Anime (アニメ) is an entertainment medium originating from Japan. Even though anime is the direct Japanese equivalent for the English word "animation," anime is typically associated with properties made using hand-drawn or computer animation techniques. Globally, anime has grown to refer to animated works that share similar visual styles, themes, and plot elements; meaning that a property can be an anime without being produced in Japan. However, this is a point of debate and some argue only animated works made in Japan are considered anime.
Japanese animation dates back to at least 1917, when it was considered an experimental form of film making. By the 1930s, animation became a mainstream form of entertainment in Japan, and a budding means of education and propaganda. Late 1930s and early 1940s, Japanese animation was heavily influenced by the by the tone and style of the landmark animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Following World War Two, anime became more of a culturally tied form of art and media in Japan. In this environment the creator of Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka, adapted Disney's animation production structure, and formed what what would become the beginning of the modern anime industry. This resulted in a number of heavily influential anime series premiering in the early 1960s, including Three Tails and the first Astro Boy anime.
The 1970s saw the rise of popular Mecha genre of anime, and the 1980s saw anime reach a relatively mainstream level of success and appeal in Japan. The 1980s also saw the saw the global spread of anime and the birth of an international anime fandom. While a number of popular western cartoons were created by Japanese animation companies, the rapid development and acceptance of home video technology allowed anime as a unique form of media to flourish in small communities with few official distribution networks.
This would change in the 1990s and early 2000s, as officially licensed and localized anime became available through legal means and even appeared on major television stations. Internationally licensed anime became even more commonplace in the late 2000s, with the rise of dedicated anime streaming services like Crunchyroll. Other digital platform dedicated to anime-related material also expanded rapidly in the 2000s, including the likes of DLsite.
Today, anime is a more popular and widespread form of media than at any other time in its history. The same is true for anime fandoms, however concerns of exploitative labor practices in the anime industry, shaky financial structures, and toxicity in anime related media fan communities are also more prevalent than ever. In spite of these issues, more than 100 unique anime released in 2019. Furthermore, anime is beginning to influence other entertainment and artistic mediums, such as western animation, to a greater degree than ever before.
In fact, a number of western produced animated series, such as Avatar: The Last Airbender and Cannon Busters, are considered to be anime by many, even if they were not produced in Japan. This would suggest that anime is such a defined, consumed, and critiqued medium today that it is less of a culturally exclusive art form, and is a broader means of artistic expression.