DP's Anime Overview

What you need to know...

General Overview

A basic definition of anime is sometimes hard to pin down, depending upon who you talk to. The more serious student may consider the Wikipedia article (linked here), which has a vast array of information on this and other topics. Anime in its basic form is a cartoon. However, the medium itself spans so large a set of genres that this definition is too general. Although most anime comes from Japan, there is a decent amount that comes from the US, Korea, and even China. When I was a punk teenager the phrase 'Japanimation' was used to describe those Japanese import cartoons we all drooled over. That term has since fallen into disuse.

What is anime then? It is an art form to many that uses what most would call cartoons to tell a story. Very different from the Bugs Bunny, He-Man, Transformers, or GI JOE cartoons of most 30-somethings' childhoods, these cartoons delve into every genre known to man, and even a few that were invented after its birth as a form of expression. There is a little something for everyone in anime, to cover any genre you could want, to any level of virtue or depravity. In the age of Rule 34 and 4chan, anything you want, you can have.

Anime got its big start based upon manga, or Japanese visual comics, whether serialized in some magazines or sold as individual collections in bookstores. When a manga becomes popular enough, it is usually turned into a series. Much of the anime that is around today is based upon the manga that originally spawned the story. Although some manga which are adaptations based upon the movie or series that they represent, it is usually the anime that is an adaptation of the manga. If you find that there is an anime series that you like, sometimes reading the manga can give you a lot of clues into the background of the story that are otherwise missing from the series. Just like mainstream Hollywood movies aren't exact translations from their books, anime movies/series and their respective manga do not always jive with each other. Some great series/movies have horrible manga, and the reverse is also true. However, unlike in real life, anime series and movies are not limited by the same budgetary constraints for CG effects, stuntmen, and their ilk. While they do have budgets to worry about, they are not limited by artistic constraints other than their inability to dream things bigger and grander than they already have. Some things you can animate that you could never do with live actors.

Recurring Themes

The following themes tend to appear again and again in various types of anime. If you are a regular fan, you will recognize these instantly. If you're not, then be prepared. The real winners are the ones that don't overuse a given theme or make it too cliché. You can find a few anime that use several. The fewer they do use, however, generally the more I like them, and the higher their popularity overall. Clicking on any of the links in this section will take you to more detailed information, or show images, as appropriate.

Visual Styles

Much like in Disney animation, there is a large variety of animation styles to be found within the overall anime umbrella. Although the following list is not exhaustive, it provides a good baseline to work from. Clicking on any of the links in this section will show images or videos representational of the style being described.

Useful to Know Terms

The following terms and concepts are useful to know if you're interested in anime. It can help cut down on time spent looking for things and let you know up front the types of things that you'll be dealing with. There are probably some terms that I have left off, but this is a good starter list. This list is presented in alphabetical order.

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