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What is Anime?

by Caroline Seawright


Anime is the Japanese shortened word for 'animation'.

In Japan, 'anime' would be any animated production, from Disney to Legend of the Overfiend. Anything that is animated, be it Japanese, English or French. Outside Japan, though, 'anime' tends to refer, specifically, to Japanese animation.

In Japan, anime is a rather popular form of entertainment. It comes in the form of tv shows, movies at the cinema as well as direct to video releases (OVA - Original Video Animation). Unlike in the west, anime has a huge variety of genres - it is not only for children. Nor, on the other hand, is it just sex and violence for adults! Anime is for everybody!

Most of the time, anime comes from a manga - Japanese comics. Occasionally, though, you'll get an anime first, and the manga will follow... but as a general rule, anime comes from a popular manga series. The manga are sold in anthologies, either weekly or monthly, and have a huge number of readers! Even more, if you consider that these anthologies are read once, and left on the train (often by businessmen and office ladies on their way to work - manga, you see, doesn't have the same stigma as comics tend to have in the west) for someone else to read. (They are cheap throw-away items - the Japanese version of graphic novels follow, and these are more likely to be collected.) As with anime, manga comes in many genres for all age groups - manga for businessmen, women, boys, girls, romance, fashion, adult titles, sports and more. It's a huge industry in Japan, and very, very popular.

Anime for children would include Pokemon, Minky Momo ('Gigi' in English), Dragon Ball, Card Captor Sakura and Sailor Moon. If you see the original versions, you'll probably notice there is a lot that has been edited for the western releases. From the anime I have seen, the Japanese version do not try to protect children from death - it actually happens in anime. For instance, in Sailor Moon, the senshi (scouts) die in the end of the first season. (In the American version, they were 'trapped' but got away.) This is not to say that Japanese children are happy with the concept of death - it's just that it is not a 'no-no' topic for even children's anime.

Anime for teenagers would include Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura (Lum), Marmalade Boy and Fushigi Yugi. Again, the 'no-no' subjects of the west are found in these anime. Fushigi Yugi introduces subjects like rape, and Ranma 1/2 has some nudity (though this is definitely not porn - the nudity is mostly kept to places like the bathroom, or as a laugh when the male Ranma changes into a woman and he's still acting like a male.) The different values tend to clash - if this sort of anime was to be put on television, it would probably only make it to pay tv (cable), or on a foreign language channel. But one can hope...!!!

There are also a multitude of anime for young adults and adults - Tenchi Muyo, Cowboy Beebop, Dirty Pair (not what you think!!), Dragon Half, Evangelion, DNA^2, Maison Ikkoku, Legend of the Overfiend, Dark City, Gundam, and Mononoke-hime to name a few. A number of these probably fit into the teenage category, as some of them tend to be fine for all ages.

These anime mentioned above are ones that are (or have been) popular in the west, not only in Japan. There are anime in all genres - romance, fantasy, science fiction, comedy, hentai (erotic anime), drama, action... just about any genre you find in the west, you'll find in anime! As you can clearly see, anime is not just for children!

An unfortunate part of the western mindset is that animation is for children. Parents will sometimes go to a video shop, and pick up Overfiend (tentacled monsters raping women, for a start!) for their kids to watch. Why? Because it's animated. They don't look at the rating, nor read the back cover. And so there are some groups of people totally against anime for this reason.

There is also the sad fact that certain companies put out anime that is only violence and sex related! Manga Video, unfortunately, projects the image that all anime is sex and guns. True, they put out Ghost in the Shell and, in the US, anime like Maris the Chojo ('The Supergal'), Firetripper and the Laughing Target... but most of their videos are Overfiend-like, and that is how they market the anime to the population. I think it's self destructive, but they obviously make money that way.

Recently, though, the foreign movie channel here (SBS) has been showing anime... dubbed, because that's what the Australian anime sellers have been giving them, but anime none the less! Most of the films, though, were Manga Video movies, but they have been showing Patlabour, Porco Rosso and the tv series of Evangelion. It was great to see Eva on regular tv! It's a step in the right direction - anime on tv, uncut and uncensored! (When showing things on tv, the American censors cut out or edit some of the silliest things, IMO!)

Anime is growing in popularity, down here. I hope it continues, and one day, we might see subtitled anime on SBS, and regular anime showings on the commercial networks!

Never seen anime? Go out, find an anime club near you. Find a video store with anime! Pick a genre you like, and ask for an anime in that genre! Watch, and enjoy!

© Caroline 'Kunoichi' Seawright 2000 - present

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