Definition of Anime

M Arnold n9344881 at
Thu Apr 22 21:04:22 EDT 1999

On Thu, 22 Apr 1999, B Dunn wrote:

> Anime is animation from Japan.

I hope I don't repeat any other posters' comments with this, but actually
it has become much more complicated than that.  Miyazaki Hayao has
commented on the differences of the "anime" genre ("genre"?) of Japanese
animation, contrasting it with other, possibly older forms ("manga eiga"),
and has tried to distance his own work from it, if I remember correctly.
(See the "Shuppatsuten" compilation of interviews and articles.)

In addition, there are the obvious new meanings that arise when Japanese
cartoons are viewed (and categorized) in non-Japanese cultures by foreign
fans with little to no knowledge of the history involved.  Words like
"anime," "manga," "otaku," and even "hentai" take on an air of exoticism
when used in American fan discussions.  "Anime" are not just cartoons--in
fact they're not "cartoons" at all, some might argue--they're something
different, better and unique.  However, the question of what exactly makes
"anime" better than "cartoons" (you could replace the two terms with
"otaku"/"nerds" or "hentai"/"porn") often leads to very vague,
generalizing discussion without much factual basis.  Ask an American anime
fan what Doraemon is and you're likely to just get a blank stare.

Annalee Newitz wrote an article about American animation fans several
years ago (a version was published in Film Quarterly) which has since been
attacked and dismissed by fans here.  She made some errors, but I also
feel she presented several valid points.

 Fans of anime in America are engaging in what critics such as Dick
 Hebdige and John Fiske call 'appropriation.' That is, they are
 transforming Japanese culture for their own uses, which are somewhat
 different from the uses to which it might be put in Japan. Whereas anime
 are mainstream culture in Japan, in America they are still somewhat
 'alternative.' For this reason, fans enjoy anime partly because it allows
 them to feel as if they have specialized knowledge ordinary Americans do


The debates continue to rage as to whether "otaku" is derogatory or not,
and as to what constitutes real anime.  Are Korean films which have been
modeled after some visual image of "Japanese" animation also anime?  Are
English langauge-dubbed films anime?  What about aspiring American comic
authors who refer to themselves as "manga artists"?  Internet anime
discusion in America is not just about anime, it's "anime-ron."

Okada Toshio has written about his own misconceptions regarding the
"Japanese Anime Boom" in America.  See:  

I agree with the suggestion that "the view of anime (& manga) in the US
has been distorted by what the fan mentality has chosen to import and
distribute."  Also, I'm just a little surprised that there didn't seem to
be much discussion on this topic at the recent conference.  "What is
Japanese Anime?"  ;-)  Anyway, I don't want to steer the discussion too
far away from the original question.  I certainly wish I could get a copy
of that book, "anime" or not.  Is it still in print?

Michael Arnold
Bellingham, WA

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