Anime as we know it has been around in Japan since the Edo period…ok at least it draws it’s roots to that period. Ukiyo-e were woodblock prints. Ever heard of Katsushika Hokusai? His work is ukiyo-e.
Anime also was heavily influenced by Walt Disney. Many of the earliest animated films look like they came from Disney’s archives. Anime’s early years was spent, much like Disney’s, making propaganda shorts during World War II.
Osamu Tezuka grew up as one of Walt Disney’s most fanatical fans. Tezuka is considered the father of anime and manga. His most famous work is Tetsuwan Atomu ( better known as Astro Boy ). Tezuka’s work opened the flood gates and anime took off.
The 1980s is considered by many to be the golden age of anime. The anime market exploded with hit series like Macross and Dragon Ball. Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball series remains one of the most popular anime of all time. Akira is also released in this decade, cementing anime as a medium for mature story telling.
The year 1999 marked an explosion of anime in the US. Both Pokemon and Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke released. Pokemon isn’t even viewed as anime by most people; a hallmark of anime’s successful foray into the US and other markets.
In the 2000’s anime features continuations of series like Gundam and hits like Fullmetal Alchemist, Naruto, and Bleach.