The New Age in Animation
Darius M. Cureton
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When one thinks about the cartoons
of the past, like TigerSharks, ThunderCats, and
G.I. Joe, one will remember the rich story lines, the
wild character profiles, and the inspiring battle cries of "Yo
Joe" and "Thunder, Thunder, ThunderCats, Ho!!"
With technology changing every day, a new form of animation has
arisen. This new form is called "Japanimation" or "Anime."
It is slowly becoming a part of this culture just as much as
hamburgers and pizza. It still has a long way to go, but it is
slowly creeping into the American genre of animation.
As one writer has noted, "The
word 'Anime,' contrary to popular belief, is not the Japanese
word for animation. Though the word is used in Japan to describe
animation, it is actually derived from a French word" (Barlow
1). Although film and animation in the U.S. are different, in
Japan they are the same. Many Americans still have the belief
that animation is strictly for kids, but in Japanese culture
it is for boys, girls, men, and women. Animation in Japan does
not just limit itself to Saturday Morning cartoons. In American
animation, no one dies and no one gets hurt. The evil villain's
plans are defeated, but the villain himself escapes to hatch
a new villainy in the next episode. One great difference between
Japanese and American TV series is that the Japanese TV series
is designed to last only one or two seasons, 13 or 26 episodes,
and then come to a climatic and definite ending. There are many
available genres. "One of the MAJOR differences between
Anime and U.S. animation is the quality of storytelling and level
of understanding at which the story develops" (Barlow 1).
Though things are changing in the U.S. regarding animation, the
level at which animation is geared toward is still child-like.
It is almost insulting to young minds. Anime expands the level
of consciousness of the viewer. It makes one think about the
outcomes and the foreshadowing of the story and it raises the
level of imagination by producing nearly impossible feats of
courage and technology. A lot of animation has made its way to
the U.S. Some shows include Speed Racer, Astro Boy,
Voltron, and Robotech. These shows were ones that
hold watchers' attention for about 30 minutes each day.
"In many ways, Anime is also
a state of mind; a state of understanding that many Americans
have trouble getting to" (Barlow 1). Many Americans do not
accept animation as a medium for storytelling and believe it
is meant for children. This is why Anime has not hit as powerfully
in the states as it has in Japan and other countries. This is
why there is hardly any market base for it.
One reason why there is no market
for it in the U.S. is that Anime is highly stereotypical. "The
stereotype image of Japanese Anime and manga (Japanese comic
books) has gotten worse lately" (Izawa 1). Non-watchers
of Anime seem to think that it is all about "big eyes, big
breasts, big hair, mechs (huge robots), and lots of gore."
One example of this stereotype is a 30-minute show called Battle
Suit Lakers EX. A company called Kitty produced this particular
show. Kitty is known throughout the realm of Japanimaniacs as
the "smut" of the art form. In this show, 5 well-endowed
young women have battle suits that they don when trouble arises.
The transformation sequence is done with the girls yelling out
their suit name ("Bunny Laker! Kung Fu Laker! etc.) and
then becoming totally nude until the suit fashions itself onto
Nevertheless, to say that all
Anime is like this is a misconception. Although some Anime features
these attributes, one should be able to see the whole concept.
The main theme in Lakers is always to trust the companionship
of good friends. It is very hypocritical to say that japanimation
is wrong because of a few stereotypes. The idea of the big-breasts
is no different than the idea of a very curvaceous super heroine,
dressed very skimpy, with no personality or brains, or an overly
developed muscle man who is the savior of the free world, which
has been portrayed in American animation for years. This idea
is not right in any culture.
For the most part, manga and
Anime have an open mind when it comes to sex. Sex is not as taboo
in Japanese culture as it is in American culture. These sexual
encounters are usually occasional and not central to the story.
Most of the story lines involve some of the same concepts that
American animation tries to convey. The only difference is that
Anime does not present hour-and-a-half musicals featuring talking
bears, lions, or dancing flatware. Japanese animation deals with
deeper issues. For example, let's look at a series called Fushigi
Yuugi. This series is about a girl (Miaka) and her best friend
(Yui) who, when reading the Book of the 4 Gods of the Universe,
are magically transported to ancient China. After meeting some
interesting allies and becoming the Priestess of Suzaku (the
savior of old China), Miaka has to battle the Priestess of Seiryuu
(her rival and fiercest opponent who turns out to be Yui). Afterwards
she realizes that caring for others and being cared for by others
can overcome any adversity. She also has found that she has the
strength and ability to make a difference as long as she does
not give up. Although some of the stories involve impossible
magical powers and robot-like Exo suits, Anime cuts out the sugarcoating
to produce believable incidents.
Next, we look at the categories
of Japanese animation. In Japan, animation tends to be divided
into 3 categories: theatrical releases (movies), original animation
videos (OAV's or OVA's), and television series ("Anime"
2). A theatrical release is a movie shown in a theater to people
who pay money to watch the Anime projected onto a large movie
screen. "Michael Johnson, President of Disney Buena Vista
Home Entertainment, along with Disney's Miramax is working to
release 'Princess Mononoke' or 'Mononoke Hime' in U.S. theaters
this summer" (Sherber 69). This is the story of a young
girl dealing with the trials of life and the dangers that threaten
her village. Most movies that play in the theaters run at least
70 minutes to slightly more than 2 hours. Movies also tend to
have the highest quality animation because of the high budget.
The OAV or OVAs are Anime released
directly to videotape, laser disc or DVD. Videotapes are mainly
used for video store rental. Most videos that you get from the
video store are OAVs like Gatchaman and Ninja Scroll.
OAVs can be any length from a few minutes to about 2 hours. Commonly
they are 30, 45, or 60 minutes. The OAV tends to have less quality
than a movie because the budget is not as high, but it has better
quality than a TV series. If you make one episode of an OAV and
it is popular, the series is continued. Otherwise, one would
try a different approach for the next attempt.
The TV series in Anime is regularly
shown on a weekly basis. The typical length of a Japanimation
series is about 13 or 26 episodes (one or two seasons. The television
station is committed to only 13 episodes, more if it is renewed
for another season. The content is designed to appeal to a mass
market. There is little sex and violence, varying on when the
program airs. Most TV series in Japan are about 25 minutes long.
They have the lowest quality because they are rushed. The popular
Sailor Moon series is an example of a TV series that was
renewed for 7 seasons. It also is very popular among girls in
In conclusion, Japanese Animation
is on the rise in the U.S. It is because of these very different
elements that the market base is growing. The market for Japanese
animation in the U.S. is still very small, but with determination
and recognition within the next five years, it should be just
as much an art form here as it is in its native country of Japan.
Barlow, Elaine. "About Anime." The Anime Online
(3 Feb 1999).
Izawa, Eri. "The New Stereotypes of Anime and Manga."
EX Online. Vol.2 Issue 8. 3 Feb 1999. <http://www.ex.org/2.8/45-essay_stereotypes.html>
Schodt, Fredrick L. Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese
Comics. New York: Kodansha; IBSN. 1988.
Sherber, Anne. "Disney Looks to Expand Mainstream Presence
of Japan's Anime." Billboard, May, 1998: 69.
"Anime and Manga in Japan and America." Essay. <http://members.xoom.com/animemania01/essay01.htm>
(3 Feb 1999).
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Copyright © 2003 by Darius M.
The Department of English and Foreign Languages
Winston-Salem State University