Anime: An Introduction

In an era where the internet provides all, from memes to college level research paper, you can’t possibly opt out anime. A still growing worldwide phenomenon, anime’s huge surge in popularity overseas began during the late 1990s. Anime’s popularity is a result of the sharing of anime-related content through websites, social media, online anime communities, etc. in the last decades. Anime-streaming services such as Crunchyroll, Funimation, Netflix, etc., is yet another contributing factor to anime’s popularity, for these services allows the international availability of anime, which has helped produce anime fandoms at an international level. Anime, with its well-known presence in the entertainment industry and easy accessibility attributes to an increasing number of individuals joining the anime community. Thus, this piece of writing is written with the intention of introducing anime to those new to the anime!

What Exactly is Anime?

In Japan, anime is referred to as any animated works regardless of its origin or style. For instance, in Japan, both Disney cartoons and Japanese animations are considered anime. However, outside of Japan’s border, the rest of the world labels anime as animations specifically produced in Japan. This is a result of the many contrasting aspects between regular cartoons and Japanese animations, in terms of genres, style, targeted demographic, etc. Animations that are produced in countries aside from Japan could share similar characteristics but not be recognized under the term anime. If we take a look at dònghuà (动画) or Chinese animation, despite sharing characteristics similar to that of anime in a visual sense, it could not be categorized under anime to the rest of the world (excluding Japan) because it is not produced in Japan. On a important note, both anime and dònghuà still contrast greatly in many areas despite sharing some similar characteristics, which also explains why they both are not classified under one term.

Anime could also be regarded as not just a form of entertainment but also a style. If we were to take The Simpsons, and compare it to any Japanese animations, countries internationally would immediately name the Japanese animations as anime because of its distinguishable features and style. However, I would like to point out a few exceptions including, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Castlevania. The two Western series that are heavily influenced by the style used in the anime industry have been commonly mistaken as anime. Although, the visuals of the two animated series may line up with Japanese animations to a certain extent, they are still both productions of the Western animation industry which denies them from being referred to as anime. To sum up, an animation is defined by its origin. The style definitely assists in helping viewers differentiate a certain form of animation from another, but in the end, it is the origin of the animation that clearly points out the term that is needed to categorize the specified animation.

What Makes Anime Unique?

Broadly speaking, the exaggerated physical features of anime characters is one of the most distinctive characteristics of anime. The most prominent physical exaggeration is typically the character’s eyes, which are exaggerated in both size and shape to convey much of a character’s expression. Exaggerated eyes has become a permanent fixture of anime ever since it has been established by Osamu Tezuka, who created this feature through inspirations taken from Disney cartoons. Anime characters also commonly possess small nose, tiny mouth, and wild hair. Additionally, the character’s actions and facial expressions are also exaggerated to draw out more feelings and breathe life into the characters. Facial expressions are often accompanied with anime’s visual symbols which include but are not limited to:

  • Popping Veins: Used to convey a character’s irritation, frustration, or anger. Usually appears on the character’s forehead or hand. This visual symbol is often accompanied with the downward arching of a character’s eyebrow, change in eye size and shape, or a sudden frown.
  • Sweat Drops: Used on a character to indicate when they are feeling nervous, anxious, or embarrass. Typically appears on the character’s forehead.
  • Wavy Ghost Coming Out of Mouth: A comical representation to demonstrate when a character is depressed, mortified or figuratively dead.
  • Baseball-Size Round Swelling: A visual exaggeration of an injured character, and can often be seen around the head.
  • Odd White Shape That Resembles a Mushroom: When a character exhales a sign of relief, this visual will appear to be exhaled from their mouth.
  • Insult Arrow: When a character sharply criticizes, says something that pose as a sensitive topic, or insults another character, the character receiving the words are metaphorically stabbed with an arrow as a reaction to the harsh words.

Furthermore, animations are widely believed to contain content that are only intended for younger audiences. Quite contrary to the popular belief, anime is a very diverse form of animation that has content suitable for all ages. With complex plots that typically take dozens of episode to develop and a single storyline that can extend well over 50 episodes, anime is complex in nature when compared to regular animated cartoons. The complexity in anime is in fact more suitable for mature audiences, as the lengthy storytelling results in the need to maintain a long term interest in the story, with active engagement and understanding. In addition, despite being able to produce content that tailors towards both young and mature audiences, anime is often found to have integrated adult themes into its plot. Such themes could include discrimination, depression, gambling, gore, etc. The adult focus of anime is a distinctive characteristic that has overcome the stereotypical way all animations are perceived. By doing so, the productions of the anime industry has encouraged the whole animation industry to explore beyond themes and plots suitable for only younger audiences.

Genres and Sub-genres

Anime is diverse in its themes and contents which explains its extensive range of genres and sub-genres. There may be certain genres that resonate familiarity and others that may appears as seemingly new genres. With that said, listed below are the various genres in alphabetical order with a brief description and recommendations.

  • Action: This is a broad but very popular genre in anime. It is expected that fights scenes, fast-paced battles, struggles, and quick character decisions are incorporated in this genre.
    • Recommendations: Attack on Titan, My Hero Academia, and Berserk.
  • Adventure: Exploring new places, meeting new people, learning things along the way and confronting fear are commonly found in this genre. The character goes on a journey and takes us, the audience, along with them.
    • Recommendations: Kino no Tabi: The Beautiful World, Nanatsu no Taizi (Seven Deadly Sins), and Sword Art Online.
  • Comedy: Hilarious characters, situations, and events? Check. In comedy anime, even the very presences of the character could turn into something laughable. This genre is often mixed in with other genres to keep a show interesting.
    • Recommendations: The Disastrous Life of Saiki K, Nichijou, and I Am Sakamoto.
  • Dementia: Dementia is considered a sub-genre of the psychological genre. This sub-genre is intended to show the gradual decline of the character’s sanity who may or may not have been inflicted with an illness.
    • Recommendations: Devilman: Crybaby, Perfect Blue, and Serial Experiments Lain.
  • Demons: The genre’s name pretty much explains what you will see in the anime. Keep in mind though, demons come in many forms, and personalities. Not all are dark and evil, some are quite cheerful blend into the human society pretty quickly.
    • Recommendations: The Devil is a Part-Timer, Demon Slayer: Kitsumetsu no Yaiba, and Black Butler.
  • Drama: In drama anime contains some of the best character development. Additionally, drama anime is known for its dynamic plot and heavy emphasis on the character’s emotional development.
    • Recommendations: The Flower We Saw That Day, You Lie in April, and Violet Evergarden.
  • Fantasy: You will no doubt see the supernatural and magic incorporated into this genre. Legends, mythologies, and folktales can also be a part of fantasy and often bring us to a whole other world or dimension.
    • Recommendations: Tokyo Ghoul, Made in Abyss, and Ancient Magnus Bride.
  • Game: Anime under the genre, game sometimes include bloodless and non-violent plot and themes. Characters usually play games or become trapped within a game.
    • Recommendations: Sword Art Online, No Game No Life, and Overlord.
  • Harem: When numerous girls surrounds and are attracted to the same male character, this is harem anime. Typically, this results in the male protagonists having multiple love interests all at once.
    • Recommendations: Mayo Chiki!, Infinite Stratos, and Maken-ki.
  • Historical: Historical anime brings you back to the past, and mostly into the history of Japan. The cases of other countries’ history appearing in anime is quite rare. Bringing in real legends of Japan’s past, famous people, and old fables is also a part of the historical genre.
    • Recommendations: Samurai Champloo, Golden Kamuy, and Kingdom.
  • Horror: If you’re up for something terrifying, spine-tingling, and perhaps even bloody, turn to the horror genre. Scenes can be gruesome, thrilling, and can also involve mutilation.
    • Recommendations: Junji Ito Collection, The Promised Neverland, and Another.
  • Magic: Magic is a sub-genre of the fantasy genre, and focuses on the practices of sorcery, magic, and events that are unable to be explained through science.
    • Recommendations: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Re: Zero-Starting Life in Another World, and Fairy Tale.
  • Martial Arts: Martial arts anime are not limited to Asian practices of martial arts, it can involve the use of weapons, various method to overcome opponents, and various fighting style.
    • Recommendations: Naruto: Shippuden, Dragon Ball, and Katanagatari.
  • Mecha: May revolve around scientific ideas but are primarily focused giant robots, cyborgs, machines that are usually piloted by humans. The mecha genre are known to incorporate a lot of action and battle scenes.
    • Recommendations: Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann, Code Grease, and Full Metal Panic.
  • Military: Anime under this genre have strong military presence, shows the character’s lifestyle in the military, and shows scenes depicting the battlefield.
    • Recommendations: GATE, Attack on Titan, and Legend of Galactic Heroes.
  • Musical: This genre is mainly about music performance and appreciation regardless of the character’s musical skills or talents.
    • Recommendations: Given, Your Lie on April, and Nana.
  • Mystery: Mystery genre are typically filled with everything mysterious, from deaths to people to events. This genre exhibits the darker side of people and and can spark a debate within the audience through the character’s actions.
    • Recommendations: Hyouka, Detective Conan, and Death Note.
  • Police: Police anime follows uniformed men and women who are are responsible for upholding justice within their community. These characters possess heroic traits and combat illicit activities in the eyes of justice.
    • Recommendations: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Psycho-Pass, and Detective Conan.
  • Psychological: In psychological anime, we often delve into unfamiliar territories of psyche, and usually explore more of the dark side of the human belief, thoughts, attitudes, etc.
    • Recommendations: Monster, Death Parade, and the Promised Neverland.
  • Reverse Harem: When numerous guys are attracted to and often surrounds one female character, this is reverse harem. Oftentimes the female character can be found with multiple love interest.
    • Recommendations: Ouran High School Host Club, Fruit Basket, and Akatsuki no Yona.
  • Romance: Shows categorized under romance touches the audience’s emotional side and typically focuses on the romantic relationship between two people. Usually, the relationship starts out as a crush and as the plot develops the two characters’ could be found overcoming struggles together which allows their relationship to thrives.
    • Recommendations: Your Name, Kaguya-Sama: Love Is War, and Rascal Does Not Dream Of A Dreaming Girl.
  • Samurai: The main character in this genre is a samurai or is in the journey to becoming one. Samurai anime contains a lot of swordsmanship (uses katana) and original yet ancient samurai legends.
    • Recommendations: Gintama, Sengoku Basara (Samurai Kings), and Shigurui: Death Frenzy,
  • School: You guessed it, school anime revolves around a theme related to school and school clubs. You will often find anime under this genre with more than one fitting genre title, because drama, romance, love for music, etc., could all happen during a character’s school life.
    • Recommendations: Angel Beats!, Great Teacher Onizuka, and Ansatsu Kyoushitsu (Assassination Classroom).
  • Sci-Fi: There is no shortage of sci-fi anime because for one, it has no boundaries and is based on imagination. Typically, this genre explores universal themes related to science-fiction and contains over the top action sequences, and are filled with mesmerizing scenery.
    • Recommendations: Doctor Stone, One Punch Man, and Cowboy Bebop.
  • Slice of Life: To put it simply, slice of life anime depicts the everyday life (“cut-out” sequence of events) of the main character.
    • Recommendations: Kiki’s Delivery Service, Dagashi Kashi, and 5 Centimeters Per Second.
  • Space: This genre can be found fused with a combination of other genres, including mecha, military, action etc. Unlike anime’s whose settings are earth-bounded, anime takes place in space, and can reach far pass planets and into the outermost part of the galaxy.
    • Recommendations: Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Space Brothers, and Cowboy Bebop.
  • Sports: Teamwork, intense focus and thirst in competitions, and the constant desire for improvement are all themes that are integrated into sports anime. These focus points help spur the character development of the main characters, and sometimes even the supporting characters.
    • Recommendations: Haikyuu, Kuruko’s Basketball, and Ace of Diamonds.
  • Super-Power: Anime under the super-power genre have characters use their super powers to combat outside threats, and oftentimes this genre also opens up about the social stigma that follows the individual’s given power.
    • Recommendations: My Hero Academia, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Hunter x Hunter, and Bleach.
  • Supernatural: Anime categorized under the supernatural genre fuses supernatural beings, unnatural events, and supernatural abilities from all kinds of folklore, legends, and mythology into its own distinctive show.
    • Recommendations: Spirited Away, Death Note, and Black Butler.
  • Thriller: Thriller anime have one thing in common, they are highly engaging and will keep you at the edge of your seat. Sometimes, psychology, and main character detectives are found in thriller anime.
    • Recommendations: Steins; Gate, Death Parade, and The Promised Neverland.
  • Vampire: Yep, that right a genre dedicated to vampires. There will be cases where the vampires long to be men, and cases where vampires could not hold back their thirst for human bloods. The vampire genre, however, is not limited to just the few cases, in fact it is diverse in its content and incorporates other genres within it.
    • Recommendations: Hellsing Ultimate, Bakemonogatari, and Owari no Seraph (Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign)
  • Yaoi: Yaoi or BL anime features the loving and consensual relationship between male characters.
    • Recommendations: Yuri on Ice, Given, and Banana Fish.
  • Yuri: Yuri or GL anime features the romantic relationship between girl characters.
    • Recommendations: Citrus, Bloom into You, and Sakura Trick.

Anime can also be categorized demographically based on the intended age group and gender of its audience. On an important note, these anime labels are used to describe the demographic of the predicted audience, and not to limit certain anime to only a specific age group or gender. Listed below are the demographic genres of anime:

  • Shōnen: “Shōnen” or 少年 refers to “boy”. Shōnen anime consists mostly of a male protagonist with the incorporation of action and adventure that generally appeals to young boys under 18.
    • Recommendations: Naruto, One Piece, and Dragon Ball Z.
  • Shōjo: “Shōjo” or 少女 refers to “young girl”. With the demographic targeting young girls below the age of 18, shōjo anime usually centers around young female protagonists, with the plot mostly related to romance and drama.
    • Recommendations: Sailor Moon, Fruits Basket, and Kimi ni Todoke.
  • Seinen: “Seinen” or 青年 refers to young adult men. Seinen anime demographically targets young men around the age of 18 to 30 years old. The content of seinen anime is also known to be more mature considering the age group it is most popular with. 
    • Recommendations: Tokyo Ghoul, Berserk, and March Comes in Like a Lion.
  • Josei: “Josei” simply means, “woman”. Josei anime caters specifically to older teenage girls and women with the age group ranging from 18 to 45. The content of these anime are known to be more mature unlike “shōnen” or “shōjo”. 
    • Recommendations: Paradise Kiss, Nana, and Honey and Clover.
  • Kodomomuke: Kodomomuke literally means, “directed at children”. Anime classified under kodomomuke are usually simple, understandable and that teaches core values to its young readerships.
    • Recommendations: Hello Kitty, Doraemon, and Anpanman.

Judging from the long list from both the regular and demographic genres, it is quite easy to admit anime’s diversity in its genres. Many anime are the results of several genres all fused into one, which creates even more diversity and uniqueness in the content offered to us audiences. Along the way of researching for the expected content of each genre, I found for myself a few thriller and science-fiction anime that I displayed deep interest in at first-sight, with one of them called The Promised Neverlands. If you are relatively new to anime and would like something that is full of plot-twist, surprises, and just head-on immersive, I would highly recommend Attack on Titan. If you have been into anime for quite a long time, I hope this brief introduction of anime has given you a refresher of the basics of anime. On a final note, anime is not just animations for entertainment purposes, it is animations that brings people together internationally and virtually regardless of background, status, age, or any label society has placed on us. If you are new to anime, I welcome you both to the adventurous world of anime and the international anime community!

References:

Animation Styles: What Makes Anime Unique. (July 27, 2015). Retrieved January 6, 2021, from https://showmetheanimation.com/features/animation-styles-what-makes-anime-unique/#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20most%20distinctive,usually%20exaggerated%20and%20brightly%20colored.

Anime’s Visual Language. (February 12, 2011). Retrieved January 7, 2021 from https://japanpowered.com/japan-culture/animes-visual-language

A Complete List of Anime Genres With Explanations. (January 30, 2018). Retrieved January 7, 2021 from https://reelrundown.com/animation/Anime-Genre-List.


2 thoughts on “Anime: An Introduction

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s