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9 Reasons Why Anime Is Superior to Western Animation
What Anime Is Doing to Dominate Animation
By Chris Beveridge
September 22, 2009
While animation coming out of America has improved a lot in the last several years due to Adult Swim and other influences, it's still nowhere near where Japanese animation has managed to go. While cartoons in the US were largely relegated to kiddie fare for so many decades, it made much larger strides in Japan for quite a few reasons, with shows spanning across all demographics and genres. There are exceptions to every rule, though often those exceptions are called anime when they're not. Yes, we're looking at you Avatar the Last Airbender. So why is anime superior?
9. Complete Stories
A great number of shows are designed with a beginning, middle and end, telling a complete story in the process. Even when episodic, there are small subplots brought out across the series that tell a larger story in full. While there are a good number of episodic shows that run for years and years (or decades in the case of some of them), by and large shows are meant to run a half season or a full season and tell a story within those confines. That often provides for a tighter script and more engaging show since you know it will have a proper conclusion.
8. Depth of Character
With the complete story idea in mind, many shows work through actual character growth as it progresses. Many shows have a character that does change, sometimes quickly and sometimes gradually, over the course of it. They come into the show with a fleshed-out past, a past that often intersects with the present to chart them a new future. Whether it's dealing with people trying to live and work in space, find true love in their 20s or dealing with life after the atomic bomb was dropped, the characters provide plenty of ways for the viewer to connect with them.
7. Depth of Story
Prevalent in many shows is a sense of issues that are of importance, issues that you won't find in the West for the most part because of the general audience being kids. Social issues are dealt with in pressures of school, intense pressures of being on a sports team, the care of the elderly and so on. The most prominent one, especially from the ’80, is the issues surrounding war and its place within the human experience. Cause and effect, from the political to the soldier on the ground and deep into the effects on civilians, the way anime tackles the concept of war in so many different ways places it above most others.
6. Relationships Treated Realistically
Romantic relationships are a rarity in the West but they're a common theme in anime and in all sorts of configurations. Often the shows deal with the pursuit of a relationship, typically in high school, but even these are given such an honest approach and dealt with in terms of emotions and how it impacts them that it can be startling. When the shows deal with older characters, they can become as complicated and as engaging as any Hollywood prime time series that deals in the same. But with a planned start and finish, the relationships often actually progress somewhere and deal with the ups and downs, leaving you with a sense of closure.
5. Even When It’s for Children, It’s Not for Children
Some shows that are brought over specifically for TV syndication here invariably end up edited. We're talking your Pokemon, your Sailor Moon and your Cardcaptor Sakura. All shows that are aimed specifically at young kids, both boys and girls, in Japan. Yet when they're here, they must be toned down and edited because the content is unacceptable for US kids. These shows tackle tough subjects and don't sugarcoat the world completely for kids, something that many find to be a real positive when raising their own kids on anime. Death, divorce, crushes, love and loss are all familiar themes even in kids anime. But that's too much for American kids–unfortunately.
4. Adult Animation
Animation of a sexual nature aimed at adults is almost non-existent in the West. The diversity of animation aimed at adults with sexual content is quite striking when you get down to it. Every kind of fetish is dealt with, stories are important in quite a lot of them and there's a lot that deal with emotions and relationships in a serious way as well. Many come from visual novel games where the characters are given a lot of life and fans want to see that translated into the shows. Though it's certain kinds that get all the notice when released in the US, there's a lot of other types as well that come out that are sweet and endearing or have an engaging story to tell with sex as a component of it.
3. Culture/History Is Important
Many Western animation shows tend to celebrate other pop culture aspects and rarely into our own history does it go, at least not since the days of Bugs Bunny. US animation tends to celebrate the stupidity of our culture more than anything else. Culture plays a bit part in a lot of shows, even those that take place out of the norm such as science fiction shows. The past is made into the present and future often, taking lessons from the culture of the past and how it affects everything since then. In addition to basic cultural aspects, there's quite a lot more history to work with as shows take place across the centuries, providing tales of characters–historical and imagined–within these periods that are often done with exacting detail.
2. The Budget Is on the Screen
After the popularity of shows like South Park and the advent of new tools for animation, a large chunk of what comes out in America tends to feel like flash-based animation rather than real animation. Anime had a bad couple of years with some experiments in digital animation after the turn of the century, but by and large many shows have a feel of quality about them because the budget is right there on the screen. Many shows work hard to provide a very detailed series of backgrounds – unique one time use backgrounds no less–in their shows in order to make it feel even more real and lived in that when you get away from anime, you realize how plain and dull–and repetitive–so many backgrounds are. The character animation is no slouch either as most shows feature changing costume designs, hairstyles and locales.
1. Hayao Miyazaki
The simple fact that Hayao Miyazaki exists in Japan and has created so many movies as well as being involved in a lot of Lupin the Third makes him one of the big reasons that anime is superior. With his works influencing so many others for years now including some of the biggest moments in Pixar films, anything from him and studio Ghibli should be considered required viewing. Much of anime has influenced animation in the West, but none more than Hayao Miyzaki and Studio Ghibli.