Welcome, newcomers of anime!
So, you’re new to anime and you have some questions. What is it? Where did it originate from? Is anime for me? Most importantly, let’s tackle the meaning of the word ‘anime’. The term ‘anime’ is defined differently in various parts of the world. For example, in Japan, anime is used to describe all types of animation, while in America, anime is defined as ‘a style of animation developed in Japan’.
Though the origin of the term is uncertain, there are two popular possibilities; some believe it either originates from the French term dessin animé, meaning ‘cartoon’, while others believe it stems from the way the Japanese write the English term “animation” in katakana as アニメーション (animēshon), from which the term アニメ (anime) emerged in the 1970s as an abbreviation.
Literal meanings aside, an anime is usually an animated version of a manga, which is essentially a Japanese comic book or graphic novel, although not every anime has an associating manga. A typical anime will follow the story set within the relating manga, closely following archetypes that you may come to recognize while watching various anime series. For example, throughout many shows, you may see Power Ranger allusions. Another common archetype is that of Mecha, or giant robot; Gundam is a good example. Unlike an American cartoon where the actions or decisions of the characters do not usually carry into the following episode, anime series work oppositely; a story in an anime will progress over a series in the same way a non-animated television show would progress, creating an awesome story to follow. The only downside (hardly) is the agonizing anticipation experienced while waiting for the next episode to air!
There are usually common Japanese cultural references and traditions in the shows that most foreign viewers won’t pick up on. Japanese traditions or allusions are common in an anime; however, the average viewer may not catch the reference. To offer perspective: if a TV show in America referenced a Greek god or fable – Hercules, for example – most Americans would immediately recognize the reference; however, if you were to present the reference to someone in Japan, they may have no clue what you are discussing.
Though many anime series have imaginative themes, such as giant futuristic robots, magic, or demons, there are anime series based in “reality”, containing just average people facing normal problems, such as Ichigo 100%. Commonly, an anime will contain a specific number of episodes, such as 12 or 25; but these series run’s can also vary. For example, Death Note, a popular anime both in Japan and the US has 37 episodes. There are also many on-going shows with an undeterminable number of episodes per run, such as Bleach, One Piece, or Naruto Shippuden.
You will often find popular anime series featuring hundreds of episodes, spanning a number of years in production. Each episode of an anime varies depending on the type of show; most often, they are about 22-25 minutes long, allowing room for commercials and such during their television debut. Unfortunately, some of the longer running series contain either filler episodes, or filler arcs. These are episodes, or arcs which have no relevance to the main plot. They are, for the most part, hated by the anime community because they are sometimes really stupid and last way too long. Despite the fillers, anime fans often find themselves falling in love with a show, leading to “anime binges”, where you’ll watch episode after episode for several hours and wonder where your day went. This is normal.
So, is anime for you? Well, if you enjoy getting lost in a series full of fantasy, comedy, and amazing Dragonball Z-like fight scenes where they shouldn’t be able to become more powerful and then two minutes later they went from breaking rocks to warping space-time, then yes, anime is for you!
Not sure which types of anime you would enjoy? We recommend trying various types of anime, which we will explore in part two of our Introduction to Anime editorial! Try out several different shows, or read the plot on Wikipedia and find out if it interests you. As for my personal recommendations, why not try out some of these: Bleach, Naruto Shippuden, Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist, and InuYasha. They are really good shows that a first timer, or anyone who hasn’t seen them, would really enjoy. Anime is full of action, adventure, fantasy, psychological warfare, demons, magic, and much more… so have fun, and who knows, you may become an anime otaku too!
Feel free to check out the Introduction to Anime: Part 2 post now up on the site.