On anime as an art form and how ‘the west’ perceives Japanese animation

Valentina Huckova
Valentina Huckova

Travel, language and culture lover Valentina Huckova from our online community lets us in on anime and Japanese animation…


Hi all! My name is Val and I am an Animation (BA) student interested in travelling, languages and the culture of Japan and South Korea, where I’m hoping to travel soon! In the next few posts, I would like to introduce topics related to these two countries’ cultures and how they are perceived by the modern day youth.

Hi all! My name is Val and I am an Animation (BA) student interested in travelling, languages and the culture of Japan and South Korea, where I’m hoping to travel soon! In the next few posts, I would like to introduce topics related to these two countries’ cultures and how they are perceived by the modern day youth.

This post will take a closer look at the phenomenon of Japanese animated export – anime, which has grown in popularity immensely in the last few decades. I want to try and broaden the horizons on how anime is (mis)understood and I will try to address the different perceptions of ‘anime’ in its country of origin and in what critics tend to call the ‘Western world’ (west of Japan; typically includes the whole or at least the Western part of Europe and the USA). I will also give you an example TV-show to exemplify what differences I mean (which you might not have seen, and hopefully, you would become interested in doing so afters)!

‘Ping Pong the Animation’, which could be easily referred to just as a ‘sports-anime’ or a ‘boys-anime’, aired in Japan in 2014 and was directed by Masaaki Yuasa, known for his colourful free-spirited work and collaboration on franchises such as Adventure Time (he directed the episode ‘Food Chain’ – watch a peek here  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoT3h7c6tLY) ‘Ping Pong the Animation’, although by definition an anime, is different not only to the majority of Japanese animation but importantly to what one imagines when encountering the word. Even though ‘anime’ in Japan is used to refer to animation as a medium and is just an abbreviation of their take on the word ‘anim?shon’, the Western world predominantly understands it to be a genre, due to certain recurring characteristics and specific visual style present in the majority of Japan’s animated export.

 

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Anime, to most, is heavily stylized and exaggerated in regards to the faces and eyes in particular, as well as actions, expressions, and colors used (Eberle, 2015, first & second images).  Masaaki Yuasa, the director of the show, commented on Japanese animation saying ”in Japanese animation I see so many people now doing similar things… I hope they will do new things. So much animation is mainstream, while I’d like more to be interesting.”
In Ping Pong the Animation, this is to be observed. The characters’ faces and eyes are naturally proportioned and the colour scheme is subtle and pastel-oriented. The stylization, though, is heavily present and true to the original manga on which the TV-show is based. In fact, a lot of the scenes are exact page-to-screen. The animation often divides the screen into a manga panel-like layout, depicting the same action from multiple points of view or angles – a very ‘artsy’ technique.

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‘Ping Pong’ as compared to the crisp, clean animation of most anime, looks like a sketchbook brought to life. With uneven line-work, changing shapes and sizes of characters and a camera shifting through different perspectives, it creates a deliberately loose and expressive style almost reminiscent of rotoscope, and communicates Masaaki Yuasa’s belief that animators should enjoy themselves: “I want to see more relaxed animation coming from Japan, animation where everything is not so perfectly drawn” I greatly agree with this quote, which ultimately made Masaaki Yuasa my favourite Japanese animator.

With this I would like to leave it up to you guys whether you’re going to give ‘anime’ at least a mental second chance before condemning it into the niche ‘weaboo’ culture. As with anything though, one has to choose things corresponding to their tastes. Especially to those of you in the creative media industries though, I believe that broadening your horizons cross-culturally is a great research exercise and a very interesting experience! I’ll see y’all next time with some blogging about the ‘Hallyu’ Korean Wave! xx

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For references I accessed these sites:
? Show Me The Animation. (2015). Animation Styles: What Makes Anime Unique. [online] Available at: http://showmetheanimation.com/features/animation-styles-what-makes-anime-unique/
? Vijn, A. (2013). Interview: Yuasa Masaaki Talks About Anime! Part 2 of 2: Film, Music and Eroticism…. [online] ScreenAnarchy. Available at: http://screenanarchy.com/2013/10/interview-yuasa-masaaki-talks-anime-music-and-eroticism.html