Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Anime 101, Part 2 - Common Misconceptions

Welcome! If you missed the first part of Anime 101, you may want to go back and read it, just for context's sake. Or you can just start here, since the first part was mostly introduction anyway.

I know I said I would condense the original paper and make in as reader friendly as I could, but I just didn't know what to cut out! To make up for it, I decided to add lots of pictures, and even draw one myself. My sketch should be pretty obvious. Hint: It's the one that looks like it was drawn, photographed on my web cam, and slightly edited in Photoshop. And doesn't look like it has anything to do with anime... you'd have to read the surrounding text to understand.

I'll give credit to the pictures at the bottom, along with my textual sources. The picture on top is a Gakuen Alice (aka Alice Academy) wallpaper from the official American site. I picked it out before realizing how perfect it was for this post - a picture of anime students at the top of an "Anime 101" post...

So, here we go with part two, which I originally titled Introduction to Anime.

Common Misconceptions
The Japanese refer to all animation as “anime.” Americans formerly called it “Japanimation,” but they and other Western viewers more recently adopted the word “anime” instead.

“Well, that’s fine and dandy,” you might say, “but what’s the big deal about Japanese animation?”
Such a question makes sense. In the States, animation is a lesser form of production, sometimes respected, but nearly always overshadowed by live action works. On the other hand, about half the movie tickets sold in Japan are for animated features (Napier 6). Anime holds a high place in Japanese pop culture, as shown by its seemingly limitless range of genres and target audiences.

It is important to realize that anime is not a genre itself. In her article “Before anime: Animation and the Pure Film Movement in pre-war Japan,” Daisuke Miyao claims that “There could never be a completely neutral, objective definition” of anime (Miyao 193). Any attempt to define anime beyond its Japanese origin minimizes one’s understanding of the potential in anime as a versatile media.

Many misconceptions exist amongst those with limited exposure to anime. Susan J. Napier, an esteemed scholar of anime and Japanese visual pop culture, notes in her book Anime: From Akira to Princess Mononoke that “to Westerners it may seem surprising that an artistic form that has been known to them largely as children’s entertainment could encompass so many varieties” (15). I know that, in the past, my mind translated “animation” to “cartoon.” After this, my thinking took one of two routes: Disney’s Cinderella and Cartoon Network’s Tom and Jerry, or The Family Guy and The Simpsons. I found the first route the more sophisticated and intriguing, though neither struck me as mature, in depth productions. I am sure that many others think similarly. Certainly, several children’s anime exist; Pokémon and Hello Kitty are two such titles. And, though I haven’t seen them myself, there are a few anime that fit in the same category as The Family Guy. But trying to fit all anime under these categories is comparable to trying to fit the entire animal kingdom under the category of marsupials.

A few of the less knowledgeable Americans maintain the impression that most anime is full of violence and pornography. I personally know of parents who ban their children from anime for this very understandable, though unfounded, reason. In Shinobu Price’s article, “Cartoons From Another Planet,” I read that, yes, such anime do exist, “but they compose only a slight percentage of the animation market.” A disproportional amount of this type of anime makes its way to the United States, but the vast majority of anime available to Americans is still free from any extremely offensive content (160). As with all media, individuals and parents must keep an eye out for unwanted content, at the same time as they enjoy the features that they consider safe and less offensive.

The most common misconception about anime is that it consists mainly of science fiction and, perhaps, fantasy. This idea is only slightly less wrong than the belief that all anime is pornography and violence. Daisuke Miyao acknowledges that science fiction is an important part of anime’s history. The first animated TV series, Astro Boy, was science fiction. So were many other landmark productions, such as Space Cruiser Yamato and Neo Genesis Evengelion(Miyao 192). Personally, the first few anime series I watched were along the lines of fantasy and sci-fi. Moreover, the habits and conventions of hard core fans of anime are similar to those of fans of Star Trek and other science fiction. Still, as I discovered on my own, this genre doesn’t cover even half of Japanese animation. There are so many other topics. I’ve seen high school romance, family drama, horror, mystery, and numerous other subjects in anime.

Writer and scholar of anime Susan J. Napier summarizes the range of anime well in her book:

Essentially, anime works include everything that Western audiences are accustomed to seeing in live-action films – romance, comedy, tragedy, adventure, and even psychological probing of a kind seldom attempted in recent mass-culture Western film or television (Napier 6).

Many anime share similar narrative and artistic features, but narrowing them down to a certain genre or style does the medium injustice.
Tune back later for even more Anime 101!

Sources used in this section:
Miyao, Daisuke. "Before anime: animation and the Pure Film Movement in pre-war Japan."
Japan Forum 14.2 (2002): 191-209. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 16 May 2010.
Napier, Susan Jolliffe. Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary
Japanese Animation. New York: Palgrave, 2000.
Price, Shinobu. "Cartoons from Another Planet: Japanese Animation as Cross-Cultural
Communication." Journal of American & Comparative Cultures 24.1/2 (2001): 153-169. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 26 Apr. 2010.

Anime pictures from Astro Boy, Naruto Shippuden, Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Bleach, Sailormoon, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, Kyo Kara Maoh, and The Prince of Tennis.

1 comment:

  1. Nice essay! I'm a nerd for citations, so I loved seeing your MLA ones. :P

    Also, it was neat seeing Susan Napier quoted. I have that book you cited, and in fact, enrolled in a college class she taught about anime - she's also taught that class at Harvard and MIT, I believe, and probably many more colleges by now.


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