Skip to content
Japanese animation, "anime," is enjoying a huge renaissance in America. In the '80s, America's only exposure to the Japanese anime behemoth was occasional Saturday morning extended basic cable showings of dubbed "Starblazers" or "Robotech" episodes or giant robot cartoons such as "Grandizer" and "Gaiking."
But turn on Cartoon Network today and you'll see a lineup of "Tom & Jerry" and "Ed, Edd 'n Eddy" surrounded by shows such as "Cowboy Bebop," "Inuyasha" and "Trigun." All three shows are anime, dubbed and brought over to America, where interest in the art form continues to skyrocket.
Video game enthusiasts have long been the greatest consumers of Japanese pop culture, as some of the biggest franchises in games, such as "Mario" and "Final Fantasy," have hailed from across the Pacific. So it is no surprise that vidders face an onslaught of games based on popular anime series, such as "Dragonball" and "Inuyasha." This week, SEGA is releasing two video games based on the classic series "Astro Boy" (PlayStation 2, Game Boy Advance/$49.99, $29.99).
"Astro Boy" is credited with being the first animated series produced for Japanese television (1963), making it the first anime. The show has been resurrected in new episodes airing on Cartoon Network. Astro is the robot son of an inventor who lost his real child in an accident (seeing shades of Spielberg's "A.I." here?), blessed with incredible powers that he must use to fight off evil.
Other Cartoon Network shows are coming to games this fall too, including "Inuyasha." Published by Bandai, "Inuyasha" transports gamers into feudal Japan, where they must help the half-demon Inuyasha discover the secret of a cursed mask. If interacting with favorite characters is not enough to sway fans into the $50 purchase, Bandai is including more than 30 minutes of anime scenes created exclusively for the game.
The classic "Robotech" has long received the video game treatment. This fall, Globalstar is publishing "Robotech: Invasion" for the PS2 and Xbox. (There have been multiple "Robotech" series, the most well-known being "Macross.")
Globalstar's game is receiving a promotional boost from DC Comics, which is publishing a five-issue series based on "Invasion," as well as from action figures released by Toynami.
The rewards for pleasing fans, and capitalizing on a series at the zenith of its popularity, can be huge. Atari, publisher of all "Dragonball Z" games, nabbed a huge license when it nailed the classic anime series, which was one of the top-rated shows on (wait for it) Cartoon Network.
"Dragonball Z," part of one of the most enduring anime and manga series ever created -- more than 100 million "Dragonball" manga have been sold in Japan -- stars a legion of over-the-top brawlers who beat each other into the ground, every episode. (The show's influence can be seen in the final battle of the third "Matrix" movie.)
Atari's first PS2 "DBZ" fighting game, "Budokai," has sold more than 1.5 millions units in America. Atari is prepping a third "Budokai" for release this fall.