Anime (アニメ) is Japaneseanimation, often characterized by stylized colorful images depicting vibrant characters in a variety of different settings and storylines, aimed at a variety of different audiences. Anime is influenced by the drawing style of manga, or Japanese comics.
The Japanese term for animation is アニメーション
(animēshon, pronounced: ), written in katakana. It is a direct transliteration of the English term "animation." The Japanese term is abbreviated as アニメ (anime, pronounced: /ɑnimɛ/ ). Both the original and abbreviated forms are valid and interchangeable in Japanese. The term is a broad one, and does not specify a cartoon's nation of origin or style.
In turn, the English word anime is a transliteration of the abbreviated version of this Japanese term, and it is typically pronounced as /ˈćnɪˌmei/. Some non-Japanese fans theorize the word comes from the Frenchanimé ("animated") or "les dessins animés" (animated drawings.) As with a few other Japanese words such as Pokémon and Kobo Abé, anime is sometimes spelled as animé in English with an acute accent over the final e to cue the reader that the letter is pronounced as [e]. For example, "Abé" can be mistaken as a nickname for Abraham without the accent, which wouldn't pronounce the last letter.
Internationally, anime once bore the popular name Japanimation, but this term has fallen into disuse. It saw the most usage during the 1970s and 1980s, which broadly comprise the first and second waves of anime fandom. The term survived at least into the early 1990s but seemed to fade away shortly before the mid-1990s anime resurgence. In general, the term now only appears in nostalgic contexts. The term Japanimation is much more commonly used in Japan to refer to domestic animation. Since anime or animeshon is used in Japan to describe all forms of animation regardless of national origin, Japanimation is meant to distinguish Japanese work from that of the rest of the world.
In more recent years, anime has also frequently been referred to as manga in Europe, a practice that may stem from the Japanese usage. In Japan, manga refers to both animation and comics. Among English speakers, manga usually has the stricter meaning of "Japanese comics". An alternate explanation is that it is due to the prominence of Manga Entertainment, a distibutor of anime to the US and UK markets. This term is much more common in Europe since Manga Entertainment started out in the UK.
Though filmmakers in Japan had been experimenting with animation beforehand, the first widely popular anime series was Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy in 1963. During the 1970s, anime developed further, separating itself from its Western roots, and developing unique genres such as mecha. Notable shows in this period include Lupin III and Mazinger Z.
In the 1980s, anime found itself accepted in the mainstream in Japan, and experienced a boom in production. The start of the Gundam franchise, and the beginnings of Rumiko Takahashi's career have their roots here. Akira set records in 1988 for the production costs of an anime.
Anime features a wide variety of genres and unique artistic styles which varies from artist to artist. It can have as many genres as live action cinema, including adventure, science fiction, children's stories, romance, medieval fantasy, erotica (hentai), occult/horror, action. Most anime includes a variety of thematic elements. For example, it is not uncommon for strongly action-themed anime to involve humor, romance, and even poignant social commentary, and romance-themed anime may involve a strong action element.
Anime is often an explicitly commercial art form; producers and marketers aim for very specific audiences, with focused categories for shōnen (boys) and shōjo (girls) genres, as well as for teenagers and adults.
Osamu Tezuka adapted and simplified many Disney animation precepts to reduce the budget and number of frames. This was intended to be a temporary measure to allow him to produce one episode every week with inexperienced animation staff. Anime studios have since perfected techniques to draw as little new animation as possible, using scrolling or repeating backgrounds, still shots of characters sliding across the screen, and dialogue which involves only animating the mouths while the rest of the screen remains absolutely still, a technique not wholly unfamiliar to Western animation. The overall effect of these techniques—reduced frame rate, many still shots, scrolling backgrounds—has led some critics to accuse anime of choppiness or poor quality in general. (See also limited animation.)
However, there are often scenes where the frame rate of the animation far exceeds the norm of the rest of the work. These are commonly called "money shots" outside Japan, where more effort is put into the animation of one scene to give it emphasis over the rest of the work. Animator Yasuo Otsuka was the pioneer of this technique.
Exceptions to these rules are big budget films, such as those produced by the enormously successful Studio Ghibli. These movies have much higher production values, due to their anticipated success at the box office. Some animators in Japan can overcome production values by utilizing different techniques than Disney or the old Tezuka/Otsuka norms of anime. Directors such as Hiroyuki Imaishi (RE: Cutey Honey, Dead Leaves) simplify backgrounds so that more attention can be paid to character animation. Other animators like Tatsuyuki Tanaka (in Koji Morimoto's Eternal Family in particular) use squash and stretch, an animation technique not often used by Japanese animators; Tanaka makes other shortcuts to compensate for this. Some higher-budgeted television and OVA series (Original Video Animation) also forego shortcuts found in most other anime.
In short, anime tends to be dominated by a school of animation thought that emphasies direction over character motion as means to save money. Other schools of thought in animation do exist in Japan but these works are less common.
Anime has been available in the North America and Europe for some time. Anime releases there are usually dubbed into the language of the country in which they are released. Anime series are also sometimes edited by Western distributors to remove what they feel local audiences would consider to be objectionable content. This is especially true with series that are marketed to children, such as the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime (Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters in Japan) produced by Nihon Ad Systems and Pokémon. In other cases, editing is done to change content to make it easier for Western viewers to understand. Some anime enthusiasts object to one or both forms of editing. Those viewers often watch anime titles in DVD format, because DVD releases are typically unedited and often include both the dubbed audio and the original Japanese audio with subtitles. Another advantage of DVD releases is that there are no commercials, unlike in television releases. Although it is a violation of copyright laws in most countries, some fans also watch fansubs, recordings of anime series that have been subtitled by fans. The ethical implications of producing, distributing, or watching fansubs is a topic of much controversy. See fansub for further discussion of those ethical issues.
Mainstream anime is often very stylized. Because of this stylization certain features or concepts have become so common that they have been given names of their own. Often in comedic anime, characters that are shocked or surprised will perform a "face fault", in which they take an extremely exaggerated expression. Angry characters may exhibit a "vein" effect, where four lines representing stylised bulging veins will appear on their forehead. Angry women will sometimes summon a mallet from nowhere and strike someone with it, leading to the concept of Hammerspace. Embarrassed characters will invariably produce a massive sweat-drop, which has become something of a stereotype of anime.
More auteuristic schools of anime don't use such shorthands or find different but similar ways to express the same thing. FLCL is known for more wild exaggerated stylized emotions than in most mainstream works. In contrast an Isao Takahata film like Only Yesterday takes a much more realistic approach emphasizing realism over stylization.
Another unique aspect of anime not found in other commercial animation markets is the lack of a directoral system. In most animation produced around the world animators are all forced to conform to a set style by the director or animation director. In Japan starting with the animation director Yoshinori Kanada (as a means to save time and money) each animator brings his/her own style to the work. The most extreme examples of this can be found in Mindgame or The Hakkenden . The Hakkenden is particularly extreme showing constanly shifting styles of animation based upon the key animator that worked on that particular episode. This approach combined with Otsuka's "money shots" make key animators important individuals in the style and production of an anime film.
Many non-Japanese cartoons are starting to incorporate mainstream anime shortcuts and symbols as a result of the tremendous growth of the artform.
The "large eyes" style
Large, saucer-like eyes are a striking and common feature of anime characters. This is mainly due to the influence of Osamu Tezuka, who was inspired by the exaggerated features of Western cartoon characters such as Betty Boop and Mickey Mouse. Tezuka found that large eyes allowed his characters to better express their emotions. Some Western audiences have interpreted such stylized eyes as more Caucasian, but Japanese animators and audiences do not perceive them as being inherently more or less foreign. Kyoto Seika University associate professor and translator Matt Thorn examines these perceptions as an anthropological issue in The Face of the Other essay.
When he began drawing Ribbon No Kishi, the first manga specifically targeted at young girls, Tezuka further exaggerated the size of the characters' eyes. Indeed, through Ribbon No Kishi, Tezuka set a stylistic template that later shōjo artists tended to follow.
Notable names in anime
The following section is devoted to those artists who made an impact through direct contributions to anime as opposed to other artists who were in manga and other fields that had an impact on the development of Japanese animation.
The work of prominent manga (Japanese comics) artists often has an impact on anime, even when they are not themselves directly involved in anime.
Go Nagai's contributions to anime and manga compare with Jack Kirby's work in comic books. Nagai pioneered several genres and for years many producers imitated his style. His action-packed science fiction series featured among the first anime widely broadcast in the United States (under the American titles Force Five and Tranzor Z). Most of these works were originally written by Nagai as manga.
Rumiko Takahashi, one of the wealthiest women of Japan, is the mind behind the popular Maison Ikkoku, Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura and InuYasha manga. These titles were brought into anime to enjoy even more success. Nearly all of her series are long-running, spanning many volumes and episodes upon television adaption.
Akira Toriyama is the author of the Dragon Ball manga, which was later adapted into the incredibly popular Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z anime series. He is also known for his character design in Chrono Trigger. His work has also inspired other manga artists in their creations.
Satoshi Tajiri's game series, Pokémon, inspired the famous anime series of the same name, with over six seasons on television and seven movies. Pokémon has also spawned an entire genre of imitators to cash in on the success of the series.
Most anime can be categorized as one of three types:
Films, which are generally released in theaters, represent the highest budgets and generally the highest video quality. Popular anime movies include Akira and Spirited Away. Some anime films are only released at film or animation festivals and are shorter and sometimes lower in production values. Some examples of these are Winter Days and Osamu Tezuka's Legend of the Forest . Other types of films include compilation movies, which are television episodes edited together and presented in theaters for various reasons, and are hence a concentrated form of a television serial. These may, however, be longer than the average movie. There are also theatrical shorts derived from existing televisions series and billed in Japanese theaters together to form feature-length showing.
OVA (Original Video Animation; sometimes OAV, or Original Animated Video) anime is often similar to a television miniseries. OVAs are typically two to twenty episodes in length; one-shots are particularly short, usually less than film-length. They most commonly released directly to video. As a general rule OVA anime tends to be of high quality, approaching that of films. Titles tend often have a very regular, continuous plot which is best enjoyed if all episodes are viewed in sequence. Popular OVA titles include Bubblegum Crisis and Tenchi Muyo.
Television series anime is syndicated and broadcast on television on a regular schedule. Television series are generally low quality compared to OVA and film titles, because the production budget is spread out over many episodes rather than a single film or a short series. Most episodes are about 23 minutes in length, to fill a typical thirty-minute time slot with added commercials. One full season is 26 episodes, and many titles run half seasons, or 13 episodes. It is common for subsequent episodes to be completely unrelated to each other (as seen in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex), so viewers can enjoy the show even if an episode is missed. All TV series anime episodes will have opening credits, closing credits, and often an "eyecatch", a very short scene, often humorous or silly, that is used to signal the start or end of the commercial break. "Eyecatch" scenes are only found in TV series anime. Opening credits may be found in OVA releases, but that is not a certainty. These features are not found in movies.
It is very common for one title to spawn several different releases. A title that starts as a popular television series might then have a movie produced at a later date. A good example is Tenchi Muyo—originally an OVA, Tenchi Muyo! spawned three movies, three television series, and several spinoff titles and specials.
By target audience
Shōjo anime is intended for girls. Most anime is assumed to be shōnen, intended for boys, so it is usually not necessary to label it. While seinen (intended for men) and josei (intended for women) anime does exist, anime that fall specifically and exclusively into those genres is rare. The only one of these terms in common use is shōjo.
The following are genres and designations that are specific to anime and manga. (For other possible genres, see list of movie genres.)
Clements, Jonathan and Helen McCarthy. The Anime Encyclopedia. Berkeley, Calif.: Stone Bridge Press, 2001. ISBN 1880656647.
Poitras, Gilles. Anime Companion. Berkeley, Calif.: Stone Bridge Press, 1998. ISBN 1880656329.
Poitras, Gilles. Anime Essentials. Berkeley, Calif.: Stone Bridge Press, 2000. ISBN 1880656531.
Baricordi, Andrea and Pelletier, Claude. Anime: A Guide to Japanese Animation (1958-1988). Montreal, Canada.: Protoculture, 2000. ISBN 2980575909.
Anime News Network: one of the premiere anime news sources on the net. Also has weekly columns, an extremely extensive encyclopedia of series, companies, and industry professionals, lexicon, forums and a chat room.
Anime on DVD: a site with extensive reviews of anime DVDs. Their web forums are also frequented by industry professionals.
AniDB: database of anime series, files (hashes), fansub groups, DVD rips, etc.
Anime News Service: news site dedicated to offering news items, press releases and interviews.