But perhaps even more importantly, otaku engage in creating and expanding on the universes of their favorite properties. They write and illustrate expansions and side stories to their favorite comics. They enjoy cosplay (dressing as their favorite characters) and exchanging tips on how to make their costumes better. And above all, they just enjoy spending time immersed in their favorite worlds and stories, by themselves and with like-minded fans.