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Anime and Manga: Animation Explored

written by: Andrea Campbell • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 3/23/2017

It sounds exotic, but anime is just a shortened version of the Japanese word for animation. Don’t call them cartoons, though! Manga translates to “whimsical pictorial" and has been around since the early 1950s, although it originated in 1917. Learn about the history of this art form.

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    Backstory

    History of Anime and Manga Before and during World War II, Japan had a fascist period when artists were censored and restricted to creating propaganda for theatrical features. After the war, anime and cinema both took a dive because of the damage inflicted in battle. As the 1950s progressed, the Japanese movie industry began to flourish and directors such as Kurosawa and Ozu became world-famous.

    In 1962, a manga artist named Osamu Tezuka released his first animated feature. With the advent of television, there was soon a program based on Tezuka’s 50s manga character; his doll-with-a-soul was redubbed into English and called Astro Boy.

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    Unique Anime

    What makes Anime unique from animation in the United States? To begin, there are a huge number of animation studios in Japan and the massive manga (comic book) industry functions as subcontractors for the larger companies. Manga is a major source for anime stories in print and on film, and the tales have been widely tested so there are many stories to draw from throughout history.

    The United States’ larger players in animation that dominate the market such as Disney, Fox and Warner Brothers, have a directed, somewhat homogenous feel and are well made despite being less daring.

    Anime tells a story over a long series and you can never be sure what the ending will be. It is also not unusual for a major character to die, lose a loved one or fail at what they are trying to do. The characters in anime can be changeable. Heroes can show bad traits and even commit horrid acts, although they regret them and express those emotions. In addition, in serious anime there can be a sudden comedic interlude, such that a farce can have tragic moments.

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    Details to Anime

    Some of the more interesting details about anime are the bits and pieces of Japanese cultural particulars. For example, you may see paper shoji screens, Buddhist bells or people removing their shoes when they enter a home.

    Elderly parents figure heavily into story lines and the duty to do right by them is strong. There are traditional values portrayed by the characters such as sincerity, perseverance and determination in the face of adversity.

    The Japanese films and books like to illustrate a change in time by using allegory such as a falling leaf, snow melting or a cherry blossom growing, providing a bittersweet sense of time’s passing.

    Finally, the cinematic effects are such that an action in anime is ‘framed’ as if it had been filmed with actual cameras—the dynamic background shots, angles, distance and foreground feel are present. American animation is based on stage plays with a static background and the character moves around in front of it.

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    Visual Conventions

    A sweaty brow. A wink of the eye. A nervous smile. Facial expressions are everything to help convey a story in manga. Bright blue is a good color for spiky hair, large innocent eyes and plaits of pigtails tend to depict a younger character; narrowed eyes, an exaggerated pointed nose and sharper angles lend an air of intent to a redheaded boy—positioning and angle give meaning to a face. Add in overplayed body language, and the drawing gives characters personality and mood.

    The manga fashion for colorful hair developed well before the fashion of bleaching and dying actual colors to make hairdos pink or blue. The movement of the hair is quite noticeable and labored over in anime. Hair flows in the wind and shifts or suddenly comes to a halt after running. A lock of hair will drape behind the ear and fall loose, and that all adds dimension to the behavior and feelings of the character.

    Look for these other features in your favorite stories:

    • Japlish: incorrect English or phrases
    • Violence: action scenes with violence that show consequence; therefore, you should check the tape on a manga book or manga video box to see if the material is suitable for children.
    • Nudity: it is not unusual in either manga or anime to see nakedness; and again, check to see if it has sexual or pornographic content.
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    Comic Market a.k.a. Comiket

    Fans also produce their own works and put them into Japanese zines or doujinshi (publications among friends) and they appear at conventions. Many girls are involved in the making and trade of such manga because boys seem to have greater demands on their time to get better grades or to go higher in school. This particular event takes place at Tokyo Big Sight in the Obaida area and people line up for hours to get in. They also allow cosplay—attendees who dress up as their favorite characters.

References

  • Poitras, Gilles. Anime Essentials: Everything a Fan Needs to Know. Berkeley, CA, 2001. Book.
  • Okabayashi, Kensuke. Manga for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2007. Book.
  • Denson, Abby. Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga. Lucky Cats and Ramen. Tokyo, Japan: Tuttle Publishing, 2014. Book.
  • Lenburg, Jeff. Legends of Animation Hayao Miyazaki: Japan’s Premier Anima Storyteller. New York: Chelsea House, 2012. Book.
  • AnimeNewsNetwork
  • Southgate, Anna and Keith Sparrow. Drawing Manga: Expressions and Poses. New York, The Rosen Publishing Group Inc., 2012. Book.
  • Kallen, Stuart A. Manga. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, Cengage, 2011. Book.