A Beginner’s Guide to Anime

What is Anime?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines anime as “a style of animation originating in Japan.” Sometimes, anime is also referred to as “Japanese animation.” Anime can be either hand drawn or be created through computer animation.

Characteristics of Anime
Anime is an art form with very definitive characteristics. One of the most common traits of this art form is large eyes, although not all anime utilizes it. Manga and anime creator Osamu Tezuka is believed to be the first Japanese artist to use large eyes in his work.

Another design trait for anime is the use of exaggerated facial expressions: upset characters have bulging lines that appear on their forehead, embarrassed characters have a big sweat-drop appear on their head, and male characters develop a bloody nose when they are aroused by a female.

For character design, a lot of anime characters are designed with the proportions of the human body, with the height of the head as the base unit of proportion. Most anime characters are seven to eight heads tall; however, characters that are extremely tall are about nine heads tall. The main exception to this rule is the “super deformed” style (which is also known as Chibi, a Japanese word for “dwarf” or “small child”). In the “super deformed” style, characters are smaller and are drawn in an exaggerated fashion.

Anime can also include non-humanoid characters and hybrid beings. One of the best known examples of hybrid beings in anime is the catgirl; this is a female cat-human hybrid that is usually a cute girl with catlike ears and sometimes a tail. Examples of catgirls include Merle in The Vision of Escaflowne and Ichigo Momomiya from Tokyo Mew Mew. The non-humanoid characters that usually appear in anime include robots, animals, spirits and demons.

When anime is produced in Japan, there are five main demographics that the companies aim their products at. The kodomo demographic is aimed at all children, regardless of gender. Anime produced for this demographic tend to have stories that are moralistic in nature. Titles for this demographic include Doraemon and Hello Kitty.

The shojo demographic focuses on young girls between the ages of 10 and 18. The anime produced for this demographic has a strong focus on human and romantic relationships and emotions. Shojo anime includes such titles as Fruits Basket, Sailor Moon, Tokyo Mew Mew and Ouran High School Host Club.

The shonen demographic is aimed at young boys between the ages of 10 and 18. Anime produced for this demographic is characterized by high action and humorous plots featuring male protagonists. Shonen anime includes such titles as Naruto, Dragon Ball, Bleach, One Piece and Death Note.

The seinen demographic is aimed at 18-30 year old males. The main distinguishing factor between shonen and seinen is the fact that seinen titles have a stronger emphasis on realism. Seinen anime includes such titles as Berserk, Gantz, Ghost in the Shell and Naoki Urasawa’s Monster.

The josei demographic is aimed at late teen and adult female audiences. The anime produced for this demographic tends to focus on everyday experiences of women living in Japan; however, there are some titles that focus on stories of high school students. Josei anime includes such titles as Honey and Clover, Loveless and Paradise Kiss.

There is also a kind of anime that is referred to as hentai, which covers sexually explicit and pornographic anime.

Anime covers many different genres. Action and adventure anime focuses on battles, war, physical competition, and martial arts. Titles in this genre include Naruto, Dragon Ball, Yu Yu Hakusho, Yu-Gi-Oh! and The Prince of Tennis.

Drama focuses on character development, emotional themes and relationship complications. Drama anime series include Fruits Basket, Sola, Gallery Fake and Romeo x Juliet.

Horror anime has darker and supernatural themes. Horror anime titles include Gantz, Blood: The Last Vampire, Hell Girl and Naoki Urasawa’s Monster. Science fiction has futuristic elements that tend to focus on science and technology. Science fiction anime titles include Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Super Dimension Fortress Macross and Cowboy Bebop.

In America, anime is being released through distributors such as FUNimation, VIZ Media, Sentai Filmworks, Discotek Media, Aniplex of America, PONYCAN USA, NIS America, and Media Blasters. These companies acquire the distribution rights for anime properties from the anime studios in Japan. Through these distribution licenses, the companies can release the properties on DVD, make them available for online viewing, make them available through the cable companies’ on-demand services, or try to make deals with cable networks to air the properties on television.

As time has gone on, online viewing for anime has become much more prevalent, with many of these services are now providing simulcasts (i.e. streaming episodes of series currently airing in Japan on either the same day or within a couple of days after they are shown in Japan). As of this writing, online streaming options include Crunchyroll, FUNimation Now, Anime Strike, Netflix, and HIDIVE.

With the various options available for viewing anime, it’s easier than ever to find a way to sample anime properties and to learn more about this art form.

anime – Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-webster.com.
Schodt, Frederik L. (Reprint edition (August 18, 1997)). Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics. Tokyo, Japan: Kodansha International. ISBN 0-87011-752-1.
University of Michigan Animae Project (Current). “Emotional Iconography in Animae”, http://www.umich.edu/~anime/info_emotions.html
“Body Proportion.” Akemi’s Anime World, http://animeworld.com/howtodraw/bodies1.html
Toku, Masami, editor. 2005. “Shojo Manga: Girl Power!” Chico, CA: Flume Press/California State University Press. ISBN 1-886226-10-5.
McLelland, Mark. “A Short History of Hentai”, Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, Issue 12. January 2006.
Okum, David. “Cat Girl”, Manga Madness, p. 72, ISBN 9781581805345

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