What is Anime?

Original Copyrighted to: clancampbell@mcn.net
Original Artical: Japanimation’s HomePage

Updated/Modified By: Chris Heilman

Anime (pronounce as ah-nee-meh) refers to Japanese animation. The actual word is borrowed from the French term for animation. Japanese animation is a distinctive form of animation that is almost always noticeable by either the style or quality. Unlike American animation, not all anime is targeted to young audiences. Subjects in anime range from the obscene to the insanely cute, this is because Japanese censorship laws are different from many other countries. Related to anime is manga (pronounce as mah-n-gah). Manga is what comics are called in Japan. The word manga was coined by the artist Hokusai in 1815, usually translated to mean “irresponsible pictures.”

Anime and manga are significantly different from their counterparts in America. For the most part, cartoons and comic books in America are thought of as geared toward youngsters. Cartoons and comics books in Japan are geared towards all ages. While there is a large amount of American animation and comics which are intended for older, more mature readers without the need for bulging superheroes, they are seen as something separate from the conventional line of comic books (hence DC Comic’s Vertigo label as a separate entity from its normal titles). Millions of subway riders in America pass their time reading novels on the train. In Japan, you’re just as likely to see someone reading a comic book.

Not Necessarily for Kids

Many people assume that since anime is a style of animation cartoon it means that they are simply cartoons for kids only. While there are anime made with a younger audience in mind many can appeal to people of any age group. In fact a single anime can appeal to both kids and adults at the same time. The younger viewers may like it for the action, humor and the general “look” of it. At the same time older viewers will enjoy it for these reasons and the certain subtleties that kids just couldn’t fully grasp or appreciate.

Since anime is designed with more than just kids in mind there are brands of anime that contain levels of violence and sexual reference that most North American people would never expect to find in an animated show or movie.

Format Anime Comes In

As in America, Anime comes in many different formats on how it is distributed in Japan. There are TV episodes, OVAs, and Films.

  • TV Episodes: This is Anime that is shown during prime time such as “ER” and “The X-Files” have been/was. The animation quality in TV episodes tends to be good, but nothing spectacular, but it is the long story lines and character developments that tend to make the series so enjoyable. Normal anime TV seasons run 26 Episodes, each new episode shown once a week. Depending on how well the series does another season will be made. Some popular series will be over 100+ episodes. Each episode normally lasts about 30 minutes just like any other TV series.
  • OAV or OVA: The letters stand for Original Animation Video. They are released as direct to video. Disney has done this for many squeals of their popular movies. You will find them on Video or DVD or LD only. Each OVA can run from 20-50 minutes but normally not much longer. OVA’s tend to be shorter series, but with higher quality animation.
  • Full Length Feature Film: They are one story line that begins and ends in one sitting. Anime of this type goes straight to the theater and is released like any other movie. Here of course the animation being done is the highest quality that you will find. They can be anywhere from 60 minutes or more.

Why do fans love anime and manga?

That depends upon the taste of the individual viewer. However, some of the contributing factors, not in any particular order, may include:

  • Intricate plots and story lines. Most anime and manga consist of a great story line, and there is a great amount of detail which you have to look out for. In general, Japanese culture is less hung up on nudity and violence, but this does not mean, however, that anime and manga have less plot; quite the opposite in fact. Anime and Manga are usually less cliche’s, and contain much more variety and life than most western animation and comics, not to mention quite a few live-action shows and movies.
  • Wide variety of topics and styles. There are anime and manga to fit any and every subject, ranging from the very silly to the very serious. Be it action/adventure, comedy, fantasy, horror, martial arts, science fiction, or sports all genres are represented. Also, anime and manga are usually not specifically intended for any particular age group which adds to their broad appeal.
  • The Emotions. Anime and Manga tend to be very emotional. Be it an action/adventure, comedy, romance, or tragedy, anime and manga fire up emotions that other animation and comics and even non-animated shows fail to do.
  • Great artwork. The animation and artwork in anime and manga usually far surpasses other animation and comics, both in detail and style. Anime and Manga characters are drawn to fit an environment, and don’t appear like two-dimensional add-ons. And yes, everyone notices the big eyes that some anime and manga characters have. Though many traditional animation fans see Disney as the pinnacle of animation achievement, anime tends to concentrate on a higher level of detail in the artwork rather than fluidity of motion.

Anime on American TV

You might have seen anime on TV and elsewhere! Over the years it has been molded to fit American audiences (or at least what TV producers think American audiences are). If you’ve lived in…
the 1960’s…
you might have seen Speed Racer, Kimba the White Lion, Gigantor or Astro Boy.

The 1970’s to the early 1980’s…
you might have seen Battle of the Planets and Star Blazers.

The mid-1980’s…
you might have watched Robotech and Captain Harlock and the Queen of a Thousand Years on TV or played Cliffhanger and Cobra Command in the arcades.

The 1990’s…
You might have seen The Ronin Warriors or a multitude of anime actually referred to as anime on TV, in stores and in the theaters. Most recently, anime came to Americans in the forms of the theatrical film AKIRA or on television in the guise of a children’s show Sailormoon.

If you take your time and do some research you will see anime has exploded onto TV in the US. The Cartoon Network, Fox, WB, TechTV all have anime being shown there will always be a way to watch it no matter where you go. Also The Anime Network will be your best channel to check out first.