Anime VS American Animation

Table of Content

This is my thesis statement: While American animation and Japanese animation both have positive aspects, American animation generally exhibits higher quality. The initial point of this essay is to explore and compare the strengths of American and Japanese animation.

One major challenge hindering American animation is the issue of budget and time constraints. In contrast, anime in Japan has been able to thrive. Hollywood, when it comes to animation, doesn’t seem to prioritize it and prefers to invest heavily in “live action” projects. Disney is the only Hollywood company that devotes significant resources to advancing animation heritage, but its Japanese counterpart has hundreds of such companies.

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It is unfortunate that American animation has not advanced or perfected its techniques as much as Japanese anime, considering that animation was originally pioneered by Americans. Although some may argue that Japanese animation is inherently superior to American animation, I will debunk this misconception gradually. Nonetheless, there are instances where American animation truly excels in fulfilling its intended purpose.

Examining the situation from an alternative perspective shows that the constraints imposed on American animation producers can actually improve the caliber of their animation. The ever-present threat of rejection motivates them to create exceptional work. Every animation endeavor must excel to avoid failure, which could harm future prospects. This situation stands in stark contrast to Japan’s abundance of mediocre content. However, substantial changes are necessary to achieve the recognition and admiration this art form deserves.

Thankfully, certain influential individuals have acknowledged the reasons for Disney’s enduring triumph and its capacity to generate billions of dollars. Nevertheless, it will require time before animators are given the same liberty and creativity that has propelled the Japanese animation industry to success in recent years. Nonetheless, we cannot simply copy their inferior anime style, even though they once imitated us.

Then we would be forfeiting our pride by compromising one of the few things we can proudly claim as being made in America. No, we must stick to our own approach! A Little History Few individuals, even devoted anime enthusiasts, possess a comprehensive understanding of the origins of Japanese animation or its connection to American animation. Therefore, let’s delve into its history. First, let’s identify the societal factor in Japan that has led to the widespread popularity of anime.

In Japan, there is a strong link between the animation industry and the comic book industry, known as “manga.” Many animes are actually adaptations of manga. The term “manga” was created in 1814 and means “humorous pictures,” but cartoon-like art had been present in Japanese culture for centuries before that.

Crude drawings were commonly utilized by the Japanese leaders and social elite for political reasons. In the 12th century, a Buddhist monk named Toba drew one of the earliest known collections of these drawings. The existence of these drawings might be attributed to a particular characteristic in Japanese culture, which contemporary psychologists may refer to as an “attention deficit disorder”.

The solution to this issue was to use visual stimuli to entice people, which became a useful method for those in power to manipulate and control the public. This effect can be compared to the “media saturation” witnessed in America lately. Fast forward to 1989, and only 12% of published material in Japan consisted of books, while the majority (38%) were manga. This statistic clearly reflects the state of Japanese society and literacy.

Despite suggestions that the Japanese had an original style prior to the influence of Americans, contemporary anime and manga bear little resemblance to ancient Japanese art. Following World War II, Japan faced an identity crisis and began heavily borrowing from Western civilization, a trend that persists today. It appears that they aspire to be like the United States, a fantasy depicted in their anime which often portrays Japan as a culturally diverse nation where acceptance is widespread.

Japan is mainly inhabited by ethnic Japanese people who embrace and adapt elements of other cultures. They envision the potential efficiency if they were a larger country like the US instead of a small island nation. Dr. Osamu Tezuka, often called the Disney of Japan, is recognized as the true pioneer of anime style and is responsible for establishing the current commercial anime and manga industry. Notably, he drew inspiration from Disney and other American animators during that time.

The unique and iconic “big eyes” that are often associated with anime were actually popular in American animation during a certain era, particularly in the works produced by the Max Fleischer studio. Osamu Tezuka, a renowned Japanese animator, acknowledged being influenced by these American cartoons. In fact, Tezuka once mentioned that his journey as an animator began at the young age of four when he tried to imitate a Popeye drawing. Growing up, he was surrounded by comics and had the privilege of owning a projector and various films, through which he watched beloved characters like Mickey Mouse, Felix the Cat, Charlie Chaplin, and Oswald Rabbit at his own home. It is evident that this exposure significantly impacted Tezuka’s own artistic style. His initial breakthrough came with the creation of a manga called Tetsuwan Atom.

Before Tezuka revolutionized the manga industry, most manga consisted of short, humorous comic strips resembling newspaper cartoons. However, Tezuka drew inspiration from foreign movies and incorporated cinematic techniques into his manga. By using fancy camera angles and developing intricate storylines, he created a comic book series with a film-like quality. This innovative approach made his work immensely popular among the general population, particularly among those struggling economically who sought affordable entertainment for their children. Consequently, the young readers who grew up on Tezuka’s manga became lifelong fans of both manga and anime.

Animation likely entered Japan with the establishment of the animation division of Toei Production in 1958, which enlisted Dr. Tezuka for creating animated films. Subsequently, in 1962, Tezuka departed from Toei to establish his own company, Mushi Production, and develop one of Japan’s initial animated television series. Nevertheless, the United States had already established a strong presence in both animated movies and television shows long before.

The art of animation has a rich history. James S. Blackton created the first animated film in 1906, shortly after Thomas Edison invented the movie projector. This was well before Tezuka’s time. However, animation itself predates this achievement. In fact, as early as 1645, Althanasius Kircher invented the magic lantern, a device that projected animation by moving a strip back and forth.

In around 1915, the animation industry started using celluloid sheets for a technique. These transparent plastic cels were painted on to layer multiple cels over a static background. Some animators continue to use this method presently. Walt Disney played a significant role in this field by creating the first sound-animation in 1928 and the first colored animation in 1932.

In 1937, Walt Disney achieved a remarkable milestone in the world of animation by creating “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” the first-ever full-length animated film. This groundbreaking movie not only enjoyed significant financial success but also holds great significance in the history of animation. It is important to recognize that during this time, many other skilled animators also made substantial contributions, working alongside Walt Disney to create numerous awe-inspiring works.

Japanese anime, although originating from American animation, is viewed by many Americans as a new and distinct form of animation. It is surprising how a significant number of Americans choose a cheap imitation rather than appreciating authentic content. These individuals claim that Japanese anime surpasses American animation in terms of quality and aesthetics. In their pursuit, they fail to recognize the treasure that exists within our own borders. The reality is that American animation offers a multitude of superior aspects, rendering anime insignificant in comparison.

When evaluating animation, it is vital to take into account various factors. First and foremost, visual quality should be examined since it is usually the initial aspect that viewers will perceive. It is essential to recognize that animation significantly contrasts with other art forms like drawing or painting, which mainly depict stationary images.

The primary emphasis of animation is not on portraying images, but instead on portraying motion. When examining a painting, the significance does not lie in the individual brushstrokes, but rather in their combination to form the artwork. This same principle can be applied to animation. While it comprises of pictures, its importance lies not in the pictures alone, but rather in how they are used within the animation. It is essential to distinguish between these separate art forms and evaluate them separately.

The first rule for aspiring animators is that each frame of animation must be easily recognizable at a quick glance. This is because animations move rapidly, with many frames per second. It is crucial not to let viewers miss any important details due to the speed of the animation.

In terms of drawing styles, Japanese and American approaches differ significantly. Japanese anime relies on sharp and jagged lines, whereas American drawings feature smooth and curvy lines. Both styles offer advantages. The prominent advantage of the Japanese method is that the sharp lines easily catch the viewer’s attention, ensuring clear distinguishability.

However, American animation features more life-like and natural smooth curves. In nature, organic objects are formed with curves. Additionally, animation is based on mathematical principles of curves, as I will explain later. The challenge is that it is more difficult to create distinct objects using curves compared to sharp lines. As a result, Japanese animation is much easier to produce than American animation.

The Japanese emphasize important details through the use of actual lines, while American animators must consider the overall picture. To address this challenge, American animators frequently conduct a “silhouette test” on their drawings. This test determines if the drawing is easily recognizable even when it is only in silhouette form.

The reason for this is because when a person sees a figure, their mind needs to recognize its shape and connect it to the action happening instantly. However, Japanese animation differs as its sharp and jagged lines create an unnatural appearance. As a result, your mind perceives something is distinctly amiss about the design.

The impact of this is to capture your attention and focus your gaze on it, creating a synthetic atmosphere in anime that some people find attractive. However, I personally think that this characteristic also suggests that anime is seen as a lower form of animation. It’s worth noting that the term “animation” originates from a Celtic word meaning “to be life-like”. Additionally, it’s important to mention that until recently, the Japanese language didn’t have its own word for animation and instead borrowed the term “anime” from French.

While anime commonly includes action lines to emphasize sudden changes in expression or any form of action, American art avoids their use, as the action should be evident without relying on decorative lines for viewer guidance.

When making an animation, it is crucial for it to independently captivate viewers, which can be more difficult than creating a comic book due to the need for pacing. Fortunately, American animators utilize diverse techniques to keep their audience engaged.

The main technique used in American animation to grab a viewer’s attention and get them ready for upcoming actions is known as anticipation. This technique works by giving the viewer’s mind a warning before a specific action takes place, allowing it to process and expect the action beforehand. In American animation, it can be observed that characters often anticipate getting hit in the face by reacting before the actual impact occurs. Likewise, when a character is about to start running, they may initially step backwards as a preliminary move. Furthermore, if a character is supposed to suddenly become angry, their facial expression may gradually transition through different stages before reaching its boiling point.

The principle can be applied to anything, including inanimate objects. A very exaggerated case of this is when WileE. Coyote walks off a cliff but doesn’t fall down until he realizes he’s standing on thin-air. The viewer already expects Mr. Coyote to plummet to his doom before it happens. However, the anticipation technique is usually very subtle when you’re watching it because it blends so seamlessly and naturally with the animation. This is because this technique is just one of the many techniques which the American artists have mastered and perfected, but the Japanese have not.

It is more effective than “action lines” and is based on an exaggerated version of Newton’s law stating that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Animation can be scientific, who knew? Additionally, there are other techniques used in American animation that make it more lifelike and pleasing to the eyes. These techniques are lacking in Japanese anime.

The “path of action” is a technique related to a character’s starting point, their desired destination, and the journey in between. Similar to stage crafting and camera techniques in live action, this aspect is not as well executed in anime compared to American animation.

One reason why American animation differs from Japanese animation is the use of curves in motion, particularly in the movement of hands and feet. In contrast, Japanese animation relies on sharp and jagged lines, restricting the freedom of movement and often requiring characters to contort their bodies into unrealistic shapes. Conversely, the use of curved motion in American animation creates a sense of fluidity and naturalness, making it appear more dynamic and lively.

In American animation, the time frame of action typically follows a curved trajectory, starting slow and gradually increasing in speed before slowing down again. This gives the animation a smooth and realistic feel, capturing your attention. Another technique employed in American animation is known as “squash and stretch”. This technique adds a rubber-like effect to the animation by showing how a body of mass expands or squeezes when acted upon by a force. This creates the illusion of a real, solid, and three-dimensional object, conveying its weight and mass.

Unfortunately, the use of this technique requires a roundish body of mass, making it incompatible with drawings featuring jagged lines. This limitation highlights the restrictive nature of the “anime style” in the long term.

There are two different styles of American animation: limited animation and full animation. Limited animation involves only parts of a character moving while the rest remains still, such as only the mouth moving while speaking. This style is commonly seen in syndicated cartoons and Saturday morning shows. On the other hand, full animation involves almost everything on the screen moving simultaneously. The movement is often synchronized with the actions of real actors to create a lifelike appearance.

This style is predominantly seen in Disney movies, although some animated cartoons that fall under limited animation incorporate elements of full animation. Japanese anime is known for its extreme use of limited animation, where everything on the screen except for the speaking character appears frozen in time. The other characters remain in the background, resembling zombies.

Even in the American version of animation, animators still pay attention to small details. If you take a closer look, you will notice characters blinking their eyes and fidgeting in the background of a regular cartoon. Although viewers may not consciously notice these details, their absence in anime becomes glaringly obvious. Animation, regardless of style, relies on movement to create a sense of realism.

Only Americans appear to comprehend the significance of this matter, possibly because a number of veteran animators were raised during a period when every frame of animation had to be painstakingly redrawn. This process was time-consuming and affectionate, but the gratification of witnessing the ultimate outcome made it worthwhile. American animators seem to uphold a self-imposed standard of excellence.

American animators have a deep understanding that animation is more than just narrating a story; it is about giving it liveliness! According to the renowned Chuck Jones, a child once told him, “You don’t draw Bugs Bunny. You draw pictures of Bugs Bunny.” Another aspect to consider when contrasting the visual excellence between Japanese anime and American animation is facial expressions. Cartoon characters are typically created as exaggerated caricatures of real-life individuals, which leads to the frequent usage of highly exaggerated facial expressions. Naturally, the specific types of expressions employed differ significantly between Japanese and American animation.

These expressions play a crucial role in adding emotions to the characters, thereby enhancing the realism of the animation. While some anime enthusiasts argue that anime offers a greater range of facial expressions compared to American animation, I personally find this theory unsubstantiated. American cartoons also employ hundreds of expressions, with nearly endless variations possible, thanks to the curve-based drawing technique unique to American animation.

Contrary to this, Japanese animes typically feature a limited range of facial expressions. This encompasses emotions such as happiness, shock, anger, and sadness, often portrayed through a single expression. In certain instances, anime characters may appear devoid of any emotion. Nevertheless, these expressions possess a penchant for catching the viewer’s attention and occasionally leave a lasting impact. Additionally, it is worth noting that some anime expressions are highly exaggerated and extreme.

In certain aspects, Japanese animation may enhance the emotional aspect, but it cannot surpass American animation in terms of facial expressions. Additionally, Japanese animation often has rougher transitions between facial expressions compared to American animation.

In addition to facial expressions, body postures can also provide valuable indications of emotions. The nuanced body posture of a character can reveal whether they are feeling relaxed, stressed, impatient, shy, brave, cowardly, aggressive, and much more. Psychologists have recognized this phenomenon for a while, and American animators typically excel at incorporating it into their animations. Unfortunately, the Japanese still have a lot to learn in this regard.

Proving otherwise may be a challenge, but to the best of my knowledge, the only way to discern the emotion of an anime character is through facial expressions. However, it’s worth noting that Japanese animation has one significant advantage. The utilization of colors and shading in Japanese anime tends to be more advanced compared to American animation. In this regard, it may appear that American animation has not progressed much beyond the Technicolor era. This is not due to a lack of skills or knowledge among Americans in creating proper shading.

In other art forms, such as comic book art, Americans utilize shading more effectively than the anime-style. The anime-style shading is a simplified version that typically uses only one color for highlights and one for shadows, unlike the more advanced shading techniques that incorporate blended colors. Nevertheless, it adds a visually pleasing element and creates atmospheric effects similar to those found in theatrical lighting.

Although the frequent use of anime-style animation can be bothersome, there are specific situations where a similar approach could work well in American animation. One obstacle in adopting this style is the additional time and expenses it would entail. Moreover, Americans have long understood that the fundamental principle of animation, known as “persistence of vision,” is most effective when using solid colors without intricate shading. When shading is extensively applied, the animation appears less fluid and necessitates higher frame rates to achieve the desired level of quality.

Overall, I believe that American animation fosters the essential aspect of its art form: the animation itself. The quality of the plot is important as well. While appearance is not everything, animation must ultimately offer value as a high-quality form of entertainment. It is worth noting that entertainment does not automatically equate to quality. Personal preferences, experiences, maturity, background, and mental state can all influence individuals differently.

However, by breaking down the concept of “quality” into commonly accepted standards and examining specific details related to them, it is possible to make a valid comparison. Alongside the visual quality of animation, other aspects that should be considered include voice acting, plot, storyline, and scripting. These factors may be more subjective, but the aim of this article is to explore popular beliefs and spark thoughts that may encourage readers to reach their own conclusions.

Why is it that people can find American animation entertaining with as little as five minutes of watching, while this is not the case for Japanese anime? This poses a question of simple logic for the numerous anime fans who are obsessed with trying to answer it. When someone states that they watched some anime but didn’t enjoy it because they couldn’t comprehend what was happening, an anime fan will respond by explaining that the individual needs to watch more of it in order to develop a liking for it.

The more time you spend watching it, the more you’ll like it. Of course, this holds true for almost anything! You can develop a liking for anything if you expose yourself to it for an extended period of time. Many fans of anime have dedicated hundreds of hours to watching anime. Nevertheless, a question still lingers. Why is it that I can watch a five-minute Looney Tunes short and comprehend as much action as I would in an entire episode of an anime series? Despite this, I can still understand what’s happening perfectly well. That’s what I consider a worthwhile use of time! Simply examine the works of Tex Avery and you’ll comprehend my point. However, if you were to randomly watch five minutes of any anime, there’s a 95% chance you’d witness a lackluster sequence.

Perhaps the aforementioned example is somewhat exaggerated, given that the majority of anime are presented as ongoing series. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge the conventional storylines prevalent in individual anime episodes. Typically, anime series adhere to a standardized format utilized to structure the plot of each episode. In the United States, formats are also employed to some degree (primarily in older sitcoms), but not to the same extent as in anime. It appears to me that most anime lack the unexpected plot developments, diverse narratives, and gripping tension that render American series enjoyable to watch.

It is too predictable and linear. Once you have watched a few episodes, the layout for the next episode becomes easy to guess. How many repeated plot ideas have you seen in the same anime series? A typical plot usually goes like this: good guys receive bad news, good guys find bad guys, good guys talk with bad guys, good guys go fight bad guys, something bad happens to good guys, good guys fight harder, good guys emerge victorious, but bad guys have the last laugh. This may sound boring, right? While you might think that you have seen similar things in American animation as well, the difference is that American storywriters usually add more elements to make it exciting. For example, there might be a few scenes of humor mixed in here and there.

Also, an American cartoon may adhere to a simple rule that the protagonists must always emerge victorious in the end, but the manner in which they achieve victory differs. In various episodes, the protagonists succeed using diverse methods, not solely through physical combat. This is referred to as ingenuity! The question then arises: why do Japanese anime episodes often feature slow-moving and uneventful plots? To comprehend this, let’s compare it to American animation. In American productions, numerous cheerful writers collaborate on individual episodes, consistently generating fresh and innovative ideas. These American writers enjoy the freedom to experiment and explore new concepts.

The episodes of some anime series may be disappointing, while others will be highly enjoyable. The storyline of these series constantly evolves as new creative ideas come to light. In Japan, it is common for one person to develop the concepts for most anime series. Frequently, the plot is outlined well before the actual creation of the anime. Additionally, many anime series are based entirely on manga storylines. Some fans believe that this approach gives Japanese series a greater sense of coherence compared to American series, although I have some reservations about this viewpoint.

Often in anime series, individual episodes contain numerous plot holes. These gaps occur when the plot is forced to progress in a specific direction without providing reasonable explanations for the transitions. The director may be aware of the need to move from point “A” to “C,” but there is no logical connection or point “B” in between. Additionally, new characters are often introduced solely as plot devices and then abruptly disappear, never to reappear again. At times, regular characters within anime series will behave in ways that are completely inconsistent with their established personalities. While some anime fans may argue that these character changes are due to their dynamic nature, the truth is that regular characters simply act out-of-character because they are necessary for advancing the plot in a specific manner.

The distinction between being dynamic and realistic characters is that realistic characters evolve gradually over time, rather than suddenly and without reason. This is simply human nature. In terms of American-based plots, the continuity generally works well despite having different writers for different episodes. This is because there is a hierarchical system of “checks and balances” in place during the production of each episode.

Generally speaking, the quality of individual episodes in American series surpasses that of Japanese series. Additionally, American series tend not to continue for as long as anime series. When the creative inspiration dries up, it signals the conclusion of an American series. In contrast, many anime series persist for numerous seasons even after they have become worn-out and exhausted. This is primarily due to the producers continuing to profit from the dedicated fan base who eagerly support anything associated with the series.

Another question that arises is why Japanese anime so openly displays the emotions of its characters. Is it necessary to explicitly convey emotions to the audience, treating them as children? In a well-written script, one should be able to perceive the emotions independently, without relying on the character’s assistance.

Does a character always have to display breakdowns and tears just because a sad moment occurs? What if a character needs to convey their emotions by explicitly stating how they feel? For instance, an anxious character may say something like, “I really hope everything will be okay.” Now, some of you might think this contradicts my previous statement – that animated characters are naturally emotional. However, simply showing a character displaying emotions in a clichéd manner with J-pop music in the background is not sufficient. Have you ever heard of dramatic irony? Additionally, there are certain factors that enhance the enjoyment of American animation for American viewers, which cannot be fairly judged based on quality alone.

What about the absence of pop-culture references in Japanese animes that are commonly seen in American cartoons? Personally, I believe that Japanese idiosyncrasies and folklore cannot replace this aspect. Additionally, there is the issue of voice acting. While it is widely agreed upon that English dubs of animes are usually terrible, there doesn’t seem to be any other alternative.

The non-Japanese-speaking anime fans often claim that the voice acting is superior in the original versions. However, it is questionable how they can make such a judgment if they cannot comprehend the language. Listening to incomprehensible dialogue accompanied by words flashing on the screen is akin to being deaf. Certain individuals appreciate anime because it contains more violence and sexual content compared to American animation. Anime also explores topics like death, which many American cartoons tend to avoid. However, this does not inherently make anime better. In fact, it should not be a matter of contention at all. What truly matters in assessing anime’s quality is its plot and the development of its characters.

When it comes to character development, both Japanese and American cartoons often have a lot of “flat characters.” However, I don’t find it realistic when characters drop dead suddenly. Regardless, I believe characters should have distinct and easily recognizable traits that make them unique. In Japanese anime, however, many characters are based on exaggerated Japanese stereotypes, some of which are confusing and irritating.


Here it is, presenting the strengths of American animation and highlighting the flaws in the anime style used in Japanese animation. Although some may find these flaws tolerable, it is important to realize that you don’t have to accept them. If you want to find quality animation, there is no need to import videos from across the Pacific Ocean – it is right here in America. Funny enough, you may have overlooked it, but it still exists! While Japan may offer more options, that can change. All you need to do is show support for the many talented animators we have here and keep their dreams alive. Animation is the only major art form that originated in America!

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