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5 Exciting Eras of Art Style in Anime

Over the course of time, anime has change art styles. We know that creative artists drew artwork differently from each other, although during the course of their era drew somewhat similarly during their age of the anime industry. We will delve into these works and examine how artists drew anime in each era.

Earliest dates of anime

The earliest anime was dated on 1917. It is “Nakamura Gatana”, a 2-minute silent short that tells a history where a samurai bought a dull-edged sword (Source). It shows that anime started very simple and yet, already distinct from the art style of western cartoons.

Nakamura Gatana (1917)

Although, it does look like a Muppet from Sesame Street.

60’s to 80’s

60’s to 80’s Animators used celluloids or cel. A cel is a transparent sheet that is drawn on or painted for traditional, hand-drawn animation. Think of it as a layer in our modern image editing software, where instead of redrawing the the whole frame including the background, you’ll just create a different layer for the character and a different layer for the background for re-use. Coloring in this era are all painted, using a heavy acrylic paint applied to the cels.

History of Cel Animation

An animating technique mainly used in this era is Limited Animation. Limited Animation is where an animator would re-use cels on some parts of the animated film. A great example of Limited Animation is running, in where if noticed the background is on a loop.

A large portion of anime made in this Era tends to lean on using the Shonen or 少年漫画(shōnen) genre targeted towards children..

The Art style when drawing the eyes are the classic smaller or normal proportional Iris. For the body, simple character design which were for children to enjoy and some animation tends to be super flashy.

Titles like Doraemon, Dragonball, Little Princess Sara, and etc. were made during this time.

The other large portion of this era are the Mechas or メカ (Meka). Titles like Gundam, God Mazinger, Astro Boy, and Chōdenji Machine Voltes V are among the most popular Mechs known in the era.

Notice how most of the background have dramatic lights or lightning effects.


In the 90’s anime is making a transition towards the new Digital Era. But before that, it’s at this time that a LOT of anime were made with themes with political standpoints. Films like Akira (Yes, I know it was made on 1988), Ghost in the Shell, and Neon Genesis Evangelion were created during the 90’s.

them graphics though.

Because of what the authors wanted to present, those anime were drawn seriously, realistically, and backed up by a lot of budget.

So if you’re one of those that say “Back in the 90’s anime were so much better maybe you’re right; but then again, a plethora of expensive processes were allocated back then.

Since Japan’s population is aging, writers, directors, and artists made more and more anime based on how appropriate it is for the majority if it’s population.

Titles like Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, Rurouni Kenshin, Sailor Moon, and More Gundam which were made in the 90’s were targeted towards teen viewers.

They are still appealing for children, but now with some mature content.

Early 2000’s

In the 2000’s we’re now starting to see the age of Moe or cute stuff. As the world or at least Japan become less serious about politics and more about Waifus.

This era showed how two kinds of art style merge, anime like Code Geass demonstrated that.


Notice that a feeling of old anime still lingers, but with a tingling sensation of new Gen of anime, now present.

The classic eye ratio is now gone, featuring big modern kawaii eyes as replacement. The body has now proper proportions that caters for the modern Japanese ideal body type, which are slim and tall for male and feminine and curvy for female.

It was also the time for creating school themed anime. Titles like Naruto, Toradora!, Clannad, Shakguan no Shana, Yu Gi Oh!, and many many more. I won’t list anymore cause we all know that there are a LOT.


Like I said a LOT.


As Japans birth rate’s on it’s all time low, children only consists 12% of Japan’s population. A lot of anime are now targeted towards the aging population. Less and less anime about muscular theme stuff and more on the Moe and Ecchi or エッチ (Etchi) stuff.

Yes plot. Emphasizing for personality and storyline.

Yes Waifus. Emphasizing on cuteness.

The rest is history. We all know how anime is doing nowadays. The decline of Animators, Overworked workers, VR Girlfriends, stuff like that.

What do you think will happen after this generation of anime is over? What could be the art, theme, and style of the next gen, also which among the anime Era’s are your favorite? Comment below and tell us.

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Phi View All

Freelance writer and game developer writing for Anime Athena

4 thoughts on “5 Exciting Eras of Art Style in Anime Leave a comment

  1. Oh wow. Great post. I thought this was gonna be long, but you were succinct and to the point, which I appreciate as a reader. I’m a 90’s baby, so 90’s anime will always have a special place in my heart since these are the anime that I grew up with. Saying that, I really think that the mostly serious and political themes of the anime back then really shaped me as an anime fan up to now. Although I’ll watch any anime as long as I’m entertained, I still gravitate towards anime that have substance.

    Many are saying that the anime industry is deteriorating—and in some degree, I’ll agree—but I don’t think it’s fair to generalize, especially since there are gems in today’s era. Maybe in the next era, a ground-breaking anime would be created…we don’t know. Anyway, I really enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing it on my blog carnival this past June. Keep up the good work. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Arria! 😀

      I always try to write in the most minimal yet entertaining way possible – I think it makes people skim less.

      Hey I’m a 90’s baby too. I really like the serious toned anime back then, although the quirkiness and the moe culture of modern anime are also enjoyable and fun!

      We can’t help but to generalize since in today’s era there seems to be a hit or miss mentality in the industry. Where studios tend to just release and release content without even trying to come up with something unique. And they usually just depend on fans hoping to treat their characters as lovable waifus or husbandos. Glad you liked my post. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed. And there are more anime being released now every year than when we were kids. So there are a lot of factors that we must consider when we try to answer this question of whether anime really is deteriorating.
        Good discussion. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

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