Anime vs. Cartoons: Ready? Fight!

By Nicole Winks
Cover image via Pascal

For fans of anime, there is a common question asked by friends and family. That question goes something like this: “Why are you watching cartoons?  Aren’t you a little old for that?”  The answer to that question is simple. No.  Anime and cartoons are quite different.  Anime is a Japanese form of animation that is based on the work of manga; whereas cartoons are an American creation that pull some inspiration from anime.

To understand anime, one needs to first understand manga.  Manga literally means ‘comic pictures.’  They are stories that are illustrated, and the illustrated panels create the effect of motion.  Manga comes in many different genres that translate into genres of anime as well.  Some of those are as follows: Kodomo, Shonen, Shojo, Yangu, Seinenshi, Seijinshi, and Sakaijinshi. Kodomo is children’s manga or anime.  Shonen is manga or anime targeted at adolescent boys with subject matter of friendship, perseverance, winning, etc.  Shojo is manga or anime that is targeted towards girls with themes of romantics, human relations, and a psychological search for a place in society; it also includes fantasy and science fiction. Yangu is young manga or anime. Seinenshi is manga or anime that is for young adult men or a continuation of shonen with amplified violence and sex. Seijinshi is manga or anime that is typically more pornographic. Finally, there is Sakaijinshi which has a broader focus than the other forms of manga or anime with subjects such as cooking, sports, business, health, wine, etc.

All of these are forms of manga that are then translated to anime. When one examines all of these different genres, it is evident that no, anime are not cartoons or media just for children. Anime is for people of all different ages as the subject matter is so diverse.

Something else to take into consideration is the fact that anime has been around for much longer than American cartoons. Some of the original anime made in Japan was created as early as 1917.  Although a lot of this early anime was lost due to the Japanese earthquake in 1929.  American cartoons only trace back to around the 1950s.  American cartoons feature a different style of animation than that of anime, namely because of the less realistic character depictions; the characters are usually distorted in some way to indicate that they are not real. Anime, though also distorted, is more realistic in the depictions of the characters. Anime also pulls from certain ideas about technological advances which, along with religion, is one of the major overarching themes. Religion is included because Buddhism and Shintoism are so deeply ingrained within Japan’s culture.

The next time you’re watching anime and someone asks you if you are watching cartoons, you can honestly tell them, “no.” You will also be able to give them a history lesson and a list of reasons why anime is not just for kids.

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