To be politically correct, anime are animation products with grassroots in Japan. By definition, anime can be drawn by free-hand or animated via computer as long as it originates in Japan.
Anime enthusiasts, like myself, rarely follow the rules though. To me, as well as to many other anime fans, anime is defined by the signature fantasy characters with those huge expressive eyes doing the things that only anime can do like sporting gigantic drops of sweat or sometimes even blood, brandishing a weapon from nowhere or a male figure getting a nosebleed because he is in love. It’s those special touches that constitute anime to me.
Is Japanese anime better than American anime though? Authentic or not, American anime is pretty impressive. Then again, so is Japanese anime. With the distinct lines and artistic strokes that make up the composing of the characters, the main thing that makes an excellent anime, in my book, is that the character comes to live with emotion, personality and soul. I have witnessed that from both Japanese and Americans.
So, what’s the difference of anime in America an anime in Japan? For one, most Americans grew up watching cartoons but not necessarily anime. Disney films and cartoon carnival were the norm for the older generations. Pokémon paved the way for anime in America but still, there just isn’t that strong rooting as there is in Japan.
In Japan, anime is watched by young and old alike on a regular basis. It has become a big part of their culture and is available in mass form on video, movies, theater, comics (called manga) and video games. While an American might go out to watch an action movie or tune in to a drama on television, the Japanese are apt to be watching these varieties as anime productions.
Story content differs too. In America, it is the norm in cartoons and anime to have a good and evil story line. Though the plot may twist and turn and get downright wicked, generally, good trumps evil. But Japanese anime plots do not follow that norm.
Shinto, a disorganized religion, is prevalent in many Japanese anime productions. Rather than promoting a good and evil overtone, it is more about legends, gods and often about subjects Americans consider taboo as well.
Anime is indeed more infiltrated in Japan, but does that mean that it’s better? The answer is a matter of opinion, of course. Much of how good an anime production turns out is determined by the artists behind the characters, the writers and the producers. And…there are some greats. Ben 10, Calamity Jane and Alien Force are American made anime hits. Since 2007, the American Anime Awards have acknowledged the best of the best in the American anime world.
Americans are earning their places in anime, that’s for sure. Can they reach beyond their cultural programing of the good versus evil plot to embrace the Japanese style anime productions? Absolutely. And, there is quite a Western World following of anime so to say that it’s not part of the American culture is another ineffective strike in my opinion.
The question still remains. Whose anime is the best, American or Japanese? For an avid anime fan like myself, the answer remains the same, the beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and is evident in the creation rather than the creator.