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Anime ( Japanese: アニメ, []; / ˈ æ n ɨ m / or / ˈ ɑː n ɨ m /) are Japanese animated productions featuring hand-drawn or computer animation. Anime includes animated television series, short films and full-length feature films. The word is the abbreviated pronunciation of "animation" in Japanese. In English, the term is defined as a Japanese-disseminated animation style often characterized by colorful graphics, vibrant characters and fantastic themes. The intended meaning of the term sometimes varies depending on the context.

While the earliest known Japanese animation dates to 1917, and many original Japanese animations were produced in the ensuing decades, the characteristic anime style developed in the 1960s—notably with the work of Osamu Tezuka—and became known outside Japan in the 1980s.

Anime, like manga, has a large audience in Japan and recognition throughout the world. Distributors can release anime via television broadcasts, directly to video, or theatrically, as well as online.

Both hand-drawn and computer-animated anime exist. It is used in television series, films, video, video games, commercials, and Internet-based releases, and represents most, if not all, genres of fiction. As the market for anime increased in Japan, it also gained popularity in East and Southeast Asia. Anime is currently popular in many different regions around the world.


Screenshot from Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors (1944), the first feature-length anime film

Anime first arose at the start of the 20th century, when Japanese filmmakers experimented with the animation techniques also pioneered in France, Germany, the United States, and Russia. The oldest known anime in existence first screened in 1917 – a two-minute clip of a samurai trying to test a new sword on his target, only to suffer defeat. Early pioneers included Shimokawa Oten, Junichi Kouchi, and Seitarō Kitayama.

By the 1930s animation became an alternative format of storytelling to the live-action industry in Japan. But it suffered competition from foreign producers and many animators, such as Noburō Ōfuji and Yasuji Murata still worked in cheaper cutout not cel animation, although with masterful results. Other creators, such as Kenzō Masaoka and Mitsuyo Seo, nonetheless made great strides in animation technique, especially with increasing help from a government using animation in education and propaganda. The first talkie anime was Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka, produced by Masaoka in 1933. By 1940, numerous anime artists' organizations had risen, including the Shin Mangaha Shudan and Shin Nippon Mangaka. During this time period, anime was extensively used as a channel for government propaganda. The first feature length animated film was Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors directed by Seo in 1945 with sponsorship by the Imperial Japanese Navy.

The success of The Walt Disney Company's 1937 feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs profoundly influenced many Japanese animators. In the 1960s, manga artist and animator Osamu Tezuka adapted and simplified many Disney animation techniques to reduce costs and to limit the number of frames in productions. He intended this as a temporary measure to allow him to produce material on a tight schedule with inexperienced animation staff.

The 1970s saw a surge of growth in the popularity of manga – many of them later animated. The work of Osamu Tezuka drew particular attention: he has been called a "legend" and the "god of manga". His work – and that of other pioneers in the field – inspired characteristics and genres that remain fundamental elements of anime today. The giant robot genre (known as " Mecha" outside Japan), for instance, took shape under Tezuka, developed into the Super Robot genre under Go Nagai and others, and was revolutionized at the end of the decade by Yoshiyuki Tomino who developed the Real Robot genre. Robot anime like the Gundam and The Super Dimension Fortress Macross series became instant classics in the 1980s, and the robot genre of anime is still one of the most common in Japan and worldwide today. In the 1980s, anime became more accepted in the mainstream in Japan (although less than manga), and experienced a boom in production. Following a few successful adaptations of anime in overseas markets in the 1980s, anime gained increased acceptance in those markets in the 1990s and even more at the turn of the 21st century.


Japanese write the English term "animation" in katakana as アニメーション (animēshon, pronounced [animeːɕoɴ]); anime is short for this. Many sources claim that anime derives from the French phrase dessin animé, however this is debated. Japanese-speakers use both the original and abbreviated forms interchangeably, but the shorter form occurs more commonly.

The pronunciation of anime in Japanese differs significantly from the Standard English / ˈ æ n ɪ m /, which has different vowels and stress. (In Japanese each mora carries equal stress.) As with a few other Japanese words such as saké, Pokémon, and Kobo Abé, English-language texts sometimes spell anime as animé (as in French), with an acute accent over the final e, to cue the reader to pronounce the letter, not to leave it silent as English orthography might suggest.

Word usage

In Japan, the term anime does not specify an animation's nation of origin or style; instead, it serves as a blanket term to refer to all forms of animation from around the world. English-language dictionaries define anime as "a Japanese style of motion-picture animation" or as "a style of animation developed in Japan".

Non-Japanese works that borrow stylization from anime are commonly referred to as " anime-influenced animation" but it is not unusual for a viewer who does not know the country of origin of such material to refer to it as simply "anime". Some works result from co-productions with non-Japanese companies, such as most of the traditionally animated Rankin/Bass works, the Cartoon Network and Production I.G series IGPX or Ōban Star-Racers; different viewers may or may not consider these anime.

In English, anime, when used as a common noun, normally functions as a mass noun (for example: "Do you watch anime?", "How much anime have you collected?"). However, in casual usage the word also appears as a count noun. Anime can also be used as a suppletive adjective or classifier noun. For example, The anime Guyver is different from the movie Guyver.


English-speakers occasionally refer to anime as "Japanimation", but this term has fallen into disuse. "Japanimation" saw the most usage during the 1970s and 1980s, but the term "anime" supplanted it in the mid-1990s as the material became more widely known in English-speaking countries. In general, the term now only appears in nostalgic contexts. Since "anime" does not identify the country of origin in Japanese usage, "Japanimation" is used to distinguish Japanese work from that of the rest of the world.

In Japan, " manga" can refer to both animation and comics. Among English speakers, "manga" has the stricter meaning of "Japanese comics", in parallel to the usage of "anime" in and outside of Japan. The term " ani-manga" is used to describe comics produced from animation cels.

Visual characteristics

Many commentators refer to anime as an art form. As a visual medium, it can emphasize visual styles. The styles can vary from artist to artist or from studio to studio. Some titles make extensive use of common stylization: FLCL, for example, has a reputation for wild, exaggerated stylization. Other titles use different methods: Only Yesterday or Jin-Roh take much more realistic approaches, featuring few stylistic exaggerations; Pokémon uses drawings which specifically do not distinguish the nationality of characters.

While different titles and different artists have their own artistic styles, many stylistic elements have become so common that describe them as definitive of anime in general. However, this does not mean that all modern anime share one strict, common art-style. Many anime have a very different art style from what would commonly be called "anime style", yet fans still use the word "anime" to refer to these titles. Generally, the most common form of anime drawings include "exaggerated physical features such as large eyes, big hair and elongated limbs... and dramatically shaped speech bubbles, speed lines and onomatopoeic, exclamatory typography."

The influences of Japanese calligraphy and Japanese painting also characterize linear qualities of the anime style. The round ink brush traditionally used for writing kanji and for painting, produces a stroke of widely varying thickness.

Anime also tends to borrow many elements from manga, including text in the background and panel layouts. For example, an opening may employ manga panels to tell the story, or to dramatize a point for humorous effect. See for example the anime Kare Kano.

Character design

Basic character designs use techniques implemented in cartoon design. Among these techniques include the use of reference sketches to ensure character proportionality and multiple angle designs.

John Opplinger, an analyst for AnimeNation, noted that like in any other medium the importance of a recognizable silhouette allowing viewers to instantly recognize the a character. However he stated that although anime series that featured of distinctive and memorable characters from prolific designers contained many examples of not performing well, whereas other series that relied on very narrow variances between characters have been popular. Opplinger stated that although ultimately the majority of the contemporary character designs in anime series evolve to match the tastes of the paying audience, there are occasional shows that feature distinctive character designs.


Body proportions emulated in anime come from proportions of the human body. The height of the head is considered by the artist as the base unit of proportion. Head heights can vary as long as the remainder of the body remains proportional. Most anime characters are about seven to eight heads tall, and extreme heights are set around nine heads tall.

Variations to proportion can be modified by the artist. Super-deformed characters feature a non-proportionally small body compared to the head. Sometimes specific body parts, like legs, are shortened or elongated for added emphasis. Most super deformed characters are two to four heads tall. Some anime works like Crayon Shin-chan completely disregard these proportions, such that they resemble Western cartoons. For exaggeration, certain body features are increased in proportion. Comedic effects often utilize these variations.

Eye styles

Many anime and manga characters feature large eyes. Osamu Tezuka, who is believed to have been the first to use this technique, was inspired by the exaggerated features of American cartoon characters such as Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse, and Disney's Bambi. Tezuka found that large eyes style allowed his characters to show emotions distinctly. When Tezuka began drawing Ribbon no Kishi, the first manga specifically targeted at young girls, Tezuka further exaggerated the size of the characters' eyes. Indeed, through Ribbon no Kishi, Tezuka set a stylistic template that later shōjo artists tended to follow.

Coloring is added to give eyes, particularly to the cornea, some depth. The depth is accomplished by applying variable color shading. Generally, a mixture of a light shade, the tone colour, and a dark shade is used. Cultural anthropologist Matt Thorn argues that Japanese animators and audiences do not perceive such stylized eyes as inherently more or less foreign.

However, not all anime have large eyes. For example, some of the work of Hayao Miyazaki and Toshiro Kawamoto are known for having realistically proportioned eyes, as well as realistic hair colors on their characters.

Facial expressions

Anime characters may employ a variety of predetermined facial expressions to denote moods and thoughts. These techniques are often different in form than their counterparts in Western animation, and they include a fixed iconography that's used as shorthand for certain emotions and moods.

There are a number of other stylistic elements that are common to conventional anime as well but more often used in comedies. Characters that are shocked or surprised will perform a " face fault", in which they display an extremely exaggerated expression. Angry characters may exhibit a "vein" or "stress mark" effect, where lines representing bulging veins will appear on their forehead. Angry women will sometimes summon a mallet from nowhere and strike another character with it, mainly for the sake of slapstick comedy. Male characters will develop a bloody nose around their female love interests (typically to indicate arousal, which is a play on an old wives' tale). Embarrassed or stressed characters either produce a massive sweat-drop (which has become one of the most widely recognized motifs of conventional anime) or produce a visibly red blush or set of parallel (sometimes squiggly) lines beneath the eyes, especially as a manifestation of repressed romantic feelings. Characters who want to childishly taunt someone may pull an akanbe face (by pulling an eyelid down with a finger to expose the red underside). Characters may also have large "X" eyes to show a knockout, or in some cases, even illness. This is typically used for comedic purposes. Vacant, non-reflecting eyes can be used to indicate a state of semi-consciousness.

Animation technique

Like all animation, the production processes of storyboarding, voice acting, character design, cel production and so on still apply. With improvements in computer technology, computer animation increased the efficiency of the whole production process.

In the 1990s, the Japanese began incorporating computers into the animation process. Some works such as Ghost in the Shell and Princess Mononoke mixed cel animation with computer-generated images. Towards the late 1990s, companies had began shifting towards drawing cels digitally instead of with paint. Fuji Films to boldly announce the halt of cel production for the animation industry prompting a mass scramble to import foreign cels and transfer more of the production line to digital.

The large majority of anime uses traditional animation, which better allows for division of labor, pose to pose approach and checking of drawings before they are shot – practices favored by the anime industry. Other mediums are mostly limited to independently made short films, examples of which are the silhouette and other cutout animation of Noburō Ōfuji, the stop motion puppet animation of Tadahito Mochinaga, Kihachirō Kawamoto and Tomoyasu Murata and the computer animation of Satoshi Tomioka (most famously Usavich). Sara Pocock, an animator and contributor to Anime News Network, described the majority of "mainstream" anime as being animated using the pose to pose style but using fewer expressive keyframes and more in-between animation.

Japanese animation studios were pioneers of many limited animation techniques. Ke Jiang, an animator for Disney, told Anime News Network that like everyone animation, Japanese animators study the techniques of Disney in school, however Japanese anime has its own set of rules to be followed that have developed over time. Unlike Disney animation where the emphasis is on the movement, Anime emphasizes the art quality as limited animation techniques could make up for the lack of time spent on movement. Such techniques were often used not only to meet deadlines but also as artistic devices. Even in bigger productions, studios often use limited animation techniques, even intentionally at times, to fool the eye into thinking there is more movement than there is. John Oppliger, when examining the question of animation quality inconsistency from titles, noted a trend in his weekly column for AnimeNation "Ask John" that for titles from larger studios, stating that the "most reliable predictor for animation quality" is the profile of the series itself, and that "shows that are expected to be big hits or shows that are consciously crafted to make a big splash ... typically get unusually exceptional animation quality." He stated that although viewers can expect high quality animation from small studios with a reputation for high quality animation due to their ability to focus all of their resources on a single work, large studios tend to work on several shows and thus prioritize speed over quality. Oppliger stated that anime is one of the rare mediums were putting together an all-star cast usually comes out looking "tremedously impressive."

Anime scenes place emphasis on achieving three-dimensional views. Backgrounds depict the scenes' atmosphere. For example, anime often puts emphasis on changing seasons, as can be seen in numerous anime, such as Tenchi Muyo!. Sometimes actual settings have been duplicated into an anime. The backgrounds for the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya are based on various locations within the suburb of Nishinomiya, Hyogo, Japan.

Camera effects

Camera angles, camera movement, and lighting play an important role in scenes. Directors often have the discretion of determining viewing angles for scenes, particularly regarding backgrounds. In addition, camera angles show perspective. Directors can also choose camera effects within cinematography, such as panning, zooming, facial closeup, and panoramic.

Story themes

A wide variety of stories have been adapted into anime. They are sourced from Japanese history, classical literature, adult-oriented themes, and even American westerns. While animation for children exists, most anime are intended for an older audience.

As early as Osamu Tezuka's Atom Boy (1963), a recurring motif in Japan is the doll with a soul originating from the Japanese old folk belief that a doll loved and care for can develop a soul. This fuzzy border between the human and the mechanical would be revisted again and again, appearing later also as cybernetic humans beginning with the 8 Man (1963) series and the robot where humans initially controlled robots via radio but later as pilots in their interior as in the giant robot subgenre. These shows presented technology as not inheirently good or evil, but instead as a tool that could be used towards such means. Gilles Poitras describes this as "appropriate" since the Japanese had seen the rebirth through technology of their own nation after the destruction at the hands of political and military power.

In the 1970s, Poitras describes that many series began drawing from great heroes and epic stories. Several works were based on the manga writer Leiji Matsumoto's tales of heroism, of courage, of humanity, and of suffering set in many a strange world. Narratives in the fantasy and supernatural genre drew especially from Shinto and Buddhist legends and practices and more recently from western influences, from sources such as Dungeons and Dragons.


An anime typically is created when the producer at a company is able to build a marketing opportunity for the show by for example securing an adequate TV broadcasting time slot or opportunities to create supporting merchandise like trading cards. The vast majority of anime is not original but an adaptation of another art form such as Manga, light novels, or video games. Once producer has made the decision to invest in the project and the original creator of the work is on board, the producer pitches to the Production Committee and other potentially interested parties in order to secure funds. Anime production typically involves employing the services of 2,000 people per episode around the world and costs US$100,000-300,000 per episode, so US$2–4 million for a typical series of 13 episodes. Every couple of weeks, the Production Committee and representative of invested companies meet with the Producer and discuss status reports, release plans, important plot points, marketing, release for overseas, etc. By Japanese law, the original creator, typically a manga artist, of the work has final say over every major decision. However, due to demands of the profession, manga artists' managers, typically the publisher, act as their agent so as to not distract the artist from his work. Manga companies have staff dedicated to ensuring that anime adaptations are to the original creator's liking.

The producer then has two basic responsibilities: to ensure the quality of the series and to make back the initial investment made by the Production Committee. Producers in Anime industry are typically more hands-off when it comes to creative decisions than in American production as they haven't been to film or animation school and would rather leave such decisions to the talent giving directors more creative license. Sara Pocock, an animator and contributor to Anime News Network, stated that "much more artistic license is given to the animator" unlike a Disney animator described as would have to follow the twelve principles to the letter to blend in fluidly with the rest of the film. Benjamin Ettinger, owner of Anipages, equated the animator in animation to actors in live actions, stating that when in character animation, the animator is the one responsible for bringing the character to life. Depending on the success of the series, the producer can then decide to sell the rights to game or toy manufacturers, potentially selling international rights.

DVDs sales serve as the primary indicator for a show's success, and anime typically must make most of its cost back entirely through DVD sales. In Japan, the average anime DVD of 2-4 episodes are typically priced over "¥7000 Yen (US$92)", overpriced in comparison to the Western DVD market. This business practice stems form helping the rental market aimed at typical consumers in the Japanese market. Only hardcore fans, not exclusive to anime fans, buy the DVDs priced mainly towards video stores and build large home libraries. As a result, DVD prices for anime continued to remain high even as home DVD prices dropped over the years and is often the only way many series break even. Production companies earn roughly 55% and retailers about 25% of domestic DVD sales. New releases tend to sell a lot and the amount reduces with the passage of time, thus initial sales are an important indicator of a series' success.


While anime had entered markets beyond Japan in the 1960s, it grew as a major cultural export during its market expansion during the 1980s and 1990s. The anime market for the United States alone is "worth approximately $4.35 billion, according to the Japan External Trade Organization". Anime has also had commercial success in Asia, Europe and Latin America, where anime has become more mainstream than in the United States. For example, the Saint Seiya video game was released in Europe due to the popularity of the show even years after the series has been off-air.

Anime distribution companies handled the licensing and distribution of anime outside Japan. Licensed anime is modified by distributors through dubbing into the language of the country and adding language subtitles to the Japanese language track. Using a similar global distribution pattern as Hollywood, the world is divided into five regions. John Oppliger stated that since 2008, the average cost of producing a dub is about US$10,000 for a single 25 minute episode. With shows typically spanning 12-26 episodes long, costs of producing a professional caliber English dub for a series can run well over US$200,000.

Some editing of cultural references may occur to better follow the references of the non-Japanese culture. Certain companies may remove any objectionable content, complying with domestic law. This editing process was far more prevalent in the past (e.g. Voltron), but its use has declined because of the demand for anime in its original form. This "light touch" approach to localization has favored viewers formerly unfamiliar with anime. Robotech and Star Blazers were the earliest attempts to present anime (albeit still modified) to North American television audiences without harsh censoring for violence and mature themes.

With the advent of DVD, it became possible to include multiple language tracks into a simple product. This was not the case with VHS cassette, in which separate VHS media were used and with each VHS cassette priced the same as a single DVD. The "light touch" approach also applies to DVD releases as they often include both the dubbed audio and the original Japanese audio with subtitles, typically unedited. Anime edited for television is usually released on DVD "uncut", with all scenes intact.

The Internet has played a significant role in the exposure of anime beyond Japan. Prior to the 1990s, anime had limited exposure beyond Japan's borders. Coincidentally, as the popularity of the Internet grew, so did interest in anime. Much of the fandom of anime grew through the Internet. The combination of internet communities and increasing amounts of anime material, from video to images, helped spur the growth of fandom. As the Internet gained more widespread use, Internet advertising revenues grew from 1.6 billion yen to over 180 billion yen between 1995 and 2005.

Some fan groups add subtitles to anime on their own and distribute the episodes. These are known as fansubs. Before the popularity of the Internet, fansubbing used VHS as a means of distribution. Often, people will collect these fansubs and upload them to websites which they also put advertisements on so as to earn money, which violates copyright laws in many countries. The ethical implications of distributing or watching fansubs are topics of much controversy even when fansub groups do not profit from their activities. Once the series has been licensed outside of Japan, fansub groups often cease distribution of their work. In one case, Media Factory Incorporated requested that no fansubs of their material be made, which was respected by the fansub community. In another instance, Bandai specifically thanked fansubbers for their role in helping to make The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya popular in the English speaking world.

John Oppliger stated that despite the tremendous increase in global anime digital distribution over the years, streaming does not generate a lot of profit. Sites dedicated to streaming such as Crunchyroll and NicoNico are simply maintaining and DVD larger distributors are only able to use online streaming as a means to attract traffic, generate brand loyalty, and advertise the physical releases.


TV networks regularly broadcast anime programming. In Japan, major national TV networks, such as TV Tokyo broadcast anime regularly. Smaller regional stations broadcast anime under the UHF. In the United States, cable TV channels such as Cartoon Network, Disney, Syfy, and others dedicate some of their timeslots to anime. Some, such as the Anime Network and the FUNimation Channel, specifically show anime. Sony-based Animax and Disney's Jetix channel broadcast anime within many countries in the world. AnimeCentral solely broadcasts anime in the UK.

Influence on world culture

Anime has become commercially profitable in Western countries, as demonstrated by early commercially successful Western adaptations of anime, such as Astro Boy . The phenomenal success of Nintendo's multi-billion dollar Pokémon franchise was helped greatly by the spin-off anime series that, first broadcast in the late 1990s, is still running worldwide to this day. In doing so, anime has made significant impacts upon Western culture. Since the 19th century, many Westerners have expressed a particular interest towards Japan. Anime dramatically exposed more Westerners to the culture of Japan. Aside from anime, other facets of Japanese culture increased in popularity. Worldwide, the number of people studying Japanese increased. In 1984, the Japanese Language Proficiency Test was devised to meet increasing demand.

Even domestic animation industries had made attempts at emulating anime. Anime-influenced animation refers to non-Japanese works of animation that emulate the visual style of anime. Most of these works are created by studios in the United States, Europe, and non-Japanese Asia; and they generally incorporate stylizations, methods, and gags described in anime physics, as in the case of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Often, production crews either are fans of anime or are required to view anime. Some creators cite anime as a source of inspiration with their own series. Furthermore, a French production team for Ōban Star-Racers moved to Tokyo to collaborate with a Japanese production team from Hal Film Maker. Critics and the general anime fanbase do not consider them as anime.

Some American animated television-series have singled out anime styling with satirical intent, for example South Park (with " Chinpokomon" and with " Good Times with Weapons"). South Park has a notable drawing style, itself parodied in " Brittle Bullet", the fifth episode of the anime FLCL, released several months after "Chinpokomon" aired. This intent on satirizing anime is the springboard for the basic premise of Kappa Mikey, a Nicktoons Network original cartoon. Even clichés normally found in anime are parodied in some series, such as Perfect Hair Forever.

Anime conventions began to appear in the early 1990s, during the Anime boom, starting with Project A-Kon, Anime Expo, Animethon, and Otakon. Currently anime conventions are held annually in various cities across the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Many attendees participate in cosplay, where they dress up as anime characters. Also, guests from Japan ranging from artists, directors, and music groups are invited. In addition to anime conventions, anime clubs have become prevalent in colleges, high schools, and community centers as a way to publicly exhibit anime as well as broadening Japanese cultural understanding.

Viewers may also pick up on Japanese terms either within or related to anime, though at times those words may take on different connotations. For instance, the Japanese term otaku is used as a term for anime fans beyond Japan, more particularly the obsessive ones. The negative connotations associated with the word in Japan have lessened in foreign context, where it instead connotes the pride of the fans.

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