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Anime at a Glance
(or, A FAQ for the newbies of Anime)

What is Anime | America Vs Japan | Anime Stories | Anime Types
 Anime Controversy | Anime Shopping | Anime Glossary | Conclusion

A: What is Anime anyways?!

Ah, I see you're new to anime.  Well, at one point, even I was new to the different style of storytelling, drawings, and music that comes to us in the form of continuous TV series and feature films.

The term 'anime' is used to refer to any animated product from Japan.  However, it is a fairly newer term, that started showing up around 1995-96.  If you're a Gen. X'er like myself out there, you may know it more as "Japanimation", which it was mainly called in the 1970s through the early 90s.

However that's barely scratching the surface for a history of Anime.  The next page will take care of that though.  Below is some of the differences anime has to American animation, and some general anime terms a1nd definitions you're going to need to know.

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B: American vs. Japanese Animation:

There are several major differences between the American and Japanese animated product.  The first, and most noticeable one is the drawing style.  Where a lot of American animation (now I'm not digging all the way back to the days of classic Warner Bros. shorts like Bugs Bunny....thats a bit TOO old to compare), tends to be somewhat bland and sometimes darker most of the time.....anime runs the whole spectrum of colors and texures.  Depending on the story, the drawing can consist of bright vivid colors, or downright dark and moody colors.  Some even fall somewhere in-between the 2.

The next major thing is the faces.  Anime characters as opposed to American drawn characters, have big eyes and mouths.  This is so facial expressions are more easily seen, and trust me.....anime characters make a LOT of facial expressions to get their point across.  Also, where most American animation uses normal human hair colors, anime characters, again, run the entire spectrum of color for their hair.  Some have the traditional Japanese style of black or dark brown, where others have anything from bright reds to deep blues.

The third, and probably most important factor that separates American from Japanese animation, is the story and character development.  American cartoons tend to use quick storylines that only last the duration of the movie or a 1/2 hour TV slot to tell a story.  Plus, most of the plots evolve on a 'good vs. evil' basis, which gets VERY boring in a short time.  The characters are also 2-dimensional, they never age or change one bit.

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C: The Stories that anime Tell us:

Anime, is VERY different in story and character development.  TV series can go on and on like soap operas do here in the USA, some reaching as far as 250 + episodes before biting the dust. Most, if not all, follow a evolving story and on top of that......evolving characters.  The characters in anime DO change as the story progresses deeper and deeper, and most characters have a deep past to them, making them more 3-dimensional and more believable.  Anime movies typically spin-off from a popular TV series, or they can have their own story altogether.  Plus the animation in 'better' anime movies like "Akira" can rival anything Disney has put out recently.  

There are also what as known as 'OAVs' or "Original Animation Videos".  An American example of an OAV would be "Disney's: The Little Mermaid II", where it has not seen a theatre like the first 'Mermaid' flick from 1989, but instead, is released direct to video.  The same is true with OAVs in anime.  Most of these OAVs do not follow the TV series or movies the title proclaims, but they sort of tell an entirely different story of their own.....kind of like a 'side quest' of an RPG.  Or they can tell a story of a character's past life, or what may happen in the future to them.

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D: The Many Types of Anime:

As for what anime you choose to get into, it's all a matter of personal preference.  I myself, am always trying out new sub-genres of anime.  There's your romantic dramas (Fushigi Yuugi), comedies (Ranma 1/2), fantasy/RPG type (Slayers), futuristic and mecha (Akira, Gundam, Evangelion), stories loosely based on old Japan (Rurouni Kenshin/Samurai X), and action-packed (Dragonball/Z/GT).  For the younger anime fans who are tired of Pokémon, there's also Kiki's Delivery Service, an anime that was very well dubbed by Disney/Buena Vista about 6-8 years ago.  I'm sure there's other stuff out there as well.

Anime that doesn't seem to fall into one of the sub-genres I mentioned above, could very well fall into one of these 2 sub-genres of anime.  

"Shounen" = Anime aimed at male audiences.

"Shoujo" = Anime aimed at female audiences.

Sometimes, an anime title doesn't fall into any category or into many different ones.  In those cases, it's tough to categorize it.

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E: Some Controversies towards Anime in America:

Americans, when first introduced to anime with "Astro Boy" on NBC back in the mid-1960s, were awed by the animation quality and plots it brought us every Saturday Morning.  However, as time rolled on into the 70s through the Millennium, the animation got more 'risqué', the plot, thicker and deeper, and the action, more intense.  Thus, companies started hacking and editing anime like there was no tomorrow.  In more recent years, this has let up somewhat, however, there's still many edits done to conform with the beliefs of Westerners (those who come from the USA or Canada), and to tone down the violence level if it's too much.  Classic examples of anime that have been butchered to the gills are "Battle of the Planets", and "Robotech", and more recent examples being the now-cancelled "Escaflowne", earlier Saban-produced episodes of "DBZ", and Nelvana's dubbed version of "Card Captor Sakura"

See more on this in my Debates & Rants Page.  I'm not totally keen with the idea of censorship of anime, and you'll find out why at that page.

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F: Buying Anime:

Due to what I stated above, many anime series can't make it onto TV here in our neck of the woods (or should I say, world), therefore, we rely on professional companies such as Viz Communications, ADV Films, Pioneer, Central Park Media, and Media Blasters, who also have a passion for anime, to bring anime to our shores in a VHS or DVD format.

Now, finding anime is easy enough, as most larger malls out there have a Suncoast video store within, and they have a lot of anime, and there's also your on-line stores like AnimeNation and RightStuf Intl., but choosing what VERSION of anime to buy, is probably the most debated issue among anime fans.  That issue is......"DUBbed" or "SUBtitled".

I'm not going to go on about the debate right here, which I'll save for the 'Debates/Rants' page.  I'll leave it up to you, the 'newbie' to anime, to decide for yourself.  Both versions have their pro's and con's to them.  I'll say this......until you're really ready and have a firm grip with anime, stick with those dubs.  VHS dubs are getting dirt cheap because subtitled VHS is fast becoming a thing of the past, with DVD the new media format for newer anime titles, and more of these dubbed versions have found their way, or will be finding their way to TV in some kind of edited form.

If you're thinking about why I haven't mentioned 'fansubs', head on over to the 'Debates/Rants' page, and you'll read why I didn't.

I set up a grid below with some generalized prices for anime.  Depending on your state/provincial sales tax, the prices may vary.  All prices are U.S. currency.  In the case of an anime TV series, the prices are PER TAPE/DVD, not the total for an entire series.

A = TV series has made it to North American TV in some edited way, shape or form.

B = TV series is too 'risqué' or un-editable to run on TV, thus it's put 'direct to video' by folks like ADV Films, Viz Video and Pioneer Entertainment.

TV Series: DUB (A) $10 - 15 $20
TV Series: SUB (A) Anime on N.A. TV stations, rarely, if at all, sees a subtitled release.
TV Series: DUB (B) $20 - 25 $25 - 30
TV Series: SUB (B) $25 - 30
Movies: DUB $20 - 25 $20 - 40
Movies: SUB $30 - 40
OAVs: DUB $20 - 30 $20 - 40
OAVs: SUB $30 - 40

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G: Anime Glossary:

When you head into the Internet realm of anime, with its hundreds upon hundreds of anime webpages and sites, through e-mail, message boards, and chatrooms, you're going to run across anime terms you may or may not have heard before.  Hopefully, this list of more common word and terms will help you.  I've included some words in Japanese as well, as a lot of anime fans like using them.

Anime Terms:
Subtitled:  Refers to anime that keeps it's original Japanese soundtrack, with English captioning at the bottom of the screen that contains the literal translation of the Japanese script.

Dubbed:  Refers to anime, which has been re-recorded with an English vocal track, and sometimes a completely new music soundtrack.  However, the latter only happens to TV run anime for the most part.  Most direct-to-video dubs keep the Japanese music soundtrack intact.

Fansub:  In a nutshell......anime subtitled by fans of the genre.  I don't recommend going this route when buying tapes/DVDs as you'll never know how the quality can be (its usually lower than a commercially released version) and on top of that, it's illegal.

OAV (or OVA):  Stands for "Original Animation (Animated) Video.  These features are not run on TV or in a movie theatre.  They also tend to be offset from the TV series story.

Common Japanese words and suffixes used by anime fans
Shounen - Anime aimed at the male audience
Shoujo - Anime aimed at the female audience
kawaii - cute
konnichiwa - Hello
ja ne (ja) - Good Bye (Bye)
sayonara - This can also mean Good Bye, but more-so if you are to be gone for a very long time.
Bishounen - Very cute guy
Bishoujo - Very cute girl
baka - idiot
Hai - Yes!
hentai - pervert, perverted, anime pornography, H-anime
ecchi - same as 'hentai', but it refers more towards males.
chibi - I'm unsure if this is really a word they use, but none the less, it refers to a super-deformed character.
sugoi - incredible, excellent
-sama - (suffix) usually used to denote a person of higher respect or athority
-chan - (suffix) used to denote a female
-kun - (suffix) used to denote a male

One more thing.  Try not to take in the habit of mixing Japanese and English together in what you say (Example: "He's such a baka".) too much.  This is alright at first, but it soon gets annoying to some anime otaku out there.  Keep it to a minimum.  Also don't do this in Real Life situations....it will make you look stupid.  :)

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H: In Conclusion:

I know, this is quite a big chunk of information to keep in mind, but with time, it should stick with you.  Anime is just a slice of what Japan offers, but it's a good place to get started if you wish to learn more about their history, culture, and a cool second language.

With that said, please do explore the rest of my site, and then go out and rent or buy a few titles you're interested in.  Then get home and with a big bowl of popcorn and ice cold soda within reach, turn up your TV or home theatre system and let the anime tapes roll.  :)

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This site: © 2001 "animefan25"