AKIRA, GUNDAM, SAILOR MOON, AND THEIR FRIENDS
The momentum of global fan culture is exemplified by the accelerating interest in Japanese animation, or anime (Film History: An Introduction, p. 645). During the 1960s, Japanese companies began selling original anime television programs to overseas channels. Children throughout the world grew up adoring Atom Boy, Speed Racer, and Gigantor. Fan clubs sprang up in the late 1970s. The community expanded rapidly with the coming of videotape, allowing fans to dub shows off-air or to copy tapes from Japan. Fans began studying Japanese in order to understand the dialogue, and some created their own subtitled versions. From the United States and England, anime fever spread to Europe, with one French television channel programming anime heavily. Because Japanese studios turned out 250 hours of anime each year, the fan base had plenty to look forward to.
The feature films Akira and My Neighbor Totoro, released in western theaters in the early 1990s, brought anime into the mainstream. Although fan piracy continued, legitimate companies began distributing dubbed and subtitled tapes. Video rental chains began to include anime sections. Newsletters and 'zines were replaced by reference books and glossy magazines like Protoculture Addicts (first published in 1988). The fans migrated to the Web, and soon hundreds of sites offered pictures, essays, streaming video, music, chatrooms, and online superstores. Fans were spread throughout Asia (where imported anime often stifled the development of local animation), Europe, and South America. With international audiences for the robots in the Gundam series and the team of fighting schoolgirls in Sailor Moon, anime, like the Hollywood megapic, had become a global cinematic form. One distributor called it "the Punk rock of the 1990s" (quoted in Helen McCarthy, "The Development of the Japanese Animation Audience in the United Kingdom and France," in John A. Lent, ed., Animation in Asia and the Pacific [London: John Libbey, 2001], p. 77).