Anime 101

Hello there!  And welcome to the very fist edition of Nerding 101 with Hot Pink Jousticks.  Since I’ve been on such an anime kick lately, I thought we’d start with anime 101.  It’s important to remember that these Nerding 101 segments are going to start really broad and easy and work their way up into higher, more complex ideas.

Today, we’re going to start with Anime 101.  This segment is going to cover what anime actually is.

A Google Image search for the word “anime” reveals many pictures like the following.  These two I chose off the first page of my google search to put up here.

What you may notice right away is that these characters depicted are cartoons.  They are 2D representations of humans.  Two of the four characters depicted here also have unnaturally colored hair.  Their heads are disproportionately large, and their eyes are even larger.  The girls in the bottom image have very small noses.

These artistic things, however, are probably a little lost initially on those who don’t know anything about anime.  The first thing that comes to mind is the “cartoon” thing.  It’s important to realize that anime and cartoons are really two separate things.  Dictionary.reference.com has two very different meanings for the two words.

  • Anime: (noun) a Japanese style of motion-picture animations, characterized by highly stylized, colorful art; futuristic settings; violence; and sexuality
  • Cartoon: (noun) a drawing depicting a humorous situation, often accompanied by a caption / an animated cartoon / a comic strip / a ridiculously oversimplified or stereotypical representation

In America, the general idea of cartoons is what we used to watch on Saturday mornings — rather cute images with safes that squish people flat.  Cartoons in America today are more along the lines of things for children.  They teach lessons to their younger audiences or use simple forms of humor to amuse their less complex audience.  Recently in America, we’ve seen developments of adult cartoons.  Over the past ten years or so we’ve seen Family Guy, Futurama, and other such creations garner a lot of popularity and challenge the American idea of who should be watching animated features.

Anime, however, is different still from either of those American ideas of cartoons.  In Japan, anime doesn’t just refer to the kiddish cartoons, but to every animated feature out there — and a majority of them are very mature in nature.  Anime deals with themes like war, sexuality, love, hate, the supernatural, and other, more normal things, like trials in work and school.

Anime has a really long and rich history.  The very first piece of animated work shown in Japan debuted in 1917 and was a mere two minutes long.  It didn’t take much for anime to rival the live-action productions in Japan, taking a firm foothold in the 1930s.  By the 1980s, anime was huge in Japan, popular with everyone from children to elderly businessmen.  During the 80s and the early 90s, anime also started to trickle its way across the globe, reaching into some very niche markets in America.  Many in Japan refer to this time as the “Golden Age of Anime,” a nostalgic term for a time when animators took an intense amount of pride and time with their work.  It was a time of giant robots and new ideas.

Today, anime is a huge business, but struggling in the tough economic times.  Even in America, most people have heard of anime in some shape or form — most likely in the idea of the major players like Pokemon.

So basically, what all of this boils down to is the answer to the question: What is anime?

Anime is a Japanese style of animation that is often much more mature than American audiences give it credit for.  It is characterized by a number of specific artistic features (the big eyes and head, tall thin bodies, etc).

Stay tuned for Anime 102 where I’ll be discussing the different genres of anime!

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