Power Rangers and the Rise of Anime in America by Jerry Whitworth
Anime (Japanese animation) has made its way to the United States for decades. Astro Boy, Gigantor, and Speed Racer paved the way for Battle of the Planets and Star Blazers which lead to Voltron and Robotech. Series trickled in slowly until the 1990s where it seemed like a veritable explosion lead to anime becoming staples of programming blocks like Fox Kids, Kids’ WB, and Toonami. The rise in popularity of anime is generally attributed to the cultural phenomenon of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Debuting in 1993, Power Rangers was created by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy using footage from Japanese production studio Toei and its super sentai series. The relationship between America and super sentai predated Power Rangers, super sentai owing a fair deal of its life to a relationship between Toei and Marvel Comics. Super sentai toys were even produced in the United States by Mattel as part of their Shogun Warriors line (itself bringing anime to the US in Force Five), the line which created Marvel’s initial arrangement with Toei. By the time Power Rangers captivated America, super sentai existed for nearly two decades in Japan inspiring content there over that time (aforementioned series like Battle of the Planets likely helped inspire super sentai where Voltron was produced by Toei and aired the same year as Marvel and Toei’s final co-produced super sentai series). The first anime series to come to America based on the popularity of Power Rangers was Ronin Warriors in 1995.