What makes Japanese cartoons “anime”?

What is anime? All animation from Japan? All animation of a certain style? Then what about Japanese animation outside of that style? What about the international productions?  An old debate, that is surprisingly common in more ad-hoc anime viewer groups; youtube comments, gamer forum threads, and personal discussions,  and rarer in the blogosphare, on anime-themed sites, and in other groups self-identifying as the “academic” opinion leaders of otaku culture.

Maybe it’s because the latter doesn’t want to deal with something that is seen as the petty whining of obsessive-compulsive categorizers. Or maybe because after a certain amount of anime watched, the borderline cases will start to appear more and more clearly fitting into one group anyways.

It’s easy to believe that Avatar or Teen Titans are exactly like anime, when all the “other anime” that you have watched, is limited to Death Note, Naruto, and Elfen Lied. Then as your MAL is growing several hundred titles long, you will start to detect hundreds of little differences between them that you might not even consciously notice or at least you couldn’t describe, like the different emphasis on lip-synching, the details of background scenery or in shadow effects, and the exact way faces are drawn. (beyond just “small noses and big eyes” (Because seriously,that’s about the most generic description you could give for pretty much every cartoon ever)).

And then the plot starts, and it’s even more obvious that there are plenty of fundamental differences between how a western and a Japanese writer would think about storytelling. Even when they are actively trying to imitate each other.

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How America Invented The Weeaboo

(Warning: The following post may contain generalizations, and national stereotypes. That’s inevitable, since it’s about general trends in the community, not about individual people. Try to read it as one possible aspect of these trends, and not as “Alterego explains how shit works “. )

A few months ago, I wrote a post about Weeaboos, their common traits, and the strange fact that those elements of the fandom that are most vocally opposing them, with their consistent consistent criticism of all of the anime subculture’s most japanese attributes, aren’t equally shunned with such monikers.

From that post alone, you might have figured  out that I’m just a weeaboo who doesn’t want to get criticised.  And there is an element of truth in that. I’m certainly more sympathetic towards people who just want to embrace their fandom, than towards those who are obsessed with appearing normal. But there is also something more to it: Many of these stereotypes about being the annoying type of anime fan, simply don’t register with me. I learned them, and I take care to avoid them so I won’t sound ridiculous, but intuitively, I wouldn’t have felt that they are considered bad. You see, I’m not an American.

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What’s the opposite of “Weeaboo”?

“A normal person”.

At least that’s the impression you could get, from the way these annoying extremists are referenced everywhere. Or rather, I should say “this annoying extremism”. As I already referenced it a month ago, I don’t really think that the word can be truly applied to any individual in the anime fandom, since anyone can easily avoid the few stereotypes that obviously brand anyone as a weeaboo.

  1. Don’t use phrases like, kawaii, or baka gaijin, non-ironically.
  2. Don’t praise Japan, don’t want to go there, don’t learn Japanese. (or if you want to, at least don’t brag about it, and balance it out by saying something negative about Japan).
  3. Don’t get offended at others calling anime “Japanese cartoons”. Don’t insult western animation.
  4. Don’t complain about how horrible every single english anime dub is.

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