The word anime is almost synonymous with Japanese culture, where it is as much a part of society as the newspaper or magazine. Most anime are actually derived from their manga (comic) counterparts, and the word is basically an abbreviation of animation, but specifically cartoon or comic animation. In fact, manga is a very popular form of literature in Asian countries, and a lot of manga titles actually have a historical or contemporary flavor to it.
However, it might surprise many to know that there is not a lot of differences between Western and Eastern animation. Both share many common techniques and approaches, but perhaps Western animations have been trending towards using more sophisticated technology. Many of the most famous creators of anime still prefer to do things using the traditional methods, and are less reliant on computers and technology.
The biggest difference between the two styles of anime are probably the types of genres explored in the animation, and some of the peculiar features that are only found in Eastern animation.
Since anime and manga is such a big part of Eastern culture (you can find manga book shops everywhere in countries such as Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan), it tends to be more broad in the topics covered. Themes such as sports, relationships, history, military, political, humour and medicine or science have all been the subject of anime. In fact, there is probably an anime or manga for just about anything that you can think of. However, Western culture seem to be very specific with its animations, and tend to focus on heroes and villains, actions and consequences.
Some of the most interesting features of Asian anime is the use of dialogues within the dialogues. That is, as a particular scene is unfolding, there will be commentary from the characters within the animation providing a third person perspective from people involved in the plot. Also, the interplay between imaginary and real-life is often strong, with characters able to take words out of their speech bubble, or pull out various instruments from empty space.
To give you a taste of Japanese anime, and understand some of the things we’ve been talking about, have a look at some of the most popular Japanese: Naruto, Blackjack, Eyeshield 21, Slam Dunk. If there is something you are interested in, you will almost certainly find an anime or manga that covers the topic. So why not take a look in your favourite bookstore today, you never know just what you’ll discover.
Photo by Danny Choo