Introduction to anime. Everything you ever wanted to know about Japanese cartoons, but were afraid to ask.

What is Anime?

Anime (ah-NIH-may) is a term for Japanese animation. Anime often covers more serious topics than the typical cartoon. In America, cartoons are considered a form of entertainment meant for children. In Japan, people of all ages watch anime. Most shows and movies are centered for kids, adolescents, or young adults, but there are also many anime that are made for the older crowd, even businessmen. There are many genres in anime with basic categories like comedy, romance, action, drama, and pornography (hentai). There are also anime with content meant specifically for boys (shounen), girls (shoujo), and businessmen. For more detailed explanations of the types of anime, take a look at our Genres section and hopefully you will learn something while viewing some great pictures.

The Art of Anime

Probably the most readily apparent differences between Japanese animation and other places is the artwork. Huge eyes, brightly colored hair, well-endowed female characters, and exaggerated emotional expressions and gestures are typical of anime style. Early anime artists were largely influenced by early Disney characters like the Seven Dwarves from Snow White, Mickey Mouse, and the non-Disney Betty Boop. All of these characters had large eyes, and Betty Boop was certainly well-endowed. If you want to know more about anime's artistic conventions, take a peek at our General Information section.

Culture in Anime

Understanding the culture of origin is important in truly understanding what is going on in a just about any art from a particular people be it Japanese anime or manga, or American sitcoms (situation comedies). If you have watched any amount of anime you, along with most people living outside of Japan, probably noticed that the characters behave differently and things in general (houses, transportation, eating, sleeping, greeting, and much, much more) are a bit different from what you are used to. Some of the differences are because of strange artistic visions, but most of the differences are a direct result of culture. Anime is an art form, and as art, it expresses many things about Japan and its people. The behavior of characters, and the influence of religion are just a couple of the cultural aspects are covered in the History and Culture section. If you want to get a peek at some of the fun things (besides watching anime) take a look at Fun Stuff and Games where you can play Anigotchi, based on a wildly popular game in Japan.

Formats of Anime

Anime is not just movies; publishers release anime in many formats. There are OVAs (or OAVs), movies, and television shows. Don't let the direct-to-video aspect of OVAs fool you, they aren't low-budget sequels trying to capitalize on the success of a movie. Many of them are high-quality stories that can't be properly condensed into a feature-length movie, and the stories are generally more intricate than those found in a daily or weekly half-hour television show. Anime have original stories while others draw their stories and characters from Japanese comic books (manga).

Watching Anime Outside of Japan

Anime is widely available outside of Japan although only select stories are available; usually only the most commercially successful ones can be found at the local video rental store. There are other channels to satisfy your anime appetite, however. People trade fansubs and there are also anime viewing societies. At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the general public can view anime for free once a month at Animania. There are many anime societies on the world wide web today, you might be able to find one near you.

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