Remember when you were younger and watched cartoons? Some cartoons stuck out more than others like “Avatar the Last Airbender” and “Teen Titans.” There was drama, action, character depth and development and enough substance to have a special place in our hearts.
These same shows also share characteristics of a lesser-known entertainment media — anime. In case you’re not familiar with it, anime is a genre of Japanese animated shows. It is distinctive in its artstyle (big eyes, interesting hairstyles, technicolor) and fantastic, sometimes odd plotlines.
You could say that “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” could be thrown in the category of anime. They have big eyes, bright colors and pretty surreal plots every episode. However, there has been some push-back over associating western-animated works with anime.
Willard Ramsey, a senior art history major who focuses on Japanese art for his research, said that some people do not want to be associated with fans of anime.
“I think it an interesting case of ingroup-outgroup,” Ramsey said. “The fanbase for ‘Avatar the Last Airbender,’ is very broad. Some people watched it for fun as a kid, other people have turned it into a way of life. These people are all linked by their love of a common story, yet they do not want to be associated with the different spectrums. Why? People are afraid of being judged by those who are not in the circle. It’s all about who cares and how you look.”
There are a couple of meanings for anime and manga. In America, anime is defined as any Japanese cartoon, animated series or film. Manga is defined as any Japanese printed comic.
In Japan, however, the terms are used to refer to any animated work or printed cartoon in general. For example, a compilation of American animated features were released in the late 1980s to Japan that included Mickey Mouse, Tom and Jerry and Betty Boop. They called it “American anime.”
According to Kotaku, “anime” is a shortened version of the Japanese translation of “animation” — animeeshon. It was first coined in the 1970s, but the medium gained traction in the 1980s as a distinctive brand. It was a way for Japan to distinguish its cartoons from others. Manga — Japanese comics — often inspires the creation of an anime series. Before its current term became popular, anime was called “TV manga” and other variations, Kotaku said.
Ramsey does not believe that western animated works are proper anime, due to cultural differentiation.
“It is an art form unique and cultivated in Japan, but this does not mean that it does not have influence,” Ramsey said. “It is highly evident that many western-produced shows are inspired by the style, character tropes and culture of it. That is what is truly important, that we realize who did it first and trace our lines of influence. How did westerners change it? Is it more effective? That is for us the viewer to decide. We just need to be aware of the history.”
I believe that western-animated works can be its own category — western anime. But it’s nothing set in stone; it’s still a discussion. So it is up to fans of those particular works to categorize it. But like Ramsey said, there is something to be shared over these works we all fawned over when we were younger. In essence, it can be part of this grand scheme to bring others together.