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Anime and cartoons are often used interchangeably, but is there a fundamental difference between the two?

In this article, we will delve into the topic of “Is anime a cartoon?” and explore the nuanced characteristics that set them apart. 

By analyzing their origins, visual styles, cultural influences, and storytelling techniques, we aim to shed light on this intriguing debate.

What Exactly is Anime?

Anime is hand-drawn and computer animation originating from Japan. 

The word anime is the Japanese term for animation. Outside of Japan, anime refers specifically to animation produced in Japan. Anime’s visual style is diverse due to the large number of animators employed by animation studios.

A Brief History of Anime

Anime production started in the early 1900s when Japanese filmmakers experimented with animation techniques pioneered in France, Germany, the United States, and Russia.

The oldest known anime was a three-second clip of a sailor boy made in 1917 by Oten Shimokawa. In the 1930s, anime gained increased popularity, and the first talkie anime was Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka released in 1933. The success of Disney animated films influenced anime creators in the 1930s.

During the 1940s, anime productions were largely disrupted due to World War II. However, it resumed in the 1950s. The 1970s saw a surge in the popularity and production of anime. The works of director Osamu Tezuka drew international attention and helped define the anime style.

Anime gained mainstream international attention in the 1980s with the global success of series like Gundam and Dragon Ball Z. The anime industry has grown tremendously since then, with productions targeted at diverse audiences.

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What is the Difference Between Cartoons and Anime

While anime seems similar to cartoons, there are distinct differences between the two animation styles:

Art Styles

The art style in anime has a very distinctive look compared to other forms of animation like cartoons. Anime character designs feature exaggerated physical features, vibrant hair colors and styles, and large expressive eyes. The backgrounds in anime often have greater detail than typical cartoon backdrops.

Cartoons, on the other hand, have simpler scenery and character designs. Popular cartoons like The Simpsons use muted colors and aim for humor rather than realism in the visuals. The art styles reflect the different cultures and inspirations between Japanese anime and American cartoons.

Themes and Genres

Anime storylines span many genres not typically found in cartoons, including mature themes.

It can be action-packed like Naruto, thought-provoking like Death Note, romantic like Your Name, or evoke complex emotions like Grave of the Fireflies. Anime subgenres range from fantasy, horror, supernatural, psychological thrillers, and more.

Western cartoons are generally made for children and focus on comedy, like SpongeBob SquarePants, or superheroes, like Avengers. While some cartoons like BoJack Horseman cater to adults, they rarely explore the diverse range of themes found in anime.

Production Methods

The production process also differs between anime and cartoons. Anime involves hand-drawing each frame before it is scanned into a computer. Animators may use some shortcuts, but even digital anime requires more manual work than modern cartoons which are animated mostly by computers.

This results in more dynamic, expressive character animation and scene compositions in anime compared to the three-dimensional computer animation used in most cartoons today. The extra effort put into anime is apparent through its visual quality.

Storytelling Techniques: From Episodic to Serial

Anime frequently employs a serialized narrative structure, with story arcs spanning multiple episodes or seasons. This allows for character development, intricate plotlines, and deeper exploration of themes.

Cartoons, on the other hand, often follow an episodic format, where self-contained stories are presented within each episode. This distinction in storytelling techniques adds to the diverse viewing experiences offered by anime and cartoons.

Arguments for Anime Being Considered Cartoons

While anime and cartoons have their differences, some similarities between the styles can make categorizing anime tricky. Here are some arguments for anime being considered a type of cartoon:

Animation Style

Both anime and cartoons utilize sequences of drawings, computer modeling, and other animation techniques to create moving images. They use overlapping action and exaggerated motions to create more impact and personality than typical live-action filmmaking. Fundamentally, cartoons are a broad medium for animated works. By this definition, anime does qualify under the cartoon umbrella.

Targeted Age Groups

A significant portion of anime series and films are aimed at younger viewers in the children’s demographic. Popular shows like Pokémon, Yo-Kai Watch, and Doraemon are colorful cartoons by design and are meant for kids. Even some late-night anime has content suitable for teenagers. The presence of anime catered toward youth supports its classification as a type of cartoon.

Global Perception

In countries besides Japan, “anime” and “cartoon” are often used interchangeably in mainstream conversations. Most non-fans or casual viewers group Japanese animations as another form of a cartoon rather than a radically different medium. Many people see the term anime as referring to a country of origin rather than an inherent difference in style or substance from cartoons.

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Reasons Why Anime Is Considered Different than Cartoons

However, there are compelling arguments for anime being its distinctive art form separate from traditional cartoons.

Target Older Audiences

While anime has content for younger viewers, a significant portion of productions is aimed at older teenagers all the way to mature adults.

The series explores complex themes like psychological issues, sexuality, violence, and philosophy. The subset of adult-oriented and explicitly risque titles distinguish anime as something more than just cartoons.

Cultural Differences

Anime is heavily influenced by Japanese culture, history, and traditional art like ink-wash paintings.

The visual metaphors, storytelling methods, and symbolism often derive from Japan’s unique sensibilities. Anime references Japanese books, folklore, and media unfamiliar to foreign audiences. The cultural nuances make anime stand out from American or Western-centric cartoons.

Beyond Children’s Entertainment

Calling anime a cartoon downplays its breadth of artistic expression.

Anime productions showcase diverse visual styles appealing to all ages rather than targeting just youth. Japanese animators are not confined to making children’s entertainment but instead, explore animation as a serious art form. There is inherent craftsmanship in anime absent from Saturday morning cartoons designed to sell toys.

Fan Perspectives

Self-identified anime fans view the medium as entirely separate from cartoons.

For them, the term cartoon brings to mind childish works lacking maturity. They consider the generalization of anime as cartoons to be inaccurate and reductive. The dismissive labeling is seen as derogatory and fails to capture anime’s specific attributes.

Conclusion: Anime Has Significant Differences from Cartoons

In conclusion, while anime and cartoons share common elements, anime has evolved well beyond cartoons into its distinct art form and industry.

The animated medium allows more realism, thoughtful writing, compelling characters, and overarching plots than typical Western cartoons. Anime productions cater to niche interests beyond just Families and children. Comparing anime to cartoons fails to fully represent its artistic merits and cultural importance. Calling anime a cartoon, while not entirely wrong, does not paint a complete picture of its uniqueness.

So in answer to the question “Is anime a cartoon?”, anime is not strictly a cartoon, but a unique animation style born out of Japan’s culture and artistic sensibilities.

The diversity of anime transcends the expectations of cartoons as exclusively kids’ entertainment. While some anime does target younger viewers, the medium overall showcases complex themes and visual innovation beyond Western animation standards. Anime has earned its place as an irreplaceable medium loved by fans around the world.

FAQs – Is Anime a Cartoon?

What does “anime” mean?

Anime is short for “animation” in Japan. It refers to all forms of animated media including TV shows, movies, short films, OVAs (original video animations), as well as manga-style comics.

What is the difference between manga and anime?

Manga is Japanese comic books while Anime is Japanese animation. Manga often tells stories through pictures while Anime tells stories through both pictures and sound. Both Manga and Anime are popular forms of entertainment in Japan.

Are all Japanese animated shows considered “anime”?

No, not all Japanese animated shows are considered “anime”. While some shows may contain elements of traditional anime, they are not necessarily classified as such unless they meet certain criteria like having art styles similar to those found in classic animes.

What does the term “cartoon” mean?

A cartoon is defined as any drawing created for humorous purposes. Most often it refers to an animated series featuring humorous situations featuring anthropomorphic animals or other non-human characters.

How do manga and anime differ from one another?

Manga typically tells stories through pictures while Anime tells stories through both pictures and sound. Additionally, Manga tends to be more focused on telling detailed stories whereas Anime focuses more on action sequences involving its characters.

Do people prefer watching anime over live-action films?

Some people prefer watching anime over live-action films because they appreciate the unique storylines featured in many popular animes as well as the distinct art styles used by animators when creating feature films & short films alike.

Tom Velasco

Tom Velasco

I'm just a regular guy who loves hobbies. I'm also the creator of Hobbyist To Riches, where I've spent the last 15 years trying out all kinds of hobbies that make life happier and financially rewarding. My adventures have taken me around the world to immerse in different cultures and their diverse pastimes. I love sharing this journey of discovering new passions!

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