A common Misconception of Anime By: Hitokiri Naveed Zandrite 2-11-00 I wrote this essay because I was sick of being called childish for watching 'cartoons'. This essay is explaining why anime is and should not be concidered a cartoon



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A Common Misconception of Anime
By: Hitokiri Naveed Zandrite
2-11-00


I wrote this essay because I was sick of being called childish for watching 'cartoons'. This essay is explaining why anime is and should not be concidered a cartoon. Its about five pages long, just warning you. ^_~


In the past few years, American networks have begun to acquire Japanese animation, better known as anime. This has sparked several arguments over the course of time about certain aspects of anime shown on American television. One recent article called Violence Finds a Niche in Children's Cartoons written by Jim Rutenberg, discusses the violence that anime, which he calls 'cartoons', are bringing into the United States. As a matter of fact, many people call animes cartoons. However, anime should not be classified as a cartoon (American animation) because there are so many differences between the two. The most obvious differences are the art, music, plot , content, and morals taught.


The dictionary defines art as 'the conscious production or arrangements of sounds, colors, forms, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful...' (The American Heritage College Dictionary) Anime is best known for its character's uncharacteristically large eyes (See figures 16 & 18) and beautiful, detailed backgrounds. Many anime artists spend time photographing the locations which will later appear in their anime, so they can draw them to scale. Several American animators however, don't do much research. They tend to draw more from their mind's eye. Take for instance the classic cartoon, Tom and Jerry. The locations inside and outside of the house are made up in the artist's imagination. Inside scenes usually include a few couches, chairs, a mouse hole and perhaps a sink and refrigerator scattered about in a very open house. Outside scenes usually include grass, a dog house, a few other houses, and a street with a few cars. Now compare this to an anime by CLAMP called 'X', a high grade anime. (See examples here) CLAMP is a group of four women who direct, design, draw and produce their own manga (the Japanese equivalent to a comic book) and anime series. They are known for the beautiful eyes their characters have and all the gorgeous details in their drawings. This group takes time to find a location, photograph it and then draw it out so that sometimes you can't tell if they used an actual picture or drew the detailed background. Hours are spent on just choosing a location and drawing it to scale (See figures 4-8) These may include detailed drawings of the Tokyo Tower, large, full, life- like trees, sunsets, buildings and houses. Inside locations are full of well drawn designs and unlike the chairs that pop out of nowhere in Tom and Jerry, everything has a set and permanent location. Anime, in short, takes the visual art of animation to a much higher level. (See examples here)

Not only does anime have beautiful art, it also usually has a fantastic sound track. The anime, Rurouni Kenshin, has over five completely orchestrated sound tracks. It also has two character image CD's song (characters singing their own songs) - that I am aware of - as well as a theme song CD. Many of the anime sound tracks have full orchestras and or bands, sometimes including electric guitars. The only sound tracks for American animation that are available are from Disney movies. The main reason Disney CD's are popular is because of the vocal songs that are heard in the movie. To illustrate, many soundtracks from Lion King were bought because of the music and lyrics were written by Elton John and Tim Rice.

Art and music is very important in animation, but what is more important is a full detailed and entertaining plot. JD of LunaArts Anime, writes "Never judge a series by the first episode (or the first couple). One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of anime series have a plot that spans 26 episodes or so." (An Introduction to Anime) In his article (Violence finds a Niche in Children's Cartoons) while discussing anime, Rutenberg doesn't name any of the animes from which he gets his examples from. This makes it sound as if he has only seen an episode or very little of each anime he uses as an example. He ignores the fact that anime is made for showing in a certain order. The idea that the series must be shown in chronological order seems to have been lost in the shift from Japan to America. A good example showing this inconsistency of plot occurs in Card Captor Sakura, or in the US, Card Captors. The first few episodes were never shown on American TV. In the American version, the boy, Li, in the show was made to look like a main character. The first episode in the series explains why everything that follows happens. Because of this, the children who watch Card Captors in the US have no idea where the characters powers came from. Not only that, the companies who bought the shows changed the order of the episodes. Usually, animes are unclear if you were to mix up the episodes since there is a certain order to it. Even Pokemon, a low-grade anime, has an order, as references are sometimes made to former episodes.

Anime is not like Tom and Jerry, or Popeye, where a viewer can pick and choose an episode without a single misunderstanding. Just about every episode of Popeye is the same. Here is an example of what I mean: Popeye is trying to impress his girlfriend, Olive Oyl, when along walks a large burly man, Bluto. Bluto gets a crush on Oliveoil and tries to take her away from Popeye, usually by punching him, or kidnapping her. Popeye gets beaten till he can't move then always manages to eat a can of spinach, and afterward, beat the heck out of Bluto and save the girl. This same predictable scenario, with no plot, occurs in 'Roadrunner' cartoons also. Coyote finds different ways to catch the Roadrunner and fails miserable every time. Everyone knows the rock is going to fall on him, or he's going to fall off a cliff. A viewer can watch any of these episodes in any order; no one episode hinges on another. However, if the viewer misses a couple episodes of an anime, he or she will be very lost, guaranteed.

Plot and content go hand in hand. If the plot is not good, one can assume the content probably isn't high quality either. In the article What is Anime, Bryan Pfaffenberger says "In contrast to the flat, Good vs. Evil plots in U.S. cartoons, many anime stories deal with complex, thought provoking themes, presenting complex characters that change as the stories progress." The article goes on to make several points, one being the reality of death, for sometimes the main characters, even the good ones die. "For anyone used to Disney's predictable plots and platitudes, one's first encounter with anime produces shock, followed by fascination. It's serious stuff," Bryan says. Anime contains cultures from Japanese daily activities and martial arts to Asian traditions and myths. For instance, Houshin Engi, although a Japanese anime, is about an old Chinese myth about the Gods known as Sennin.

Also dealing with content is the moral value of the cartoon or episode. It is hard to decipher any message from an American cartoon. We know for Popeye, the moral being conveyed is to eat your spinach, but what is the message Ed, Edd and Eddy is trying to show? Something about don't try to rip people off money wise. This is what the threesome does just about every episode. Unfortunately, although I've personally seen over thirty episodes while baby-sitting, I'm still not really sure who the antagonists really are in this cartoon. The quotes in Rutenberg's article actually prove which animation's morals are more clear and thought-provoking. ' "The kids can relate to these characters," Mr. Andryc said. "They see how someone can empower themselves and fight a monster and save the world." ' Rutenberg writes "Both [Mr. Andryc, executive vice president and Donna Friedman, senior vice president of Kids WB] pointed out that program's episodes (anime) often feature good-versus- evil battles in which honor-bound child warriors emerge victorious. Conflicts are resolved and characters emerge with lessons learned. Selfishness is punished. Loyalty is rewarded." (Violence finds a Niche in Children's Cartoons)

Through the aforementioned reasons and illustrations that follow, one can see that anime and cartoons belong in a different category. Not only is the art between the two types of animation very different, there are many different aspects including music, plot and content. Cartoons are very lacking in those areas because they are more or less for humorous momentary entertainment. High grade anime is more thoughtful, artistic, meaningful, and more likely to keep one entertained for longer periods time.

Sources:

The Anime Cafe http://www.abcb.com/

SF Gate:Violence Finds a Niche in Children's Cartoons written by Jim Rutenberg
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/28/business/28TOON.html?ex=981800370&ei=1&en=


Anime Company http://www.animeco.com/-articles.phtml

Clamp the Magical Doujinshi Team http://www.j-pop.com/feature/archive/04_women_artists/clamp.html


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