One of this questions some people will ask when they see an animated show on television is "Is this anime?" This may sound like an odd question but it is suprisingly common. The idea in debate is what does the word anime really mean. There are two different answers to the question. The first is that anime means only animated works made in Japan. The other is that anime is simply the Japanese word for any animated work. What puzzles me is that either way the question shouldn’t matter. Rejecting a show like a vegetarian who has just discovered meat in her food just because it wasn’t made in Japan is pretty weird when you come to think of it.
It is a generally held belief that the Japanese produce better works of animation than other countries. I would tend to agree but the reasons while they do so are based on two things that make them different. The first is that they will use animation for any story rather than simply doing kid’s shows. The second is that they use more of the country’s artistic talent to make such works than other countries. While other countries may have artists who can draw as well as the Japanese, they tend to be lacking in story writing and voice acting. The result is the Japanese will produce the full gamut of artistic works in the animated form while others are limited by their self imposed assumptions.
Exposure to anime in other countries is starting to break down the first part of the argument. When an artist sees someone else do better than him or herself the natural thing to do would be to see why they are consistently better than the artist in question and try to adapt their own work to what they have learned by watching others. Some may call this Americans and other stealing from the Japanese but it isn’t the crime that the word implies. In fact the only reason that things are conventions in anime is because the Japanese artists have ‘stolen’ ideas from other Japanese artists.
Contemporary American animation is improving in terms of creativity and thematic importance. The people in charge of the animation studios are big suits that are resistant to change but this is breaking down a bit especially as anime’s popularity is providing stiff competition. The biggest changes I have seen is in the Warner Brothers studio under the banner of cartoon network. Two shows in particular stand out. The first is Justice League. Unlike earlier super hero shows the latest version of Justice league is expanding the length of their stories, to allow for more complex plots. The length of plots has long been one of the biggest stumbling blocks of American animation. The other show would be Samurai Jack. While the plots are very cliché, Samurai jack has a very innovate art style and it is very interesting to watch a show that places as much focus on cinematography as Samurai Jack does.
As for my answer to the question I posed at the beginning of the article I would have to say I take the second view. As such I am announcing a policy change in Anifanatikku. Anifanatikku will review animated works regardless of the country they come from. While we will still focus on Japanese works and I won’t be reviewing the next Disney movie any time soon I won’t sweat over the fact that something is made outside of Japan. It is my belief that an otaku should not ask is this anime but instead ask is this any good.
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