Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Anime: What is it? The Basics.

If you're reading this, you use the Internet. So you've probably heard of or seen an anime (Ah-Ni-Meh). If you haven't you're probably not on the interwebs much and don't watch TV. If you've never seen an anime, then keep reading. If you're an avid watcher, then this is a refresher.

So, what is anime?
Anime are Japanese cartoons. Yes, I called them cartoons. Anime is short for "Animation", and in Japan refers to ALL animated media. So, all those Disney shows you grew up with, and those silly things you watched as a kid will be called anime in Japan. Spongebob? Anime! Ash from Pokemon? Anime! Dragonball Z? Anime! Mickey Mouse? Anime! However, in the US, anime has come to be regarded strictly as Japanese animation.

Now that we've established that anime are just Japanese cartoons, you may be wondering why they're so popular. Well, contrary to American cartoons, anime is typically more mature. It has usually has a main storyline, and and there are usually aesthetic differences. Characters in anime typically have large eyes and round faces reminiscent of actual Japanese people. Though, this is not always the case. Monster (shown below), created by Naoki Urasawa has a fairly realistic look.
Osamu Tezuka, who is credited as the "Godfather of anime, was inspired by the large eyes found in the earlier works of Disney such as Bambi, and Mickey Mouse. So next time you criticize an anime character's large "watery" eyes, BLAME DISNEY!

However, as with all genres or animation, there are various styles out there ranging from realistic to surreal. It pains me every time someone claims they "hate anime" because they have such large eyes. The art style, is a selling point for many people like myself. Personally, I fell in love with the art style when I was a child after watching Pokemon and Digimon. Over the years, my taste has gotten better, and I've become something of an art snob.

On the other hand, despite being the art snob I am, pretty big-eyed art isn't the only thing that distinguishes anime from normal cartoons. With most anime, it follows a linear plot, and each episode is a continuation from the previous episode instead of a new random story each episode. It's what
I love about anime and hate about American cartoons. With this lovely linear plot line you can have more mature storylines.

Anime covers all those things you never thought you would see in a cartoon. Yes. Even that. Now stop thinking such things.

Any genre you can think of is covered in anime, from horror to comedy. Many anime, despite being cartoons, are not things you want to show your kids or younger siblings. My parents nearly made the mistake of buying Paprika, an (amazing) R-rated anime movie for my younger sister and I when I was 10.

This isn't to say all anime are mature, but they cover a broader horizon. There are anime for kids, teens, and adults alike. Take for instance one of my favorites, Hourou Musuko (Wandering Son) shown at the top of the post. The anime is about Shuichi Nitori (middle), a boy in the fifth grade who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino Takatsuki (left), a girl who wants to be a boy. The anime follows their issues they go through life as transgendered children.

You won't find that on Nickelodeon.
These aspects make anime all the more popular for people over here in the US (especially me). Either that or you're just one of those people who like anything remotely Asian/Japanese...