When is National Anime Day? Celebration of Japanese animation explained - and popular characters and shows

Japanese cartoons such as Dragonball Z and Pokemon made anime popular in western culture

Today (15 April) celebrates National Anime Day, celebrating Japanese anime cartoons.

Japan’s animated character shows, games and comics have grown in popularity in the past three decades across the globe, and in pre-pandemic times, conventions would take place on this date to acknowledge the contribution of anime to popular culture.

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So, what is anime, when was National Anime Day established, and how are fans of the cartoons and characters celebrating in 2021? This is what you need to know.

Anime and Manga originated in Japan, but now enjoy a mass following around the world (Picture: Getty Images)

What is anime?

Anime is a style of Japanese hand drawn and computer animated cartoon which has a specific style - such as that used in Pokemon and Dragonball Z.

The term only refers to cartoons from Japan and any similar animation which is created in other countries is known as anime-influenced animation.

Japanese comics (manga), light novels, or video games depict different forms of anime, with different audiences and fans across the titles and genre.

Compared to Western animation, anime production generally focuses less on movement, and more on the detail of settings and use of "camera effects" - such as panning, zooming, and angle shots.

One of the most notable aspects of anime is the large facial features and expressions, particularly large and emotive eyes.

The anime industry consists of over 430 production companies, including major studios like Studio Ghibli, Sunrise, and Toei Animation.

While the first commercialised Japanese cartoons emerged in 1917, the style now associated with anime was first produced by cartoonists such as Osamu Tezuka in the 1960s.

The art form has grown significantly in the past few decades, from the early 90s - as TV shows, video games and comics gained worldwide popularity.

As of 2016, Japanese anime accounted for 60% of the world's animated television shows.

Characters from well-known anime cartoons have gained mass followings and the cartoons continue to diversify with the growth of technology allowing for graphic art, characterisation, cinematography, and other forms of imaginative and individualistic techniques to be used.

What is National Anime Day?

National Anime Day always falls on 15 April, and is celebrated around the world by anime fans.

The day was first coined in 1975, with a convention in Tokyo attended by just 700 participants.

Conventions take place across Asia, the US and the UK, with fans dressing up as their favourite characters and showing off the latest and most popular anime creations.

Nowadays, the Anime Expo in Japan, AnimeJapan, attracts around 115,500 participants across a weekend. New cartoons, games and comics are often released around the time of the annual convention.

In 2021, conventions were cancelled for a second year due to the Covid pandemic, but fans and companies are celebrating in other ways.

For example, Amazon Prime Video is allowing Twitter users to have their profile picture turned into an anime avatar for the day.

Fans have also taken to social media to share pictures of their favourite shows and characters.

Who are the most popular anime shows and characters?

Shows such as Pokemon and Dragonball Z gained popularity throughout the early 90s and many of the characters are strongly associated with anime in Europe and across western countries.

However, for anime followers there are a number of new Japanese anime shows and characters who are fan favourites.

Jujutsu Kaisen is a relatively new series, but main character Satoru Gojou was one of the most popular anime characters of 2020.

The story follows high school student Yuji Itadori as he joins a secret organisation of Jujutsu Sorcerers in order to kill a powerful Curse named Ryomen Sukuna, of whom Yuji becomes the host.

The show’s rankings grew hugely in 2020 and it is expected to become an all-time favorite.

Hit anime series Re:Zero also has several well-received anime characters - such as Subaru Natsuki, Rem and Amelia.

The series tells a story of Subaru, a normal young man that lives his normal life in modern Japan. However, one day, he is summoned to another world.

Without knowing the person that summoned him, or the reason for being summoned in the new world, he soon befriends a silver-haired-half-elf girl, Emilia.

Shoyo Hinata is arguably the main character of Haikyuu!!, and fans love watching his triumphs and failures as he attempts to succeed at a pro volleyball career.

For more mainstream anime fans, the most popular pokemon include Pikachu, Charizard, Onix and Mewtwo.