Lurkers' Retreat

Lurkers Retreat  What is this thing you call "anime"?

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Hell. How should I know? You want me to tell you? Well. In simple terms, it is animation. The word itself was borrowed by the Japanese to describe the medium of animation, and was then borrowed back by us to discriminate between animation from Japan and other animation.
Mads gets confused easily...

Why do we differentiate?

Simple. The Japanese have taken the form that, in most countries, is used primarily for children's entertainment and taken it to its extreme, using it as a valid art form and a means of entertainment for all ages and tastes. While other countries have been known to do this on a small scale (for example Canada and its National Film Board), no other country has done this to the same extent. So much so has Japan developed animation that it was only a matter of time before other countries got interested in what they were doing.

But it's just cartoons, right?

Not really, though the difference is more to do with what we mean by "cartoon". Though it may use the same techniques as Roadrunner or Magoo, the range of subjects and the genres covered are far wider. It matters not who you are or what your taste is, there is probably an anime that's right for you! But it cuts both ways... just as you would not show certain movies to your children, so some anime titles are unsuitable for kids. To treat them just as cartoons would be very wrong.
I don't know how I do it!
So why then?

So why do they make anime?

Because it is popular. It started as a cheap way of entertaining people, but has continued to the point where it is a major industry in its own right, contributing not only to a domestic market, but to a booming export market too, both in domestic anime and in collaborations with foreign companies such as Disney.

But how do I understand it if I don't speak the language?

That is where the folks in the anime businesses come in. Anime is licensed to these companies for distribution within their countries. As part of this, the anime is either subtitled or dubbed, depending on the whim of the company (actually, that is over-simplifying it a great deal, but a web page is not the best place for a sub vs. dub debate!) There are also fan clubs who "fansub" anime, though the legality of this is a grey area. (Very grey, depending on your point of view!)
Oh freddled gruntbuggley...

How do I find these people?

Try your local video store, or give my link page a try.

That's just a basic look at anime. If you want to know more, try looking at the link page, or give the rec.arts.anime newsgroups a go (in the UK, try There you will find all you need to know and more. There is also a regular FAQ to be found posted to including an anime "primer".

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