Difference in Animation in Japan and the United States

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Difference in Animation in Japan and the United States
William Bowles
Jodi Stoneman
October 25, 2010

Difference in Animation in Japan and the United States
Animation varies greatly between Japanese culture and that of the United States. While animation is usually revered as entertainment for children in the United States, Japanese animation, or “anime” as it is referred to both in Japan and in the West, is a form of media that is enjoyed by people of all ages. Unlike the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spongebob Squarepants, both popular American animations in their times, anime focuses more on drama and varying genres with some even being pornographic in nature. The differing cultures of the United States and Japan can be considered the attributing factor to the substantial differences in their respective animation styles. Anime is considered a pop culture phenomenon. Many critics and scholars argue as to whether this form of entertainment is actually “art” or simply a sociological phenomenon. Critics of animation argue whether anime, while extremely popular in Japanese culture today and increasingly so in the West, should be held up alongside famous Japanese traditions such as haiku and woodblock prints. Many see anime as nothing more than a phase of entertainment that will lose its social backing and eventually fade from existence. However, anime is an increasingly strong market today and shows no signs of disappearing anytime soon. The History of Anime

Anime differs greatly from the animation found in the United States today. Browsing a video store in Japan, one might find videos ranging from classic love and betrayal stories, to stories leading up to the apocalypse, and anything in between. Originating in 1945, the first anime featured film Momotaro umi no shinpei (Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors) was actually designed as propaganda by the Imperial Navy. Its main focus was to lift the spirits of the Japanese children in the postwar period as everything struggled to regain balance, from the animation and film industry, to the economy and even Japanese society as a whole (MacWilliams 49). The 1950’s saw a flood of creativity in the Japanese animation field, leading up to the country’s second feature film in 1958, Hakujaden (The Legend of the White Serpent, aka Panda and the Magical Serpent). Created by the Toei Doga Company, this film showed that full-length animated feature films were a viable commercial product in the Japanese market (MacWilliams 50). Previously only animated films from foreign nations reached Japanese theatres, mostly coming from the United States.

With the rapid spread of television in the 1960’s, Japanese animators found a new way to sell their products. One of the first Japanese anime to see extraordinary success was Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy), seeing success in foreign lands such as the United States and Europe also. Another popular series from this time period was Tetsujin 28-go (Gigantor). Unlike the cartoons being shown in the United States at this time period, such as Spiderman, The Flintstone, and The Jetsons, Astro Boy and Gigantor focused on bigger, more mature issues. Cartoons in the United States aimed more at entertaining children with superheros thwarting criminals, and both prehistoric and futuristic comedy. These types of cartoons were never meant for anything other than entertainment with a small side of morality lessons put in for good measure. While entertaining, very rarely did cartoons from the United States create critical thinking or questions about morality amongst their young viewers. In comparison, Astro Boy, while similar to super hero cartoons in the West, also revolved around the theme of the defining line between artificial and human. Anime was and still is more than simply entertainment in the Japanese culture. It not only entertains, but brings up deep, touchy social issues, such as human rights and morality, and causes young...
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