アニメ (Anime) Home Page

Note: this Page contains Japanese characters, so activate the Japanese encoder/decoder of your browser (EUC mode, Enhanced Unix Code) or else you won't be able to see them. If you don't have such option or if you don't understand Japanese at all, don't worry, because all Japanese terms are followed by the corresponding pronounce key and translation.

What Is An Anime?

The word anime is a contraction of the Japanese writing and pronunciation of "animation movie". So, an anime is supposed to be a Japanese animation movie. Most anime are animated versions of another Japanese artwork, the manga, which are magazines, generally weekly issued, containing many comics from different artists.

A note about the picture at the header of this page: it was scanned from the booklet of the CD Tezuka Osamu no Sekai with an MSX computer, presenting Jetter Mars.

The Differences

Anime have a definite graphical difference to the animated cartoons. Big and "highlighted" eyes, impressive hair styles and dramatic camera view points are present in most anime and are what first capture the attention of the viewers. However, the graphical styles, the graphisms, differ so much from one artist to another, so, classifying an animation movie as an anime or a cartoon simply based on the graphical appearence is an error. The stories, the development of the plots and the cultural influences have a more decisive impact in making anime distinct of animated cartoons. In other words, having a Japanese staff of graphical artists is not enough to make an animation movie a real anime, what allows non-Japanese movies to be classified as anime. A good analogy to explain this point of view is to have an Italian chief preparing a Spanish food, for example. The fact that the chief came from Italy doesn't make all food he makes Italian, although some "Italian flavour" may be added to it, making it more a personal artwork than a regional dish.

One difference between an anime and an animated cartoon are their sources. While a cartoon is generally born from a general idea, an anime is commonly a whole story, even the series, with a beginning and an end. Cartoons generally have ambiguous ends, or no end at all, allowing the producers to easily release sequels.

An alleged difference of "target viewers" also generates a divergence. Cartoon producers have been annoyingly overprotecting their viewers against a presumed damage to their moral development, mainly of children and adolescents. No characters may die or kill in a cartoon, for example. Thus, "cartoons are for children", don't matter the ideas or the contents of the stories. This politic has corrupted many possibly good cartoons. It's not expected violent carnages in cartoons, but it's ridiculous to see "the really bad guys" using stun guns instead of deadly weapons and pilots miraculously ejecting from their destroyed aircrafts. But the worst of all this is that it's not working. People have to watch terrible cartoons and still be afraid of young criminals.

Cultural tradictions are extremely important to an anime. A good example of such interference is the stability of characters. No character has its presence assured in an anime, not even the main characters, which can disappear or be replaced in the story. In cartoons, such events are very seldom, generally present only in special episodes of series and in some cinema animations.

The reactions of the characters also reflect the cultural differences. For example, in anime, the main characters generally kill (without euphemisms) the main enemies, commonly in the last episodes of series or the last minutes of movies. In cartoons, the chances the main characters have to end the evil actions of the enemies are seldom and ever wasted. They use, indeed, the worst cliché ever created: when the protagonist is ready to push the trigger or to let the blade go down and finally kill the antagonist, it stops and says, generally with the same voice tone of someone ordering a hamburger in a fast food cafeteria, "No! I will not do it or else I'll be as bad as he/she/it is". It happens independent of the natural behavior of the character. I use to imagine the character turning its weapon to the writer, killing it, then returning to the antagonist and finishing what it was supposed to do at first.

Violent and sensual (and even sexual) scenes generally expose the most obvious cultural differences between anime and cartoons due to their "strength", but they can be found everywhere, from the differences of graphisms to the soundtracks.

One more thing that must be said about anime: to be one doesn't mean to be a good animation movie. There is a good amount of unexpressive anime, some of them really bad, most produced in the last few years. The same way, to be a cartoon doesn't mean to be a bad animation, although, unfortunately, many are simply unbearable, mainly the ones with hypocritic moral lessons, which are not only boring, but also an insult to the intelligence of the viewers.

Classifying things is generally simply academic. If a movie or series is good, it really doesn't matter what other people call it, just enjoy it. Let the academicians discuss if anime are only animations made in Japan, using just Japanese material, from original idea to final graphical art, what will become almost impossible in the future, or if a simple resemblance to the most common anime "graphism" is enough to classify an animation movie as one.

Anime in My Life

Why do I like anime? Because, different of most other animated movies, anime don't try to mimic the real world, attempting to become a perfect fac-simile of what we already know. Instead, they bring new ideas, create whole new worlds to entertain the audience and feed the "spirit".

Many years ago, in the 1970's, many anime were presented in the Brazilian television (due to problems of time there're almost no links, by now, and the descriptions are not, even slightly, finished):

マッハ ゴー!ゴー!ゴー! (Mahha Go! Go! Go!) (also known as "Speed Racer" out of Japan)
A racing car, named "マッハ 号" (Mahha Gou) ,renamed in Brazil to "Mat 5", is driven by the youngest son of its designer, Go Mifumi (I'm not sure about this name, given me by a friend; renamed to "Speed Racer"). The car had many special features (like amphibious devices for submarine ride), all activated by 7 buttons on the steering wheel.
宇宙戦艦ヤマト (Uchuu Senkan Yamato) (means "Battle Starship Yamato" known as "Stellar Patrol" in Brazil, also known as "Star Blazer" in other countries)
In the future, Earth is defended on the space frontier by the starship Yamato.
An animated series version of the Italian classic story of the same name. It's about a carpenter that makes a wooden boy, to which is given life by a fairie. Rejected by the humans because of his different nature, he runs around the world to find a way to become human.
黄金バット (Ougon BAT = Golden Bat) (known in U.S.A. as "Phantoman", in Italy as "Fantaman" and in Brazil as "Fantomas")
A mysterious man, looking like a golden skeleton, appears to help a family to fight against a space invader, a four eyed cyborg.
リッボンの騎士 (Ribbon no Kishi) (means "The knight of the ribbon", known as "The Princess and the Knight" and later as "Princess Sapphire" in Brazil, also known as "Princess Knight", "A Knight in Ribbons" or simply "Knight Ribbons" in other countries - thanks to all those that spent their time writing to me!)
This is an Osamu Tezuka production about a girl, Sapphire, daughter of a great king, that acts like a boy because a king, in the age the story is plotted, was supposed to have a male successor, not a girl. The Brazilian version with the original dubbing was released a few months ago, in Brazil. The original Japanese version can be seen in a paid satellite station, in Japan. A restored Laser Disc version can also be found in Japan.
[Jetter Mars] ジェッター マルス (Jetter Mars) (also known as "Bionic Boy" in Brazil)
Two scientists join to build a new robot. The one that designed the body wants him to become a warrior, so he names him "Jetter Mars" ("Mars" is the Roman god of war). Very strong and able to fly with jets under his feet, he learns the hard lessons of life with the help of his friends. This is another Osamu Tezuka production.

The 1980's were a "desert" of anime in Brazil:

ドン・ドラキュラ (Don Dracula)
An anime comedy about an awkward Count Dracula and his young daughter. This is another Tezuka anime.
Super Adventures (I don't know its original name)
This series presented classical fantasy stories with a really wonderful artwork.
グロイザーX (GUROIZA- EKKUSU = Groizer X)
Space aliens try to invade Earth, the Gailar Empire, but a special group, piloting a stolen spaceship, the "Space Pirate", is always ready to protect the Earthen people from the invaders' attacks. This has been the first "transformer" robot I have ever seen in anime, even including Tezuka's "x" (MAGUMA Taishi = Ambassador Magma), that was actually a "morphing robot", though the "live action" tried to present it as a "transformer" (yes, there was a Magma's live action series, one of the few I have never seen the ending - if there was any).
[Akai Koudan Zillion]
赤い光弾ジリオン (Akai Koudan Zillion - The Shooting Master)
In the Earthen colony planet Maris, three young warriors, code-names "Apple", "Champ" and "J.J.", members of the White Nuts secret group (also known as White Knights in some countries), are selected to use the Zillion guns, sent by an alien intelligence to help them to protect their planet against the invasion of the Nohza empire. Its soundtrack is one of my favourites.

超時空要塞マクロス (Tchyou Jikuu Yousai MAKUROSU = Superdimension [Super Time-Vault] Fortress Macross)
Called simply as "Macross" or, erroneously, as "Robotech". Earth is attacked by an alien armada and during the battle against it, the restored alien battle starship SDF-1 makes a hyper-jump too near to the planet surface and carries an entire island, Macross, with it to the space.

There were some American-Japanese co-productions in the 1980's, like Galaxy Rangers and Ghostbusters, both with American plots and Japanese graphics.

Galaxy Rangers is about a group of "space cowboys". The stories are plotted many years in the future, when hyperspace travel becomes a commonplace. To antagonize the group, there's an evil empress that stole the "life force" of one of the galaxy rangers' wife, storing it into a crystal. Half the stories are about the rangers trying to recover that crystal, while the other half is about them acting as cowboys in the "Far West", only that the action is now set up in the space and in alien worlds. Although the stories were quite "weak", there were some interesting things about the show. The most important is that all galaxy rangers have some kind of "special power", generally provided by special cybernetical implants, activated by an external power supply, which must be recharged after use, that is, they cannot use them as they please, but only when absolutely necessary.

Ghostbusters, later named The Real Ghostbusters, due to a terrible cartoon created with the same name, is an animated version of the movie "Ghostbusters". Ghosts, demons, gremlins and other beings are faced with humor and strange equipment, like proton stream weapons and ghost traps.

While the plots work perfectly in Ghostbusters, because there is no "final goal" to be reached and the happy ending is ever expected, Galaxy Rangers becomes tedious after the third or fourth time they fail to recover the crystal.

The first half of the 1990's was almost as "dry" as the 1980's, but something happened. In the end of 1992 and beginning of 1993, I spent my vacations in Japan. There I knew my first O.V.A. (Original Video Animation), which are anime specially produced for video media, most in LD. I'll list only the most significative anime I saw:

ピーターパンの冒険 (Peter Pan No Bouken) (Adventure of Peter Pan)
This anime was broadcast by a Brazilian television. It's about the adventures of Peter Pan, a boy that decided not to grow old, living in the Never-Neverland forever as a child. I haven't yet read the book, so I don't know if it has something to do with its original story.
アキラ (Akira)
A powerful energy is hidden in some people, a new weapon to the military forces and a curse to the world.
火の鳥 ― 鳳凰編 (Hi no Tori - Houoo Hen = Bird of the Fire - Compilation of the Legendary Goddess Bird of Fire)
A wonderful production about a legendary bird and the human spirit. This also has one of my favourite soundtracks.

歌姫夜曲 Burning Night (Utahime Yakyoku = nocturne songstress)
This O.V.A. is a gaiden (a Japanese word that means "side story", "alternative story") version of "Akai Koudan Zillion". Apple, Champ and J.J. are musicians of the "White Nuts" band. They play at a pub in a low technology Maris, ruled by a rich and powerful family, the Nohza. It uses the musics from the album Abunai Music as soundtrack.
沙羅曼蛇 (Saramanda/Salamander) (three episodes)
These anime are based on a series of games by Konami.
Legend of Lemnea
A "standard" sword and sorcery story with fast action and every elements that make the difference between an anime and a cartoon. Very light plot, it's one of that "sit and enjoy" anime. Warning, this one contains some scenes of nudity (not that I care about it, but some people do...)
魔法の天使クリミーマミ (Mahou No Tenshi Creamy Mami = Angel of Magic Creamy Mami)
A "classical" kind of anime: a young girl receives special powers that must be kept as a secret from the rest of the world. Imaginative stories and good songs make this a very enjoyable series.
ドラゴンボール (Dragonball)
A very well known anime series about a young boy and his search for the seven "dragonballs", which must be joined to summon a dragon god that can realize any wish of the summoner. * Note: I have ever suspected that Songoku, the main character of this anime, was based on a Tezuka's named "Gokuu no Daibouken". After some `digging' in Tezuka's Official Page, I confirmed it (Tezuka's Goku even flies on a magical cloud!). It seems to be a Chinese legend about a monkey that becomes a great fighter. Of course, I enjoyed it very much, to know that new artists actually watch the classics.
宇宙の騎士テッカマンブレード (Utchyuu No Kishi Tekkaman Blade = Space Knight Tekkaman Blade)
Space mind parasites travel to Earth, enslaving humans and turning them into deadly warriors. The only hope for the planet is a fugitive of the alien prisons, known as Tekkaman Blade. A classical anime plot and a careful production makes this a good series.
サザン・アイズ (3x3 Eyes)
A three-eyed demon wants to become human and has to find a strange statue to cast the magic. A well-fitting soundtrack helps this not very "linear" story.
キャッ党忍伝てやんでえ (Kyattou Ninden Teyandee = Legendary Group of Cat Ninjas "Teyandee")
A TV comedy series about an alternative ancient Japan, where all inhabitants are animal cyborgs. The main action is set in Edoropolis (a parody of "Edo", the ancient name of Tokyo), the headquarters of the Nyanki team, a secret group that protects Japan against "alien and domestic" enemies. A translated version was broadcasted in Canada and U.S.A., disastrously renamed to "Samurai Pizza Cats" (they are ninja, not samurai). I had chance to watch to it during a transit wait in the Los Angeles Airport during my travel to Japan in the end of 1996. The translation has two really big problems: the character names were changed to some "please, laugh" ones and the ending (I didn't see the opening) was changed from the original "friendship hymn" (that's what it sounds like) to a cut of scenes from the anime with a music that sounded very much like the "Muppet Babies" opening theme, only more stupid...
Demon Hunter
An O.V.A. about a demon freed to become a demon hunter. A very simple plot, but it runs fast, has a beautiful "graphism" and a good soundtrack.
摩・陀・羅 (Ma.da.ra)
A young cyborg fighter carries a secret of power in a world ruled by an evil magicician. Originally a manga, it resulted a video game by Konami and this anime. The anime music is very strange and poor compared to the video game version.
Xanadu ― ドラゴン・スレイアー 伝説 (Xanadu - Dragon Slayer Densetsu = The Legend of Dragon Slayer)
A man is mysteriously transported to a strange world filled with demons and magic. Based on a game series by Falcom, this is a classical sword and sorcery story, though it initially promised a better plot (the man, for example, has a firearm, a completely strange weapon to that world, which he uses only once in the role story and only for a useless purpose).
幽遊白書 (Yuu Yuu Haku Shyo = Ocult Play of White Paper)
This is the story about a boy that dies trying to save a child and for that altruistic act is given the chance to resurrect and become a supernatural detective. This anime has been broadcasted in Brazil and, for my surprise, has a more complex story than I was expecting when I first watched to it in Japan. A note about the Brazilian version: they translated the opening and ending themes, changing the feminine singer for a male (the same that voices Kuwabara). Amazingly, the instrumental melody was not changed as generally happens and the new lyrics seems very much with the original, not only musically but also the meaning, a very good job (though I prefer the original version).

In the end of 1993 I repeated the feat, that time with my cousin Alexandre Takeshi Iwazawa. I spent my vacations in Japan with my family till the beginning of 1994. Most anime presented by television that period were continuation or sequel of the other year's series. There were very few good new productions:

ヤダモン (Yadamon)
A modern fairy tale about the daughter of a moon fairie queen, sent to Earth to live as a human girl. She can, sometimes, evoke her magical powers, what generally brings her many problems. This anime was broadcasted by NHK, the Japanese governamental educational television.
きんぎょ注意報! (Kingyou Tchuuihou!) (Goldfish Storm Warning!)
This is a crazy comedy about a school that includes, among its human students, some talking animals and even a flying Goldfish (of course, the humans act far more oddly than any of them).

Since 1995, other anime have been presented in the Brazilian television, like "Saint Seiya", "Yu.Yu.Hakushou" (I watched this in my two early visits to Japan), "Dai no Daibouken" (a not inspired gaiden version of "Dragon Quest"), "Dragonball", "Samurai Troopers" (renamed to "Honin Warriors" and presented in Brazil as "Samurai Warriors"), "Street Fighter" and a few O.V.A., like "Gall Force".

One thing was very clear to me about all those anime: they all presented mindless and unstoppable violence, with the exception of "Dai no Daibouken" that simply had no action, or story, at all. But in the end of 1996 I went once more to Japan to visit my parents and watch anime, of course. Some old ones that I had found in my vacations:

ユニコ - Unico
A Tezuka production about a little unicorn that wanders through strange lands, cursed to live alone. The Japanese catalogue lists three released episodes, but there may be more. Thanks to all that wrote me about them.
ジャングル 大帝 (JANGURU Taitei = The Great Emperor of the Jungle)
This is another Tezuka production. It's the story about the only child of a white lion, the bold defensor of the African forests, killed by a hunter. He and her mother are arrested and shipped away, but he escapes and finds his way back to his homeland. An animation movie by Walt Disney Studios, "The Lion King", was blamed to have plagiarized "Jungle Taitei". To me, the Disney's movie is a blend of some Shakespeare stories and many "visual features" of Tezuka's series. Original or not, "The Lion King" is boring and very badly plotted. I hadn't seen "Jungle Taitei" or read anything about its controversies before watching to "The Lion King", what gave me the opportunity to make a more independent analysis about it as a movie.
This is a compilation of three independent stories, produced by Katsuhiro Otomo, the same that produced "Akira". The first story, named "Magnetic Rose", is about a space station that gets lost in deep space and is found, many years later, by a space salvage group. The second story, "Stink Bomb", is about a chemical war weapon that is accidentally released in Japan and only one man can stop it. The third and last story, "Cannon Fodder" is about a militarized society that lives only to make war. The first and the last stories were produced with some computer aid, so well done that it's hard to say that at first. The last episode also has a peculiar "graphism" that makes it look like european comics, mainly Moebius works (according to some sources, Moebius helped in the production of this last story).
ドラゴンボール (Dragonball) (this O.V.A. has a subtitle but I didn't have time to translate it)
Produced in 1996 (if I'm not mistaken), this is a kind of summary of all Dragonball series. Many characters were removed, the story sequence was drastically changed but the "rhythm" of the original series was kept, as was most of the humor.
天使 の たまご (Tenshi no Tamago = Angel Egg)
This is a strange fantasy story about a girl determined to protect her "angel egg".

In this last visit to Japan, I have found one interesting difference in new anime: computer graphics (known simply as C.G.). I have nothing against computer generated images, while they do not "fill holes" left by lack of talent. A "bad" example is "Reboot", an American cartoon entirely rendered by computer. The stories are very "weak" (they ever stars with some kind of misunderstanding and ends with the hero winning a video game and everybody laughing aloud), they use the same sound effects and gags used by old Hanna-Barbera cartoons (it seems the producers think they are funny for a computer rendered animation) and, what is worst, they use many ideas from Tron (I just expect no one of the team that made the movie has anything to do with this animated cartoon).

Most anime that uses C.G. are not really good, like "Ghost in The Shell", a confuse and "I-love-violence" story about a woman android built to be an assassin. Once it uses a sophisticated C.G. programs and doesn't try to hide this fact, it should have a better animation. Some television series are also using C.G., most only in the opening or ending "demos", but a few also uses computer to create really beautiful visual effects, what doesn't corrupt the original appearance of the work, just saves labor to the artists and results better images, what still doesn't help to save bad plots.


Page last modified on 2005-July-19 Tuesday.

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