5 Ways Anime Goes Beyond Western Animation - Mania.com

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5 Ways Anime Goes Beyond Western Animation

By Chris Beveridge     September 08, 2009

How Anime Goes Beyond Western Animation
© bob Trate


Western animation and storytelling has come a long way in the last few years, but in many respects animation is still very much considered kids territory. A lot of anime is the same way but even a lot of basic shows tend to go beyond what Western shows will do and expose kids to simply because of cultural differences. When you go beyond the younger age set though and into older demographics, anime breaks quite a few boundaries that are a long way off for US animation studios. A number of them have been released in the US however and one of them even carried the Disney label.


1.  Pom Poko

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Considered one of the more outrageous titles from Studio Ghibli, Pom Poko was thought to be the one title that Disney would never release in America. While it plays big to the issues of environmentalism and urban sprawl, it centers on a group of raccoons that transform into humans to fight back. The twist? It's very graphic about the genitalia that the raccoons have when they're in a mode between pure animal and human. They're literally swinging around quite often, especially when the raccoons dance. It's certainly not something most parents would want to... expose their kids to.



2. Hellsing

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While Hellsing deals with the usual round of vampires that populate a lot of shows, it crosses into religion pretty heavily as the Catholic Church is used extensively. The religious symbolism is big to begin with throughout with crosses abound, but when you have the Church sending out its own massively powered assassin that's quoting scripture and actively pursuing the goals set forth by the pope, it takes it to another level. What can top that? Heavy use of Nazi's with a group that's carrying on the goals of the past with extreme faithfulness. Swastika's abound and a belief in the thousand years of glory promised by the Fuhrer dominate the storyline.



3. Devilman Lady

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A series created by Go Nagai, a man whose works have always broken boundaries, Devil Lady gives us a lead character that spends the bulk of the series naked and killing people as she copes with the transformations that she undergoes. Sexuality is fairly common in a lot of shows, but it's a rare show that places the lead in this kind of position with such regularity. The mixture of extreme violence, bloodshed and open sexuality has been a staple of anime for a long time and is almost unheard of when it comes to the vast majority of Western animation.



4. Sakura Diaries

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Relationships in general don't show up in most shows in the West but an entire series revolving around a young woman doing her best to seduce her cousin that's moved in with her to go to college in the area? Incest abounds even as the young man does his best to win over a hot redhead from a different college. Filled with lots of overt sexuality, including the lead female pretending to be a prostitute upon first seeing her cousin after several years is still quite surprising even a decade after it first came out in Japan.



5. Kite

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If there was ever a title that caused a lot of controversy in its release over here, and something that will likely never occur within animation originating in the US, it's Kite. Something of a near future title, it revolves around a teenage female assassin that's cold and brutal in what she does. There's enough unnerving material with the sexuality of the show considering her age, but the genesis of her role involves her being raped as a pre-teen in a brutal manner. It's an origin story you won't see in animation and even more rarely in the world of independent comics at best.


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Dazzler 9/8/2009 4:46:03 AM

Problem is writing sucks for Anime.  American updating is always better than original. 

Richard J. 9/8/2009 8:24:28 AM

The writing is fine, it's just cultural dissonance means a lot of the umph is lost.  To us, someone saying "this is unforgivable" is kinda weak while to them, it's serious business.  A lot of lines are like that, requiring a certain cultural mindset to fully appreciate.

Interesting article and surprising choices.  Although I'd kinda like to have seen something like Koi Kaze on the list rather than Sakura Diaries.  Kissing cousins isn't all that shocking, how about brother-sister incest?  Koi Kaze has a surprisingly emotional depiction of two siblings who haven't seen each other since they were small children fall in love.  Extremely good series and absolutely not something you'd EVER see in animation over here.

Calibur454 9/8/2009 8:41:55 AM

Nowadasy the only western companies that make any good animated films are either Pixar and Dreamworks. Disney went into the craper years ago putting out a crappy animated dvd every few months. It isn't that anime is any better I think they are two completley diferent styles. I can see why a column like this would be written because western material for animation pretty much does suck. I've seen american independent animated tv shows with better storylines than the animated movies do.  (Total Drama Island or Total Drama Action) is a great example of tv animation done right. Want to look for any animation done wrong just look to any of the Disney dvd sequels they keep churning out every now and then. (this excludes pixar of course)


Wiseguy 9/8/2009 9:05:24 AM

The biggest cultural difference is the Japanese acceptance and obvious desire for kiddie porn while the west still has some not many but some moral standards. And that's my opinion

Whitelotuspriest 9/8/2009 10:05:06 AM

No, the biggest difference is that over here we still view animation overall for children, or for family. In Japan animation is simply another art form. You have animation for kids, teens, and adults only over there. It's not all "kiddie porn", not  by a long shot. I find their writing to be alot more creative, or maybe I just enjoy it more.

epicgears 9/8/2009 11:24:32 AM

 the problem is the low acceptance of "Cartoon" in adult groups. Watching cartoon is thought to be strickly for yonger kids or "losers"

However, a big percentages of the animations produced over in Japan are mainly targeted at mature audiences. Things like Hellsing, Ghost in the Shell, Gintama are great animations that contains lots and lots of mature contents. Some of the great hits in Japan also reflects a lot of the real life issues (or even political issues). This is definitely something the westerns are taking into consideration. 

If the western "cartoon" producers keep on putting their focuses on the age group of 3~7, then we'll never see the same glory that has been proven to be quite successful in Japan.

epicgears 9/8/2009 11:25:51 AM


"This is definitely something the westerns aren't taking into consideration. "

Chopsaki 9/8/2009 1:49:21 PM

Anime does a few things stylisticly which I can admire but overall it just dosn't appeal to me. (The voice acting can be grating at times.)  Having said that I do aprecieate the adult themes. Maybe someday western cartoons will branch out when they realize there is an untapped market for it. Reminds me of the Hong Kong film industry and how great they do action yet how poorly they do plot and characters. Someday someone will come along and figure out how to mesh together the strengths of both mediums into a hybrid of sorts. Until then I guess we will have to settle for Heavy Metal.

Tashiro 9/8/2009 1:57:00 PM

 Dazzler:  Seriously?  You think the Western butchering of anime is 'better' than the original?  Pull the other one, it has bells on.  On the short list of anime that's been trashed via coming to North America:  G-Force (Gachiman), Pokemon, Yugioh, Card Captor Sakura, Sailor Moon, Nausicaa (which was so butchered, Studio Ghibli refused to let the West touch his work for almost a decade).

Re: Pom Poko - those aren't racoons, they're dogs.  Tanuki are 'badger dogs', a breed of the dog family.

Tashiro 9/8/2009 2:00:56 PM

 Oh, another series butchered by North America would be the Robotech Saga, come to think of it.  They took three completely different anime, shredded them, then tried to do them as a single saga.

Re: Sakura Diaries - doesn't surprise me, since apparently 'kissing cousins' isn't that uncommon a theme in anime.  Minmei and her cousin's infatuation with her in Robotech comes to mind.

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