Animation Talk- Neon Alley’s Transition: A Retrospective

NeonAlley-LogoMain-Iluminated

One week from today Viz’s streaming channel service, Neon Alley will be making a full transition away from it’s livestream format and will instead be a more traditional streaming service through partnering with Hulu. So now’s a good time to look back and see exactly how far its come from its earlier days.

Admittedly even though I’ve been a subscriber of the service since day one, it intially seemed like an idea that would fall on its face pretty quickly. A linear streaming format with no on-demand offerings, commercials, Ps3 exclusivity  and dub only content looked like a recipe for disaster and many were awaiting its demise. I had frankly only really subscribed to it because of Viz’s promise to use it to make good on actually releasing stuff as that was still an uncertainty for many concerning their titles at a time.

But then the service launched and a strange thing happened: It worked.

While the format seemed pretty unappealing at first there was a certain charm to the channel that kind of seemed to click. Being able to watch a 24/7 anime network still had a certain ring to it for the audience Viz was after and the commercials were actually pretty okay to deal with as they were pretty fandom centric and were usually for upcoming releases and the like. It also started up with a pretty strong initially lineup with shows like Tiger & Bunny and Blue Exorcist making their dub debuts on the service and the shows were solid enough to win over some of the skeptics.

Of course a lot of skepticism still remained as the service was still pretty flawed, but to its credit the service continued to evolve and better itself. It eventually expanded onto other platforms including the Xbox 360 and PC and the creation of the Catch Up feature won over a bit more of the people who were still skeptical by making it easier to get around the linear format and keep up with the newer titles on their own convience. The service continued to survive past it’s 1st year, defying people’s expectations and as more and more content continued to be added it seemed to be thriving pretty well.

Then a little over a month ago the transition was announced and it was met with mixed reactions. Some thought it meant that the linear format was doomed from the get go and that had been a flop from the very beginning while others lament the loss of the livestream since it did provide viewers with a way to watch shows they might have otherwise ignored. Personally I kind of figured something like this would happen from the get go regardless of how much of a flop the service may or may not have been. Having two seperate streaming offerings (the other being the VizAnime site which generally hasn’t been paid much attention to as it’s titles are available elsewhere) seemed like something that wasn’t going to last forever and I figured they’d probably get merged together at some point though the transition being free was certainly a welcome surprise. I don’t think the service as it currently is was actually a flop since it kind of lasted a bit too long for that to make sense but as I don’t work for Viz and have access to the numbers or anything I can only guess on that.

So is the transition a good thing or a bad thing? I’d say it’s mostly a pretty good deal. Losing the livestream is a bit of a downer but we’re getting access to a lot more stuff on demand and hopefully they can afford a lot to have a lot more newer content as well since they aren’t paying to keep the app running. Canada’s (unsurprisingly) kind of getting the short end of the stick on this one but hopefully Viz won’t take long to make good on their promise to find a solution for them.

Neon Alley has come a long way in the short time it’s been here with us and the evolution of the service seems pretty logical as the next step. How much will stay the same is unknown but hopefully the service won’t lose too much of its charm through the transition and new users will be able to see some of what made the service work.

One week to go till it all goes down. Time to see if Neon Alley can make the magic happen a second time.

Animation Talk- 6 Common Misconceptions Fans Have About the Anime Industry

The anime industry is a pretty tricky thing for  fans as there are a lot of things unknown to us and some who have been following the industry still don’t know everything. Nevertheless there are some things we do know that some fans both new and old have often gotten confused so here are some common misconceptions anime fans have about the industry.

DISCLAIMER: I do not claim to be an industry insider or super expert as there’s frankly a lot of things I don’t really know myself. These are just the things I do actually know. I am not legally liable for any confusion  or mistatements you may have/make afterwards. Now let’s begin

6. Everyone in Japan Loves Anime

Since anime is such a beloved, though niche medium internationally and has often garnered the attention of those who normally wouldn’t give two craps about any other kind of animation it’s generally assumed that Japanese people have a lot of respect for the medium since their the ones who make it. In reality what we consider anime is a niche medium even in Japan and outside of shows designed to sell toys like Beyblade or super mega hit shonen titles like One Piece, the majority of anime airs late at night and only a very specific audience (i.e. otaku) generally watches it, though there are exceptions every now and then In fact big animated movies from the west such as Disney titles are better know and more popular to the general public in Japan. Though the industry is obviously bigger there than elsewhere, that doesn’t mean it’s mainstream.

5. The Amount of Source Material Determines How Long an Anime will Run

Admittedly this is something I used to believe was the case for awhile because on the surface it kinda makes sense as something that’s run 5 years or so would have a lot of material to adapt and could run a lot of episodes. The actual truth is far from the case as anime production commitees don’t really care about that sort of thing. If they don’t  think it’s worth the risk then it could have 10 years of material to run with and could still potentially end up with a 13 episode run (see the Zetman anime for an example). In the older days adaptions would generally run a bit longer but these days 13 episode adaptions are more or less the norm. What seems to be the defintive factor currently (and this is partially a guess on my part) is how large the pre-existing fanbase is sales-wise and recently only things that were already kind of a hit to begin with receive 24 episodes or beyond.

4. Studios Have a Say in How Much of Something/What Gets Made

Tying into the above misconception, some also assume that studios have a say in how much of a show is actually made. Production committees fund the actual shows so they’re the ones who hold power over how long stuff is, even for original works. There’s also the misconception that studios have full control over the production of the shows they work on and there is some truth to it as the creative staff does generally determine how a series will function. However the executive staff does have some control in that department as well and they can override creative decisions if they so please. One of the biggest examples of this was the entire second season of Code Geass being rewritten from what the creators had originally planned due to some of Sunrise’s meddling.

3. The Studio Determines the Quality of the Show

This is another one with a little bit of truth to it as some of the larger studios such as BONES or Production I.G. generally produce shows with a high animation budget, get popular japanese bands to do the theme songs, etc., but there’s generally no direct correlation between the studios and the shows themselves in terms of what’s good. For instance, Studio Pierrot is generally met with scorn as their known these days for their badly paced battle shonen adaptions like Naruto or Bleach but they’ve also produced shows such as Yuyu Hakusho, which stands today as the most well paced adaption of an (at the time) ongoing action series, and Hikaru no Go (similar deal), both of which (arguably) outdid their source material. Additionally some of the larger and more popular studios like A1 Pictures have (again arguably) produced somewhat medicore anime adaptions like Blue Exorcist alongside some of their more popular works like Sword Art Online. Production committees again generally determine things such as the actual budget of the show or the episode count but the biggest deciding factor for a show is generally the staff itself and that’s not always directly tied to studios so the staff list is generally what’s worth paying attention to more.

2. Japan Cares About the International Market

While there are some exceptions such as what’s currently going on with Space Dandy airing new episodes on Adult Swim before Japan gets them, Japan generally doesn’t care much for the international market. Due to middlemen distributors such as Funimation, Viz Media, Sentai Filmworks, etc. only a small percentage of sales actually makes it back to the japanese producers. Japan has made several attempts (such as the existance of Aniplex of America) to directly penetrate the english market themselves but for the most part their concerned with japanese audiences since that’s where most of the direct sales come from. The middlemen companies do of course have their benefits like bringing us more affordable prices and dubs, since they’re here, don’t expect to have any direct say in what gets made.

1. US Distributors Have a Direct Say in What/How Stuff Gets Made 

It’s a mistake generally only made by newer fans who don’t know much about how the industry works and it’s died down for the most part, but there’s still the occasional suggestion that Funimation or Viz have some direct say in anime. They don’t. Funimation doesn’t own Dragonball Z, Viz doesn’t control when we get new episodes Naruto and they can’t promise you future seasons of anything. Again it’s rare that anyone actually makes this mistake but it can be a bit frustrating to see.

————————

And there you have it. These are mistaken assumptions often made and hopefully someone’s a little more aware now. There’s a lot we can’t know without actually working inside the industry but there are some things we can avoid having to guess.

 

 

 

Animation Talk- Snydar’s Departure: A Retrospective

So for those who are unaware it was announced a little earlier today that the current president of Cartoon Network, Stuwart Snydar will be resigning from his position at the end of the month. His time at the company has been an interesting adventure and though we’re all pretty glad to see he’s gone, now’s a pretty good time to take a look back at some of the good and much of the bad that happened during his reign

Syndar first took over Cartoon Network roughly six years ago and his appointment to the position brought a lot of changes to the network. One of his first and perhaps most notorious changes was the axing of Cartoon Network’s original Toonami block (recently revived by Adult Swim almost 2 years ago) which ran for about 11 years due to the ratings being in a slump as a result of Naruto, which had become the ratings pillar of the block running into it’s infamous 86 episode filler run and hitting a massive decline (which kinda stung since the cancellation occured during the final season of filler and before the sequel series Naruto Shippuden could air). This caused a lot of controversy and backlash with long time viewers of the network and this would not be the last instance of this happening.

735844073_1354120529

Syndar sure didn’t

Around the end of 2008 he started what was perhaps the most significant shift in Cartoon Networks programming: the introduction of live-action programming. The first instance of this came with the series Out of Jimmy’s head which was a spinoff of the movie Reanimated. For the most part this was somewhat tolerable as the show had a mix of live action and cartoon elements but the show was very short lived and only lasted for about 2 seasons before getting cancelled. Despite this, Snydar continued the push of live action shows in an attempt to directly compete with Nickelodeon and Disney and this eventually lead to the creation of the CN Real block which had it’s own series of bizarre live action programming that aired on and off until very recently where it seems to have more or less gone away outside of airing movies on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

Mr__Stubborn_Hates_CN_Real_by_Deviant_Man

 

We hear ya man

Adding onto some of the controversy surrounding some of his decision making regarding CN’s move away from third party anime content,  he was also known for being very unsupportive of some of CN’s own original action shows and valued toy sales over ratings which led to the cancellation of well acclaimed shows such as Young Justice and Green Lantern the Animated Series, which were strong ratings performers, but weren’t as strong on the merchandising front.

Young-Justice-Canceled-538x218

 

We’re still bitter

It’s perhaps unsurprising that as a result of much of the controversy and changes that happened during Snydar’s run as president. the network has seen a pretty sharp decline in it’s ratings as compared to it’s prime, and it’s due to this that the network has gradually lost some of it’s airtime to the more popular late night Adult Swim block, and has been pushed back from it’s original 10PM end time, to 9PM and later on in the month, 8PM.

Despite much of the bad that happened during his reign there was some good to be had. CN’s original comedies over the course of the mid 2000’s were mostly forgettable and weren’t quite able to create as much of a following as the classic “Cartoon Cartoons” of the late 90’s/early 00’s which are still remembered to this day, but around 2010, CN began having a renaissance of sorts with their primetime comedies as we were introduced to Adventure Time which has become CN’s most popular and iconic show in recent memory. This was followed up by the creation of other strong comedies such as Regular Show and mostly recently Steven Universe which have seperated themselves from the norm in terms of children’s programming and have offered experiences a bit more adult than some of CN’s other properties.

f3aqpWm

 

This probably one of the least suggestive jokes made in the show

So what’ll happen now that Snydar is gone? Well seeing his replacement has yet to be announced there’s a lot that’s up in the air but we could see some significant changes occur. I’m not expecting to see anything as drastic as non-toyetic anime return to daytime programming (those days are long over) but I’m personally hoping we can see CN shift back to action programming (which they’ve been severly lacking in as of late) and possibly see the creation of a new action block though I imagine that wouldn’t happen anytime soon. I’m also hoping we’ll see a bit more variety to the channel in terms of having female oriented shows as that’s been a notable issue for them as of late.

Syndar’s departure brings about new winds of change and it’s hard to be certain of where exactly things will be headed next. Though, as Snydar’s reign brought about what many have considered to be the network’s darkest age, there’s much to be optimistic about. While it’s very unlikely the network will make a return to it’s glory days, hopefully we’ll see some grand changes for the better.

Animation Talk- 10 Essential Western Animated Shows for Anime Fans

It’s can sometimes be a difficult thing to recommend some western animated shows to a hardcore anime fan. While the two sides of the ocean aren’t as stylistically different as some claim, each does have their own set of elements that work for them. Of course as with anything there are some instances where these elements borrow from each other so here are some essential shows that maybe worth checking out for the average anime fan:

10. RWBY

rwby_by_montyoum-d5kjod7

 

Synopsis: The world of Remnant,  is filled with supernatural forces and shadowy creatures known as the “Creatures of Grimm”. Mankind waged a battle of survival against the Grimm before discovering the power of a mysterious element called Dust, which allowed them to fight back against the monsters. In the present day, Dust is used to power magical abilities and weapons. Those who use these abilities to battle the Grimm are known as Huntsmen or Huntresses. The story centers on four girls, each with her own unique weapon and powers. Together, they form team RWBY at Beacon Academy in the city of Vale, where they are trained to become Huntresses alongside team CRDL (Cardinal) and team JNPR(Juniper).

Why it’s essential: This series made a pretty big splash last year with it’s heavily anime influenced artstyle and it’s unique animation. I’m personally pretty neutral on the series myself since while I did enjoy it I could never really quite understand all the massive praise it got. Nevertheless the show made a noticeable impact on the western anime fandom and even enough so that Crunchyroll took a chance on adding it to their lineup (and a gamble that was well rewarded). The story and the characters are fairly basic and though there is some minor character development here and there but it’s greatest strength is it’s sense of style and it’s got a lot of it.  Plus it has some pretty well choreographed fight scenes.

 

9. Green Lantern: The Animated Series

Green-Lantern_The-Animated-Series_Lost-Planet

Synopsis: The series focuses on the adventures of Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of Sector 2814, and his partner Kilowog. Hal Jordan travels t “Frontier Space” the region of space at the edge of the Guardians’ territory, where Green Lanterns are being picked off by the Red Lanterns and they must make their return back to central guardian space to bring news of the threat

Why it’s essential: This is the only actual superhero show on this list, but it’s also feels the least like a superhero show out of the many DC animated works made over the years. The show is much more an adventures in space thing a la Bebop though it’s a lot more plot focused and it occasionally veers into full on space opera territory (especially in the second half)as the threats escalate. The show also puts a lot of emphasis on the relationships between two of the crew members and the group as a whole slowly grows into a family of sorts. Sadly there’s only one season of the show, but the ending is solid and enough plot threads are closed that you’re not left with a massive thirst for more.

 

8. Steven Universe

la-et-st-steven-universe-20131104-001

Synopsis: The world is protected from evil threats by the Crystal Gems, a group of intergalactic female warriors who use the power of special gem stones embedded on their bodies to summon magical weapons. Steven is a young boy who inherited a gem stone from his mother, a Crystal Gem named Rose Quartz. As Steven tries to figure out the secrets to using his gem, he spends his days in Beach City doing activities with the other Crystal Gems, Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl,  whether it’s helping them save the universe or just hanging out.

Why it’s essential: Though the show has just started out it’s hard to ignore some of it’s anime influences. It provides a pretty interesting twist on typical magical girl fare as Steven has many of the personality qualities of a magical girl show protagonist and is surrounded by them but doesn’t have a full handle on the abilities. The series also features some pretty heavy fantasy elements and though it starts off in media res it’s a bit more grounded than it’s sister series Adventure Time. It’s greatest strength though is that it’s a pretty heartwarming tale as Steven grows into a true Crystal Gem though when exactly that’ll happen is anyone’s guess.

 

7. Code Lyoko

Code_lyoko

Synopsis: Jeremie Belpois, a gifted child attending boarding school at Kadic Academy, one day discovers a supercomputer in an abandoned factory near his school. Upon activating it, he discovers a virtual world and Aelita, a young girl trapped inside Lyoko. After unusual events begin to occur at school, Jeremie learns of X.A.N.A., a malevolent destruction-bent artificial intelligence/multi-agent system running on the supercomputer whose goal is to take over the world. Jeremie soon forms a goal to materialize Aelita into the real world and stop X.A.N.A. in his tracks. With the help from Jeremy’s friends and classmates, Ulrich Stern, Odd Della Robbia, Yumi Ishiyama, and Aelita, the group goes to Lyoko in hope to saves the world.

Why it’s essential: France has a lot of love for anime (possibly even more than the US) and it shows in this series as it takes a lot of cues from anime in terms of its artstyle and character relationships.This show is by and large a character driven work and the main cast is pretty interesting in that there really isn’t a “lead” character per se as most of the emphasis is placed on the group becoming well…a group and they’re all given a solid amount of focus with one never really outshining the other as they all grow a bit. As for the main storyline itself if you can get through the repetitive first season the  show pays off in stronger story arcs and the ending is pretty satisfying. Additionally for all you young guys out there the show offers a surprising amount of genuine fanservice (how it all slipped past Cartoon Network’s radar is something I’ll never know). It also has a pretty sweet theme song

6. The Powerpuff Girls

Powerpuff_girls_characters

 

Synopsis: Sugar, spice and everything nice. These were the ingreidents designed to make the perfect little girl but Proffesor Utonium accidentally added an extra ingredient to the concoction: Chemical X. Thus the Powerpuff Girls were born. Using their ultra superpowers Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup have dedicated their lives to fighting crime and the forces of evil.

Why it’s essential: When the Powerpuff Girls first came out it was a cultural phenomeon in the US and it’s still pretty well remembered even today (recent special by CN non-withstanding). The show provides a unique blend of magical girl show elements and superhero fare (though the Kaiju esque monsters and villains the girls tend to fight lean it towards the former half of the scale). It’s influenced a lot by japanese monster movies  and 80’s anime in many instances and in some ways the show itself is kind of a prelude to modern moe anime as the girls generally do act their age and there’s just as much emphasis on them being adorable little girls as there is them punching out giant monsters

 

5. Xiaolin Showdown

Xiaolin2

 

Synopsis:  Set in a world where martial arts battles and Eastern magic are commonplace, the series follows four young warriors in training that battle the forces of evil. They do this by protecting Shen Gong Wu (ancient artifacts that have great magical powers) from villains that would use them to conquer the world.

Why it’s essential: Admittedly this is probably the weirdest thing to have on this list but there’s no denying this show had a pretty strong impact during its intial run. It mostly functions as a blatant parody of martial art movies and also shonen anime to an extent as it frequently plays with and lampshades many of the tropes and cliches associated with both genres. Despite being mostly a comedy however the show does have some actual depth to its main characters as they learn various lessons over the course of the series and the ending does  a pretty interesting twist on the group dynamic that you wouldn’t see coming at the start of the series. Unfortunately the currently airing sequel series Xiaolin Chronicles so far doesn’t seem to carry the same level of writing and comedy (and it also screws with the continuity of the original constantly) but the original still stands as a pretty solid work.

 

4. Megas XLR

megas-xlr

 

Synopsis: In the distant future , Earth is fighting a losing war with an alien race known as “the Glorft”. In order to save the planet, the human resistance steals a prototype giant robot from the Glorft  renaming it MEGAS . The idea is to use a time-traveling device called a time drive to send MEGAS and its pilot, Kiva, back in time to defeat the Glorift

Before the plan can be executed, however, an attack by the Glorft sends the now-crippled MEGAS all the way back to the 1930s. It stays in a  New Jersey junkyard until it ends up in the hands of a slacker mechanic, Coop, and his slacker best friend, Jamie, around the year 2004.

Kiva goes back in time to retrieve MEGAS, and when she finds she is unable to pilot it because of Coop’s modifications, she grudgingly decides to train Coop, who is now the only person who can pilot it. However, the Glorft have followed her through time and, much to Kiva’s chagrin, it is now up to Coop to defend Earth from the Glorft and other various threats.

Why it’s essential: Despite the rather lengthy premise the show doesn’t take itself that seriously. In fact much like Xiaolin Showdown above, the show is a massive parody of it’s genre (mecha shows) though it takes its parodies to much higher levels as it proceeds to make fun of as many giant robot anime as it can get it’s hand on (sadly it didn’t live long enough to parody Evangellion). Destruction and mayhem are the norm and through it all the show is pretty much out to say what’s advertised in it’s theme song: That giant robots are pretty flippin’ awesome and it won’t rest till it proves it. It’s definitely a show worth seeing for any mecha fans out there as it’s one gigantic love letter to the genre.

3. Samurai Jack 

Samurai_Jack_Background_by_Shegon

Synopsis: Long ago in the distant past, Aku the shapeshifing master of darkness unleashed an unspeakble evil across the world. But a young samurai warrior wielding a magic sword stepped forth to oppose him. Before the final blow was struck however, Aku tore open a portal in time transporting the warrior to the future in which Aku’s evil is now law. Now the young warrior, taking on the alias of Jack, travels the world seeking a way to return to the past and to undo the evil that is Aku.

Why it’s essential: Series creator Genndy Tartavosky has been known for numerous anime influenced works but this is by far his most prevalent and iconic. The series pays homage to samurai films as a whole and each episode functions as it’s own mini-samurai film as it delivers on solid fight scenes and a slick artstyle. It’s also a fairly violent show though in a way that’s a bit unconventional as it ducks around the censors in some pretty creative ways. Though the show never really gets to a definitive conclusion, it’s more about the journey itself as the show becomes more of “who will Jack fight next?” rather than “will Jack ever make it back to the past?” and it’s certainly a fun ride. Hopefully the movie that’s been teased for years will eventually get made but until then what we have of the show is pretty great and if you like swordfights then there’s fun times to be had here. 

2. Avatar: The Last Airbender (plus The Legend of Korra)

avatar_the_last_airbender

Synopsis: Long ago the Four Nations of the world were at peace, but everything changed when the Fire Nation declaired war on the others. Only the Avatar master of the four elements and spiritual guardian of the world could stop them but one day he vanished. 100 years later the Fire Nation is nearing victory in the war when two youths from the Southern Water Tribe discover a young Airbender named Aang. This airbender is the long-lost Avatar and now he must fulfill his destiny to end the war and restore balance to the world.

Why it’s essential: Well there’s pretty much nothing I can say about this show that hasn’t been said already as to why anime fans should watch it but that pretty much speaks towards its quality. The show is very heavily influenced and isn’t ashamed to admit it as the series creators have admitted to being huge fans of Hayao Miyazaki and Shinichiro Watanabe’s works (which might be why Jet looks a heck of a lot like Mugen from Samurai Champloo) and the show has a pretty well constructed fantasy setting as it slowly fleshes out its world.  Though the series is generally a staple of the battle shonen genre, it stands out even among some of the most iconic shows of that genre and in many ways it’s a much more fully realized story than as it’s 61 episode run allows it to have a tightly scripted story (though one particular plot thread is purposely left open to mess with fans).

The sequel series The Legend of Korra mostly continues in the footsteps of the original in terms of storytelling and characters while being a bit darker in some areas though it struggles a lot more (especially in Book Two) which is part of why I didn’t give it it’s own entry.

 

1. Gargoyles

GargoylesLogo

 

Synopsis: 1000 years ago, superstition and the sword ruled. It was an age of darknesss, a time of fear, it was the age of Gargoyles. Stone by day, warriors by night, the Gargoyles were eventually betrayed by the humans that they had sworn to protect and were frozen in time by a magic spell for 1000 years. Now in Manhatten, the spell is broken and the Gargoyles as brought back to life as they adjust to the modern era and become its new protectors.

Why it’s essential : I know what you’re all thinking: “Something in front of Avatar? You must be out of your mind!” but please hear me out. While Avatar the Last Airbender is artistically closer to what anime fans want, Gargoyles is closer in terms of writing as it leans towards somewhat darker storylines.  Though technically a kids’ show (and one made by Disney no less) the show carries itself with a level of sophistication that leans it more towards an older audience as it delivers on great character arcs, solid continuity and a surprising amount of violence given who it was made by all while generally straying from getting too dark for it’s own good and remembering who its target audience is. The show also borrows a lot from Shakespear as it uses some of his characters and themes to drive its storylines and though it drags a little in the later half of the second season it stays strong throughout everything. Gargoyles’s adult appeal is what has allowed it to remain legendary even today and it has enough fantasy element and continuity to keep anime fans well entertained throughout.

And here’s the list. Some of these are obvious but their significance is hard to ignore.  Honorable mentions go to Sym Bionic Titan and Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go (both of which were pretty heavily anime influenced but ended on too large of a cliffhanger) as well as Adventure Time (which does have some of the necessary elements but it’s weirdness can make for a difficult barrier to entry). There’s a lot more in common between western and japanese animation than some fans want to admit as some of these shows prove and while the individual strengths of both sides are good, it’s always great to get things with crossover appeal between fandoms so while these shows are some of the most prominent examples, hopefully they won’t be the last.

Animation Talk- The State of Animation Culture

Last night I watched a video by the PBS Idea Channel on YouTube asking if Avatar the Last Airbender should be considered “anime”. (I recommend seeing the first 4 minutes of the video before reading this). Though I consider myself to be a fan of animation in general, my first thought was a simple “no”, and that’s the answer you would expect from most fans based on what we consider to be anime. However, the video then went on to question how exactly we define what anime is and it got me thinking about exactly how animation culture as it were, has kind of neatly categorized animation into certain labels that we’ve all generally come to accept as fact. I think it’s important however that we do occasionally step back and look at these labels and whether or not they hold up to be as absolute as we’ve come to terms with and to do so I think it’s best that we look at each of them individually starting with the biggest elephant in the room:

What is “anime”?

If we were to look at just the technical definition of anime as defined by Japan itself, anime is simply a term used to describe animation in general and not just animation made in Japan. As far as the japanese are concerned whether it’s The Simpsons, Disney films or Evangellion it’s all one in the same as far as the medium goes. Of course to fans across the rest of the world, anime has a different meaning and how exactly one would define it tends to vary from person to person. For some anime is defined soley by whether or not an animated show was “made” in Japan. This is the definition I personally use as well but as time has passed it’s become difficult to define anime as being by that alone. Several “western” animated shows, even dating back to the 90’s have had the bulk of the show animated by Japanese studios. The Thundercats reboot in 2011 was done by Studio 4C in Japan (the same studio behind the Berserk trilogy films) and the most recent season of The Legend of Korra was primarily done by Studio Pierrot of Naruto and Bleach fame (or infamy depending on who you ask). Similarly while many have come to define anime as stuff animated in Japan the reality is most of it is in fact done by lesser known Korean studios (as is the case with western animation today as well) so it is questionable if that definition alone is really enough.
Some who understand some of the grey areas above have come define anime by the fact that the targeted audience is Japan, stating that if the show wasn’t intended to air in Japan then it shouldn’t be considered anime. This definition has generally held up the most over the years though that too is a bit questionable. While not every show is made with an international audience in mind some do stretch out far enough to eventually be targeted towards Japan. My Little Pony (which I’d rather not bring up but it’s hard not to) has a japanese dub that started airing a few months ago and it’s the same deal for several other western animated shows including The Simpsons, The Boondocks, and Adventure Time (interestingly enough Avatar was supposed to get a Japanese dub as well but talks on that apparently fell through). The argument can of course be made that Japan has to be the audience targeted first for the show but even that occasionally can occasionally be questioned. Space Dandy for instance which is currently airing on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block is unequivocally defined as anime and yet new episodes air in the states before they do in Japan. Not to mention the fact that the show was quite clearly made with a western audience in mind and the producers seem to be banking on the western audience providing a large chunk of support for the show (especially since director Shinichiro Watanabe isn’t quite as popular in Japan as he is here in the states).
Lastly there are those who define anime by style alone, where if it has an ongoing storyline, handles itself seriously enough and has good art it qualifies as anime. As thus shows like Avatar are included into the mix and are considered to be “above” other western animated works (I’ll go into this a bit more later on). Of course this defintion is often the most frequently challenged as it goes against the “purity” of anime as it were(I’m covering that next) but even putting that aside, such a definition can leave certain japanese animated works out of the mix such as Panty and Stocking which borrows heavily on the style of western animated works and doesn’t really seem to have a definitive plot until the last couple of episodes of the series. Such could also be said for Space Dandy, but it’s a bit too early in the run of the series to make that kind of call.
Now it’s not really my intent to get anyone to change their definition of “anime” as what it means to us individually does differ greatly as we can see above, but the definitions we’ve come to accept for them do all have their holes, and there really is no absolute definition of it other than the one Japan had made for it to begin with.

The “Purity” of Animation

As addressed above, anime fans (though typically the most extreme ones) tend to often view anime with a sense of purity in terms of how it’s defined. If one so much as utters Avatar and the like in the midst of an anime discussion there will almost always be at least one person trying to dismiss those shows as “childish” or saying that they shouldn’t ever be compared with the likes of anime. While not everyone thinks as such, it generally seems to stem from a belief that associating those shows with anime will to some effect, lessen the value of anime as a whole and thus it becomes a defense mechanism of sorts where anime has to be put on a pedestal in order to maintain the perception that it’s art.
Now this leads us to the question of why we feel the need to do this. Though some will give different reason it mostly comes down to the perception caused by the Animation Age Ghetto (I recommend reading up on that if you find the time) where animation is considered to be “for kids” and got more and more targeted towards them over time. Since anime does often have material aimed at older viewers, we’ve created a barrier of sorts where we have completely seperated and categorized western and japanese animation into two main viewpoints: anime= “mature and thought provoking” while western animation= “childish and stupid”. These viewpoints have been the driving point of discussion for many a “east vs west” debate but both have their set of problems as we’ll examine next.

“Silly Rabbit, Cartoons are for Kids!”

Ah, cartoons. Things have gotten to the point where the word itself has become a slur and is pretty much only ever used to immediately dismiss a western animated show as being only for little kids and nothing else. Even those who do consider themselves fans of western animation are quick to categorize shows such as Avatar, Young Justice or Sym Bionic Titan as being something completely different from the so-called childish cartoons such as Spongebob, My Little Pony or Adventure Time. This again comes from the mentality brought about by the Animation Age Ghetto where shows with such a look are almost immediately cast into a little dark corner of animation culture to be mocked and dismissed as not being worthwhile in terms of mature themes
The reality of it is of course a bit different. Personally while I do admittedly sometimes watch such shows as a reminder not to take myself that seriously, these kinds of shows can occasionally tackle some interesting subject matter. My favorite animated show of all time is Ed, Edd n Eddy and while it’s a fairly goofy show, it’s also the only animated show that I’ve felt accurately portrays pre- adolescent childhood for what it really is.  Of course, Adventure Time is probably the most notable example at this stage as show has a fairly tight continuity and frequently addresses serious themes. One of the more notable examples in the show is the episode “Princess Cookie” which (to my surprise) is a subtle yet fairly obvious story about a character dealing with gender identity issues and there’s also the entire saga of Ice King and Marceline episodes which are a pretty depressing and fairly realistic depiction of what it’s like to have a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (and that’s not even getting started on what the backstory of the show really is).
These kinds of shows are capable of addressing deeper themes and should be acknowledged as such, yet we’re quick to dismiss them as having nothing to offer. These kinds of shows can be a slow burn (Adventure Time in particular is a show I’ve found that has to be marathoned in order to be properly understood and doesn’t fully come into it’s own until the third season) but there is some gold to be found somewhere.

Anime is all “art”

On the other side of the looking glass we have the view that all anime is mature and deep. Or more accurately the idea that all anime is mature and deep when compared to western animated works. Now if you were to ask me which I prefer between anime and western animation I would undoubtedly say anime, and though I’m frequently a defender of western stuff I’ve always maintained that standpoint. This is mainly due to the fact that as mentioned earlier, anime is capable of tackling certain themes in a way western animation currently can’t and is occasionally capable of producing masterpieces that can be considered high art such as Evangellion, Penguindrum, Revolutionary Girl Utena or Fullmetal Alchemist.
However while anime is capable of reaching these kinds of heights, it has also been known to go to extreme lows that can make some of the dumbest stuff out there look like gold in comparison. OniAi which has been recently released by Funimation is one such low. While I generally don’t mind watching the occasional goofy harem show the show makes little sense, goes absolutely nowhere, and has just about every joke being about the girls trying to get in the male lead’s pants. It’s a pretty silly show, and many would acknowledge it as such and yet when compared to some of the higher quality western shows it’s still considered to be superior by some and often for reasons not pertaining to the quality of the story itself.
Similarly while some of the more serious western animated shows are occasionally categorized alongside the “childish cartoons”. Anime that is targeted at a younger audience, and clearly accepts that it is such as Pokemon or Beyblade are occasionally given the label of being “mature” works in some fashion compared to Avatar and the like, in order to maintain the idea that anime is completely unaffected by the Animation Age Ghetto and that viewers of these shows aren’t labeled as “immature” for watching them.
As a medium anime has a lot of diversity, but it’s because of that diversity that it can also display some serious flaws and thus the illusion made by animation culture, of anime being a perfect medium of artistic talent is one that is worth calling into to question

Changing the culture

 
The culture we’ve established as fans of animation is one that has it’s share of problems but those problems are capable of being changed. While I’m not seriously expecting anyone to suddenly change their stance on things it’s definitely time that we come to terms with how our need to perpetuate the culture has lead  to viewpoints that are either outdated or were never really the case to begin with. I’m hoping there will come a day where the shadow of the Animation Age Ghetto is completely gone from and all animation can be viewed as just animation, but until then it’s at least good to recognize that the some labels we’ve created for ourselves are only hindering and not helping how the world views what we love.