Definition of Anime
Hal Marcovitz’s book , Eye on Art- Anime is an account on how anime originated from propaganda films during World War II, to taking over America starting in the 1960’s. The book recounts how two Europeans arriving in Japan in the 1860’s to the anime explosion during the 1970’s, and even the dark side of anime. The book does not hover on one topic for too long, but can lose sight of the topic at time, but not enough to notice.
What exactly is Anime? Anime is Japanese animation that is wildly popular in Japan and in the United States. Most Anime starts off as a Manga series. Manga is a Japanese graphic novel. Sometimes the Anime series is produced before the Manga series. In Japan books are read from right to left and to make it easier for Americans to read some Manga is flipped to be read from left to right. On page 10 of the book, Marcovitz quotes anime writer Shinobu Price ‘s definition of Anime. ‘The only thing that really classifies anime as, well, anime is the fact that it is made in Japan by Japanese artists within a Japanese context. Stylistic experimentation with the medium is expected, rewarded if it’s good…. The creative realm of anime is vast, the possibilities endless.’
Some Americans never knew they were watching Anime. In the 1960’s popular anime shows like Speedracer, Kimba the White Lion and Astro Boy, were changed to be suitable for Americans. When video cassette players became a household item anime consumption exploded in the Western Market. This occurred during the late 1970s. Most anime was dubbed and the storylines were changed to make it understandable for kids. Today most anime are dubbed but the storylines are not changed. One anime that the animation continues to be changed is Pokemon. The artists change traditional Japanese items like Sushi for a hoagie.
“What is more, American fans discovered that anime was not just for kids. In a culture that was suddenly smitten by science fiction- the first Star Wars had premiered in 1977, ushering in a new era in science fiction entertainment- American fans discovered that anime was dominated by space adventure many told on a teenage or adult level featuring romance, violence, and plots in which the line between good and evil were often blurred. Due to adult themes, especially violence, in some anime the stories and animation had to be censored for television stations in the United States to be able to carry them. Home releases however could show the original, uncut, version. Examples of anime who had an adult target audience include shows such as High School DXD, The Testament of Sister New Devil, Akira and Attack on Titan.
Some anime are not suitable for young audiences. “There is a dark side to anime and manga. It can be partially violent and pornographic.’ In Japan this is not seen as a problem because they accept that anime and magna is not just for children. Japan has laws that prohibit underage individuals from buying it. Some people who are convicted of a violent crime use their favorite manga or anime as the reason behind them doing the crime.
Anybody who has watched anime or read manga knows there is a quality to the artwork that sets it apart from western animation or comic books. The biggest difference that everyone can see is in the eyes this is due to an innovation introduced by Tezuka. “Working under tight budgets, Tezuka knew he had to tell his stories using as few animation cels as possible.” Anime characters can show their emotions through their eyes because they are big and round. Due to manga mostly being in black and white, hair color is not available to distinguish characters, so artists change the character’s hairstyle to make it easier to tell characters apart. Unlike western animation where the characters resemble the population, anime characters rarely appear to be Japanese, in fact most anime characters appear to be western. “To an anime artist, hair can be used for purposes other than to identify a character or to help illustrate the character’s personality. Anime artists found they can use hair to convey emotions, action, and drama.” Body positioning can convey motion, an example is the “Naruto run.”.
The role of women in anime shows to be years if not decades ahead of western animation due to such anime as Sailor Moon which started off as a manga and has had three movies, and a broadway style musical. When Sailor Moon came to America, girls who watched it had recently seen The Little Mermaid. “But in anime female characters usually take care of business themselves. In the 1997 film Princess Mononoke, the two main characters are female .” Americans perceive Japanese women to be reliant on men however, the anime shows that women are respected. Anime has also been used to convey women’s issues.
Messages in anime can be about environmental issues, social issues such as oppressed minorities, and philosophical issues. Anime also can be used politically. Sometimes anime shows the japanese version of history. “In 2000, when Grave of the Fireflies was released in a DVD version, film critic Roger Ebert said. ‘Because it is animated and from Japan, Grave of the Fireflies has been little seen. When anime fans say how good the film is, nobody takes them seriously. Now that it’s available on DVD with a choice of subtitles or English dubbing, maybe it will find the attention it deserves. Yes, it’s a cartoon, and the kids have eyes like saucers, but it belongs on any list of the greatest war films ever made.” Kimba the White Lion addresses environmental issues such as the destruction of the jungle and poaching.
Anime is a way that two cultures are coming together. Japanese artists no longer feel that they have to alter their work and Americans no longer feel that the anime needs to be edited to be popular. By doing this the integrity of the films have been maintained and has helped two very different cultures not be so different.
Anime is a worldwide phenomenon. “Manga and anime have grown into a 5 billion-a-year industry in Japan.” The book Eye on Art: Anime by Hal Marcovitz discusses the history of anime. The book tells the reader many things about anime while not focusing on one particular topic.
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