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A scene from Cowboy Bebop (1998) A scene from Cowboy Bebop (1998)

Anime (アニメ?) is a medium of animation originating in Japan, with distinctive character and background aesthetics that visually set it apart from other forms of animation. While some anime is entirely hand-drawn, computer assisted animation techniques are quite common. Storylines are typically fictional; examples of anime representing most major genres of fiction exist. Anime is broadcast on television, distributed on media such as DVD and VHS, or included in computer and video games. Anime is influenced by Japanese comics known as manga. Some anime storylines have been adapted into live action films and television series.


Main article: History of anime

The history of anime begins at the start of the 20th century, when Japanese filmmakers experimented with the animation techniques that were being explored in France, Germany, United States and Russia. During the 1970s, anime developed further, separating itself from its roots, and developing unique genres such as mecha. In the 1980s, anime was accepted in the mainstream in Japan, and experienced a boom in production. The mid-to-late '90s, on into 2000, saw an increased acceptance of anime in overseas markets.


The Japanese term for animation is アニメーション (animēshon, pronounced: /ɑnimeːʃon/), written in katakana. It is a direct transliteration and re-borrowed loanword of the English term "animation", though there exists a theory that the word comes from the French animé (animated, "ah nee MAY") or "les dessins animés" (animated drawings). The Japanese term is abbreviated as アニメ (anime, pronounced: /ɑnime/ ). Both the original and abbreviated forms are valid and interchangeable in Japanese, but as could be expected the abbreviated form is more commonly used.

As with a few other Japanese words such as Pokémon and Kobo Abé, anime is sometimes spelled as animé in English with an acute accent over the final e to cue the reader that the letter is pronounced as [e].

In Japan, the term is a broad one, and does not specify an animation's nation of origin or style. In English speaking countries the word is used usually only to refer to animated programming of Japanese origin. However, Some non-Japanese works are erroneously called anime if they borrow stylistically from the medium.

Syntax and morphology

Anime can be used as a common noun, "Do you watch anime?" or as a suppletive adjective, "The anime Guyver is different from the movie Guyver." It may also be used as a mass noun, as in "How much anime have you collected?" and therefore is never pluralized "animes" (nouns are never pluralized in Japanese). However, in other languages where anime has been adopted as a loan word, it is sometimes used as a count noun in singular and in plural as in Danish "Jeg tror, jeg vil se en anime" ("I think I'll watch an anime") and Hvor mange anime'er har du nu?" ("How many anime do you have now?").


Anime is sometimes referred to by the portmanteau Japanimation, but this term has fallen into disuse. Japanimation saw the most usage during the 1970s and 1980s, which broadly comprise the first and second waves of anime fandom, and had continued use up until before the mid-1990s anime resurgence. In general, the term now only appears in nostalgic contexts. The term is much more commonly used within Japan to refer to domestic animation. Since anime or animēshon is used to describe all forms of animation, Japanimation is used to distinguish Japanese work from that of the rest of the world.

In more recent years, anime has also frequently been referred to as manga in European countries, a practice that may stem from the Japanese usage: In Japan, manga can refer to both animation and comics (although the use of manga to refer to animation is mostly restricted to non-fans). Among English speakers, manga usually has the stricter meaning of "Japanese comics". An alternate explanation is that it is due to the prominence of Manga Entertainment, a distributor of anime to the US and UK markets. Because Manga Entertainment originated in the UK the use of the term is common outside of Japan.


Dragon Ball Z (1989) is a shōnen anime based on original manga with 13 movies and 291 episodes. Dragon Ball Z (1989) is a shōnen anime based on original manga with 13 movies and 291 episodes.

Atom, star of the long-running science fiction series Mighty Atom (also known as Astro Boy to Western audiences). Atom, star of the long-running science fiction series Mighty Atom (also known as Astro Boy to Western audiences).

Anime features a wide variety of artistic styles which vary from artist to artist and is characterized by stark, colorful graphics and stylized, colorful images depicting vibrant characters in a variety of different settings and storylines, aimed at a wide range of audiences.


Anime has many genres, with as many as traditional, live action cinema. Such genres include action, adventure, children's stories, comedy, drama, erotica (hentai), medieval fantasy, occult/horror, romance, and science fiction.

Most anime includes content from several different genres, as well as a variety of thematic elements. This can make categorizing some titles very difficult. A show may have a seemingly simple surface plot, but at the same time may feature a far more complex, deeper storyline and character development. It is not uncommon for a strongly action themed anime to also involve humor, romance, and even poignant social commentary. The same can be applied to a romance themed anime in that it may involve a strong action element.

Genres and designations that are specific to anime and manga:

(For other possible genres, see list of movie genres.)
  • Bishōjo: Japanese for 'beautiful girl', blanket term that can be used to describe any anime that features pretty girl characters, for example Magic Knight Rayearth
  • Bishōnen: Japanese for 'beautiful boy' blanket term that can be used to describe any anime that features "pretty" and elegant boys and men, for example Fushigi Yūgi
  • Ecchi: Derived from the pronunciation of the letter 'H'. Japanese for 'indecent sexuality'. Contains mild sexual humor, for example Love Hina.
  • Hentai: Japanese for 'abnormal' or 'perverted', and used by Western Audiences to refer to pornographic anime or erotica. However, in Japan the term used to refer to the same material is typically Poruno or Ero. Example: La Blue Girl.
  • Josei: Japanese for 'young woman', this is anime or manga that is aimed at young women, and is one of the rarest forms. Example: NANA.
  • Kodomo: Japanese for 'child', this is anime or manga that is aimed at young children, for example Doraemon.
  • Mecha: Anime or manga featuring giant robots, example Mobile Suit Gundam.
  • Moé: Anime or manga featuring characters that are extremely perky or cute, for example Little Snow Fairy Sugar.
  • Progressive: "Art films" or extremely stylized anime, for example Voices of a Distant Star.
  • Seinen: Anime or manga similar to Shōnen, but targeted at teenage or young male adults, for example Oh My Goddess!.
  • Sentai/Super Sentai: Literally "fighting team" in Japanese, refers to any show that involves a superhero team, for example Cyborg 009.
  • Shōjo: Japanese for 'young lady' or 'little girl', refers to anime or manga targeted at girls, for example Fruits Basket.
    • Mahō shōjo: Subgenre of shōjo known for 'Magical Girl' stories, for example Sailor Moon.
  • Shōjo-ai/yuri: Japanese for 'girl-love', refers to anime or manga that focus on love and romance between female characters, for example Revolutionary Girl Utena.
  • Shōnen: Japanese for 'boys', refers to anime or manga targeted at boys, for example Dragon Ball Z.
    • Mahō shōnen: Male equivalent of Mahō Shōjo, for example DNAngel.
  • Shōnen-ai/yaoi: Japanese for 'boy-love', refers to anime or manga that focus on love and romance between male characters. This term is being phased out in Japan due to references to pedophilia, and is being replaced by the term "Boys Love" (BL). An example of this style is Gravitation.

Some anime titles are written for a very specific audience, even narrower than those described above. For example, Initial D and éX-Driver concern street racing and car tuning. Ashita No Joe is about boxing. Hanaukyo Maid Team is based on the French maid fantasy.

Recently, the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre of Canada had incorrectly classified all anime as "hentai", giving an improper impression of the content of most anime and manga series. Complaints about the article's content and improper citations caused the NCECC to revise the citations but not the content.

Screenshot from Macross 7 - the Macross series of animation are known for the incorporation of music into the narrative Screenshot from Macross 7 - the Macross series of animation are known for the incorporation of music into the narrative


Anime uses music as an important artistic tool. Anime soundtracks are big business in Japan, and are often times met with similar demand as chart topping pop albums. It is for this reason that anime music is often composed and performed by 'A-list' musicians, stars, and composers. Skilled BGM (background music) composers are highly respected in the anime fan community. Anime series with opening credits use the opening theme song as a quick introduction to the show. The most frequent use of music in Anime is background music or BGM. BGM is used to set the tone of a given scene, for example Neon Genesis Evangelion 's "Decisive Battle" is played when the characters are making battle preparations and it features heavy drum beats and a militaristic style which highlights the tension of the scene and hints at the action to follow.

The theme song (also referred to as the Opening song or abbreviated as OP) usually matches the overall tone of the show, and serves to get the viewer excited about the upcoming program. Insert songs and ending songs (abbreviated ED) often make commentary about the plot or the program as a whole, and are often times used to highlight a particularly important scene. Opening and ending themes, as well as insert songs, are frequently performed by popular musicians or Japanese idols, so in this way, songs become a very important component of an anime program. In addition to the themes, the seiyū for a specific anime also frequently releases CD for their character, called Image Albums. Despite the word "image" in the CD's name, it only contains music and/or "voice messages" (where the seiyū talks with the audience or about herself), making the listener think that the character him/herself is singing. Another type of Anime CDs release are Drama CD, featuring songs and tracks which makes use of the seiyū to tell a story, often not included in the main anime.

Animation process


Lum from Urusei Yatsura, an iconic anime character. Lum from Urusei Yatsura, an iconic anime character.

The drawing style used in anime that is created for television is counter productive to the animation process. The anime style has an emphasis on detail that subsequently creates difficultly with meeting production schedules and budgets, which is in contrast to animation styles that have design ethics that stress simplicity. Thus, the anime style has a philosophy of applying more effort into each of a few drawings than less effort into one of many.

Osamu Tezuka adapted and simplified many Disney animation precepts to reduce the budget costs and number of frames in the production. This was intended to be a temporary measure to allow him to produce one episode every week with an inexperienced animation staff. Some animators in Japan overcome production budgets by utilizing different techniques than the Disney or the old Tezuka/Otsuka methods of animating anime. Due to reduced frame rate, several still shots and scrolling backgrounds, scenes are created with a greater focus on quality than the rest of the production. Animator Yasuo Ōtsuka was a pioneer of this technique. Directors such as Hiroyuki Imaishi (Cutey Honey, Dead Leaves) simplify backgrounds so that more attention can be paid to character animation. Other animators like Tatsuyuki Tanaka (in Koji Minamoto's Eternal Family in particular) use squash and stretch, an animation technique not often used by Japanese animators; Tanaka makes other shortcuts to compensate for this. Anime studios use techniques to draw as little new animation as possible such as using dialogue that involves only animating mouths while the rest of the screen remains absolutely unchanged, a technique familiar to Western animation styles.

Mylene Jenius from Macross 7, a graphically prototypical female anime character Mylene Jenius from Macross 7, a graphically prototypical female anime character

ome higher-budgeted television and OVA (Original Video Animation) series also forego the shortcuts found in most other anime. Classic films, such as those produced by Toei Animation up until the mid 1960s, and recent big budget films, such as those produced by the enormously successful Studio Ghibli have much higher production budgets, due to their anticipated success at the box office.

Another unique aspect of anime not found in other commercial animation markets is the lack of a directorial system. Animation productions tend to keep to a set style by the director or animation director. In Japan starting with the animation director Yoshinori Kanada (as a means to save time and money) allowed each animator to bring their own individual style to the work. An example of this is the The Hakkenden that showed constantly shifting styles of animation from episode to episode, based upon the key animator that worked on that particular episode.

Many non-Japanese cartoons are starting to incorporate mainstream anime shortcuts and symbols in an attempt to appeal to the sizable anime fanbase in many countries, to cut costs, as an effort to be viewed more like art, and sometimes simply because of creators' own interest in anime.


An example of FLCL's wild, exaggerated stylization. An example of FLCL's wild, exaggerated stylization.

While different titles and different artists have their own unique artistic styles, many stylistic elements have become common to the point that they are described as being definitive of anime in general, and have been given names of their own. A common style is the large eyes style drawn on many anime characters, credited to the influence of Osamu Tezuka, who was inspired by the exaggerated features of American cartoon characters such as Betty Boop and Mickey Mouse and from Disney's Bambi. Tezuka found that large eyes style allowed his characters to show emotions expressions distinctly. Cultural anthropologist Matt Thorn argues that Japanese animators and audiences do not perceive such stylized eyes as inherently more or less foreign. [1] When Tezuka began drawing Ribbon no Kishi, the first manga specifically targeted at young girls, Tezuka further exaggerated the size of the characters' eyes. Indeed, through Ribbon no Kishi, Tezuka set a stylistic template that later shōjo artists tended to follow. Another variation of this style is "chibi" or "super deformed"; which usually feature huge eyes, an enlarged head, and small body.

Other stylistic elements are common as well; often in comedic anime, characters that are shocked or surprised will perform a "face fault", in which they display an extremely exaggerated expression. Angry characters may exhibit a "vein" or "stressmark" effect, where lines representing bulging veins will appear on their forehead. Angry women will sometimes summon a mallet from nowhere and strike someone with it, leading to the concept of Hammerspace. Male characters will develop a bloody nose around their female love interests (typically to indicate arousal, based on an old wives tale).[2] Embarrassed characters will invariably produce a massive sweat-drop, which has become something of a stereotype of anime.

The degree of stylization varies from title to title. Some titles make extensive use of common stylization: FLCL, for example, is known for its wild, exaggerated, stylization. In contrast, titles such as Only Yesterday, a film by Isao Takahata, take a much more realistic approach, and feature no stylistic exaggerations.


Anime is produced by Anime companies. It is common for several companies to collaborate on different aspects of an anime to produce the finished product. Profits are gained by television and box office release and also by retail release, commonly through the sale of DVDs. Merchandise is also a source of substantial income.

Production types of anime

Still from an episode of the Casshan OVA, Still from an episode of the Casshan OVA,

Most anime can be categorized as one of three types:

  • Films, which are generally released in theaters, represent the highest budgets and generally the highest video quality. Anime movies that have broken profit earning records include Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and Spirited Away. Some anime films are only released at film or animation festivals and are shorter and sometimes lower in production values. Some examples of these are Winter Days, and Osamu Tezuka's Legend of the Forest. Other types of films include compilation movies, which are television episodes edited together and presented in theaters for various reasons, and are hence a concentrated form of a television serial. These may, however, be longer than the average movie. There are also theatrical shorts derived from existing televisions series and billed in Japanese theaters together to form feature-length showing.
  • Television series anime is syndicated and broadcast on television on a regular schedule. Television series are generally low quality compared to OVA (Original Video Animation) and film titles, because the production budget is spread out over many episodes rather than a single film or a short series. Most episodes are about 23 minutes in length, to fill a typical thirty-minute time slot with added commercials. One full season is 26 episodes, and many titles run half seasons, or 13 episodes. Most TV series anime episodes will have opening credits, closing credits, and often an "eyecatch", a very short scene, often humorous or silly, that is used to signal the start or end of the commercial break (as "bumpers" in the United States are used in a similar fashion). "Eyecatch" scenes are often found in TV series anime and are generally similar throughout the series. The ending credits are often followed by a preview of the next episode. Some anime television shows are as follows; Inuyasha, Gundam Seed, Zatch Bell, Saint Seiya, and Sailor Moon.
  • OVA (Original Video Animation; sometimes OAV, or Original Animated Video) anime is often similar to a television miniseries. OVAs can be any number of episodes in length; one-shots are particularly short, usually less than film-length. They are most commonly released directly to video. As a general rule OVA anime tends to be of high quality, approaching that of films. Titles often have a very regular, continuous plot best enjoyed if all episodes are viewed in sequence. Opening credits, closing credits, and eyecatches may sometimes be found in OVA releases, but not universally.


It is common for one title to spawn several different releases. A title that starts as a popular television series may have a movie adapted from it at a later date. An example is Tenchi Muyo! Originally an OVA, it spawned three movies, three television series, and several spin-off titles and specials. Not all successors to an anime are a sequel to the original story. Prequels and alternate stories are commonly adapted from the original.

Western distribution

Commercial appeal

Character and plot development can be important attributes to anime series. While there are episodic series, many anime have plots that advance and have characters that mature with the progression of the series. The different approaches to storytelling which many anime employ caught the interest of some people, which allowed anime to develop a fanbase outside of Japan. Anime has become commercially profitable in western countries as early commercially successful western adaptions of anime, such as Astro Boy, have revealed.[3]


Opening credits to School Rumble with an example of fansubbing karaoke. Opening credits to School Rumble with an example of fansubbing karaoke.

Anime is available outside of Japan in localized form. Licensed anime is modified by distributors through dubbing into the language of the country. The anime may also be edited to alter cultural references that may not be understood by a non-Japanese person and certain companies may remove what may be perceived as objectionable content. This process was far more common in the past, when anime was largely unheard of in the west, but its use has declined on recent years because of the demand for anime in its original form. This "light touch" approach to localaization has proved popular with fans as well as viewers formerly unfamiliar. The popularity of such methods is evident by the success of Naruto and Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block, both of which employ minor edits. The "light touch" approach also applies to DVD releases as they often include both the dubbed audio and the original Japanese audio with subtitles, are typically unedited, and lack commercials. Anime editied for television may be released on DVD "uncut" (e.g. Blue Gender).


Although it is a violation of copyright laws in many countries, some fans watch fansubs, recordings of anime series that have been subtitled by fans. Watching subtitled Japanese versions, though not necessarily downloaded fansubs, is seen by many enthusiasts as the prefered method of watching anime. The ethical implications of producing, distributing, or watching fansubs are topics of much controversy even when fansub groups do not profit from their activities or cease distribution of their work once the series has been licensed outside of Japan.

See also

A full-size model of a robot from the animation Castle in the Sky on top of the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. A full-size model of a robot from the animation Castle in the Sky on top of the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo.




  1. ^ Do Manga Characters Look "White"?. Retrieved on December 5, 2005.
  2. ^ The concept of a bloody nose is supposedly due to blood rushing to the face in an exaggerated blush. This is especially common in the popular anime Naruto, and sometimes even has characters getting propelled up into the air by a fountain of blood (such as when Naruto uses his sexy no jutsu, in which he changes into a sexy naked blonde girl in front of male characters).
  3. ^ Progress Against the Law: Fan Distribution, Copyright, and the Explosive Growth of Japanese Animation. Retrieved on 1 May 2006.
  • Clements, Jonathan; McCarthy, Helen (2001). The Anime Encyclopedia. Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1880656647.
  • Napier, Susan J. (2001). Anime: From Akira to Princess Mononoke. New York: Palgrave. ISBN 031223862.
  • Poitras, Gilles (1998). Anime Companion. Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1880656329.
  • Poitras, Gilles (2000). Anime Essentials. Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1880656531.
  • Baricordi, Andrea; Pelletier, Claude (2000). Anime: A Guide to Japanese Animation (1958-1988). Montreal, Canada: Protoculture. ISBN 2980575909.

External links

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