Oracle of History

Guiding you through the ages

Archive for the category “Animation”

From Zero to Hero: The Birth of Superheroes

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In the era of the superhero franchise, many don’t seem to know the historical backdrop that led to the stardom of some of the world’s most iconic characters.

Prepare for your minds to be blown!

The truth is that some of these guys became superhero giants for a reason. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether it’s due to content or just good timing.

Holding Out For A Hero

Let me take you back to 1933, a year many high schoolers may know as the year of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. It was also the year the character of Superman was created by two young men from Cleveland Ohio, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

What do these two events have to do with each other?

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Well, this may surprise you, but I can make a direct connection between the rise of Hitler and the popularization of Superman. The main ingredient? The need for hope!

Picture the scene – Adolf Hitler, practically a nobody, blitzes through Europe and manages to create an entire doctrine based on fear…successfully.

By the time 1939 came around, no one had managed to stop him. He was the ultimate villain who had yet to face his superhero arch nemesis. A fact which may have been troubling to the children of the U.S.A whose only interaction with the man was through the radio news bulletins.

In fact, some may argue that if Hitler had successfully taken over Europe that his next stop would have been the U.S.

BONUS : If you want an idea of what a Nazi controlled U.S. would have looked like then I would definitely check out the mini series “The Triangle.” It’s about the Bermuda Triangle and although it is a mediocre show I would watch it for the one scene with the alternate universe of Nazi America – Super trippy and scary!

Thankfully, Superman comes onto the scene as a comic book in 1938. A natural superhero, his mighty powers and caring heart make him the perfect specimen of American creativity to defeat the evil Hitler – well, the idea of him at least!

Thus hope was born once again!

Although it is not said explicitly, I truly believe that the reason why Superman became as popular as he did was because he managed to bring hope to children and adults alike during a dark time in world history.

Captain America 

Much like Superman, quite a few people dislike Captain. His backstory isn’t dark and he gains his strength in hope – not in revenge.

Once again I will shatter your illusions and tell you that he is a dirScreen Shot 2014-04-17 at 13.45.32ect response to World War 2. When the character first appeared in 1941, he was an instant success. Mostly because he symbolized the troops still fighting.

If Captain America could defeat the Axis villains then so could the fathers/brothers/husbands out there now.

To prove my point, check out this great cartoon from Dorkly that could say it better than I ever could.

This is all to say that there is more to these “bland” characters than meets the eye – at least from a historical perspective.

The Aftermath

So what happened after World War 2?

Well, people got more cynical. They were disillusioned by their government through easily accessible information via television and a propaganda free press. The Vietnam War changed the way Americans saw warfare forever.

Children and Adults were no longer looking for their perfect warrior. They wanted heroes that were more like them – with flaws and all.

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This paves the way for characters like Batman, Spiderman and even Iron Man. These were superheroes they could relate to. “Normal” guys who had to rise from the ashes after great tragedy. There is also a moral ambiguity to these characters that show that they’re human.

Except for the fact that both Batman and Iron Man were billionaires, I see their point.  I think one of the reasons Batman is still so popular today is that he lives in a world that’s not so different from our own, but with gadgets and crazy villains!

In the same way, Spiderman is about a teenage boy who gets bitten by a radioactive spider. His story is the fantasy of every bored high school student. Thus the popularity of spidey grew!

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Bottom line, we like to feel connected to fictional characters, and after World War 2 we no longer aspired to the super soldier.

We were looking for the hero we deserve 😉

Do you think we’ve found it?

Bonus

Did Mulan Really Defeat the Huns?

With the popularity of Frozen I thought it would be a good idea to take a step back and look at one of the most badass Disney Princesses out there: Mulan.

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Is she real?

Well, unfortunately the only “proof” we have that she existed was an ancient Chinese ballad/poem that we think was written sometime between 386 and 533 A.D. (Wei Dynasty).

Since it is a folk tale, there are countless interpretations of the story. In simplistic terms you can say it’s China’s version of the story of the fall of Troy.

No one knows if it really happened, but it’s a nice story with a moral lesson.

So what is the Legend of Mulan trying to teach us?

Like any good folk tale, the story of Mulan is meant to impart an important moral lesson. In this case, honor your family and your country, preferably at the same time. Not everyone will have the courage to join a war to save their father, but it does make it clear what the values were at the time.

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The original poem has an obvious sexist tinge to it that isn’t as present in the Disney movie, which is a good thing. For one, Mulan’s name is rarely used in the poem. She is referred to as “daughter” most of the time. The story also opens with her weaving and ends with her doing similar female approved activities, returning to her role as female of the household.

This wouldn’t have upset as much if it weren’t for the fact that she supposedly spent 12 years in the army without being caught – yes, 12 years and was only discovered because her old army buddies came to visit her later.  You would have thought that she would have had issues with re-adapting to female life, but it was as if she were unchanged by the experience.

I don’t know about Mulan, but when I hang around guys a lot I develop similar mannerisms and habits – as you would with any group of friends.  So, excuse me as I suspend my disbelief for a second.

That being said, in the legend, Mulan is already versed in martial arts and horseback riding thanks to her father. So she didn’t really need to be whipped into shape like in the Disney version, but it did produce a kickass song!

Of course, this is meant to tell little girls that you can bring honor to your family, as long as you go back to your assigned gender roles once you’re done.

I think the big draw of the Disney movie is that it gives a positive role model for young girls without being preachy. Mulan chooses to go to war to protect her father, but she also grows as a person through this experience.

The poem is obviously revolutionary, telling the story of a girl who disguises herself as a boy and is successful, but the character feels fairly static. A vessel to teach a moral lesson. It’s a common storytelling tool from the past, mostly because this was the only way to really ram in a point. Most people wouldn’t have had enough education to be able to read so ballads were an effective way to spread stories and create popular culture.

In the end, I hope it’s true and if it’s not…

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Making Anime History

I’ve recently gotten back into anime. Maybe it’s the long hours spent in front of the computer, but there is something satisfying about being able to watch a comprehensive story arc in the space of 15 mins or so.

It may also be that I am suffering from a serious case of wanderlust and I’m desperately trying to immerse myself in an other culture.  Subtitles for the win!

Let me preface this by saying that I’m no expert. This is a combination of what I’ve read and what I’ve seen. No hate please!

Anime, Japanese animated films and T.V. shows, are very different from their western equivalent.

Why you may ask?

Well, because their society and culture is entirely different. It also has a very specific style that is supported by an entire industry.

So, where did it come from?

My research has led me to believe that the beginning of the anime industry was during World War 2 when Japanese animators were influenced by the comic strips and cartoons of the west.

Thus Japanese illustrators began to serialise their stories in newspapers. This would later lead to the creation of the manga, which is the Japanese style comic book that is so popular today.

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Soon after, in the 1950s and 60s, animation studios began to appear in Japan with the aim of producing  films that could rival Disney.

Over the years, the style and stories became more refined. Like any industry there are some good ones and some bad ones, but it’s also such a big industry that you can basically find anything you could ever want….and I mean anything….*shudder*

The official “boom” came in the 1980s when many anime T.V. shows were brought to the U.S. and became incredibly popular.

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Sailor Moon is the one of the most obvious examples. I still remember watching Sailor Moon as a kid in the 90s and I lived in France!

What I find the most interesting is that, although the Japanese Anime Industry is independent of the U.S. animation market, there are moments where they are dependent on each other.

For example, the creation of the sequel to Full Metal Alchemist, Brotherhood, was partly attributed to the huge success of the original series in the U.S.

The Japanese studio then realized that success = money.

That being said, it is an entirely different culture. Western parents often think that anime = cartoons, which isn’t necessarily the case. A lot of the time adult themes are openly addressed in these shows.

Currently, I am watching a show called Diabolik Lovers. It’s about a young girl who was groomed by her father, a priest, to serve as a sacrifice for a house full of vampires. She is then sent to live with them.

Yes, yes, I know it sounds awful, but what shocked me the most was the almost rapey nature of the show. These incredibly “attractive” vampires basically force themselves on her while saying things like “I know you want it” and “you can’t get away from me.”

N.B. they are referring to blood sucking and not other things, but the vibe is still super creepy. I wonder if there are any studies on the psychological impact of something like this…

This is in contrast to a show like Vampire Knight, which is about a school that is separated between Day Class students (who are human) and Night Class students (who are vampires). Somehow it’s less creepy. I think it’s because these vampires are shown to have redeeming qualities, distinguishing between “good” and “bad” vampires.

You can already see the difference in the openings!

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got shows that are very positive and fluffy. They make you want to puke rainbows!

I’m thinking in particular of something like Uta No Prince-Sama or Brothers Conflict. Both based on Visual Novel games. It’s a reverse harem plot, which means there is one girl surrounded by many guys.  Although the plot lines are always ridiculous, I enjoy watching them because it’s something that is never done in western animation. It’s exotic to me!

Either way, it’s an industry that is very unique. It completely suspends your disbelief.

Guy with green hair? Seems legit.

Love hexagon troubles? Create a boy band.

The cultural heritage of animation is very interesting since it influences children and adults alike. It has even greater power when you think of how it can spread through the internet.

And so, I leave you with one of the more epic anime intros I’ve seen:

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