Anime! Does anime = cartoon?

So today whilst chatting with my Japanese friend T I started questioning what anime actually is, what it’s defined as in both Japan and non-Japanese countries. He sent  me a link to this Japanese show which, to me, was a cartoon, but to him, was anime. He said; ‘I like this anime hehe’ and I was like ‘Is it animeeeeeeee….?…Really. Is it?!’

This is the anime he sent me: Episode 2 The Monster-making Machine 

Haha! What a nutjob but anyhoo! This anime, as he called it, doesn’t seem to be drawn in the traditional anime style. It seems to be drawn in the same way (what westerners call) cartoons are drawn.

^ what I call a cartoon character

^ what I call an anime character

The short answer is that anime and cartoons both mean exactly the same thing.

The long answer is that they are different depending on whether you’re Japanese or Western/non-Japanese. 

Obviously I’m going to elaborate on the long answer because, well it’s the long answer so it makes sense hohoho. Short answer is done. BOOM. So long answer:

In the Western world cartoons have many different styles of being drawn but only Japanese cartoons have the distinctive features of ‘anime’. These are features such as the eyes, for example, which is one of the biggest give-aways. The general layout of the movements and the exclamation art that occurs when someone is maybe shouting/fighting or feeling a strong emotion. Anime has it own unique characteristics which, and along with the fact that it does not originate from the Western world but from Japan, is why it is referred to by another word other than ‘cartoon’. We know when something is a Western Cartoon and we know when something is a Japanese Cartoon. We simply use the term ‘anime’ to describe Japanese Cartoons. It’s literally just to distinguish between the two, it’s the same as if you’d say ‘Oh I was watching that German Cartoon the other night’ but instead of saying German you’ll have some word for it. If you say ‘oh I was watching that Japanese Cartoon the other night’ it’s the same as saying ‘oh I was watching that anime the other night’. We have a distinctive term for it so we use it.

Finally, ‘anime’  アニメ is literally just short for ‘animation’ which Japan refers to as any animation Western or Japanese or Korean or Chinese or any cartoon. Cartoons are anime in Japan, they’re the same thing, they’re animations therefore they are anime.

They have this shortened word which means exactly the same thing as cartoon does. To us all cartoons are cartoons, in Japan all animations are anime. There is only one thing that could possibly blow this whole explanation apart which is that in the Western world, yep, we do say cartoon for cartoons however, this seems to only apply to drawn cartoons. Things like Wallace&Gromit however are seen as animations. I’ve just tried to elaborate on this query but it’s made my brain go nuts trying to word it and I’m much too lazy to try and spend time doing so. Bum. OOOOOOOOH. I’ll leave you think on that but anyway sorry if I ruined this whole explanation for you with that HAHA! If you do have a definite answer or if you even just have a suggestion/idea please comment and let me know, I’d love to hear peeps’ thoughts!

P.S. I feel bad for starting this insane thinking cycle all over again, what does animation REALLY mean?!!! Let me put an end to the misery. Anime, for Westeners, is a Japanese Cartoon, any Japanese cartoon, and anime, for Japanese, is any animation at all. (:

4 Comments on “Anime! Does anime = cartoon?”

  1. Pretty much the same thing for manga/comics too. I still personally chafe when anime is used to describe an art style, ‘cuz I’ve seen anime like Tiger and Bunny that look like superhero comics; anime art is really diverse.

    • liuhllils says:

      Indeed! Anime IS very diverse and sometimes it just feels a little bit weird to me when I hear people refusing to accept that something is an anime because it looks like a cartoon even though they’re the same thing. But they’re not at the same time! Yeah Tiger and Bunny is a really good example of an anime that doesn’t possess the typical well-known characteristics of some anime. Thanks for your thought! It was really interesting to hear this. 😀

  2. Dymoon says:

    oh I’m having a giggle here. re; Anime..the character drawings I find fun, however I never fail to get lost when I start to try and read one of the stories. The ones I’ve come across anyway.– suddenly we see books on how to draw anime popping up everywhere in the “how to” sections of the bigger book stores and art supply houses. I think that what comes out of Japan is usually very different in content than the story lines from say N.America. What do you think?

    • liuhllils says:

      Hahaha! I know what you mean, sometimes the story gets lost in translation. I do think that what comes out of Japan ends up being a little skewered when it’s dubbed into another language which is probably because there’s not always a literal equivalent of every word so sometimes the feeling you get from one sentence in Japanese ends up being completely different when in English. Plus every nation has its ways right? Like you said N.America will definitely have differing ‘feels’ when compared to Japan especially within manga too.
      It gets even weirder when the whole thing is changed entirely, not just a couple of words either!
      Even though it gets frustrating sometimes because we feel like we’re not always getting the full effect, it’s not all bad. On rare occasions I’ve found that an anime is more attractive to me when in English! Haha! :O But then again that’s most definitely because I AM English.
      Thanks for your thought on this topic! But omg just saw the ‘re; Anime’ and now I’m wondering if you were replying to the previous comment and if you were hohoho nevermind about my reply and I am sorry haha!

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