What is anime?
Anime, a corruption of the English "animation," refers generally to Japanese cartoons. It is not, however, the same concept as American cartoons. Where American cartoons are generally for children, and rarely of high quality, anime is not. While there are animes for children, there are a large amount devoted to teenagers and adults as well. Anime can run from the simplicity of a children's story to soap opera-ish drama, to martial arts action. Anime, in a sense, encompasses all genres one could imagine possible for a live-action show or movie. The only difference between live action and anime is that anime is drawn.

For this reason, anime is a preferred method of production for movies/TV series' in Japan. Animation, in comparison to live-action, is very economical. For one thing, there is no need to pay actors; there are only voice actors, whose salary is not as excessively large as some actors' wages have become. Also, the special effects that cost so much in live-action can simply be drawn as the rest of the anime is, cutting costs enormously. This does not mean that anime is of a lower quality than live-action. It has been accepted as an equal to live-action in Japan, and among fans around the world.

The earliest Japanese animation was by individual film hobbyists inspired by American and European pioneer animators. The first three Japanese cartoons were one-reelers of one to five minutes each, in 1917. Animation of the 1920s ran from one-to-three reels. A few were imitations of foreign cartoons, such as the Felix the Cat series, but most were dramatizations of Oriental folk tales in traditional Japanese art styles.

In the 80's, a popular anime television series was Urusei Yatsura, which is a Japanese play on words roughly translating to "Those Obnoxious Aliens." It revolved mainly around Ataru Moroboshi, a lecherous, unlucky teenager, and the lovely alien princess Lum, as well as a strong supporting cast. The series, and several movies it spawned, dealt mainly with Ataru, who is in love with Lum, rejecting her returned affections, and Lum chasing after him just the same. One of the first teen romance-comedy animes.

The 90's bring a slew of animes into the popular culture of the US. One such example is Cowboy Bebop, that, despite it's silly name, is an incredible piece of evidence to the continuing development of anime. It features two space faring, martial arts practicing bounty hunters, named Spike and Jet. They travel around the galaxy chasing bounties, constantly repairing their ship, the Bebop, and getting involved in numerous adventures on the way (as if bounty hunting doesn't provide enough adventure). This, however, is not the only anime worth watching today. Among others are Evangelion, Princess Mononoke, Kimagure Orange Road, Tenchi Muyo, and so many others. Hopefully this history of anime has interested you in learning more about anime, and expanding your horizons further, to anime and beyond.

SOURCES:
http://www.awn.com/mag/issue1.5/articles/patten1.5.html
http://www.animedorks.com/history.html

1