Japanese form of animation assessment

Anime is, in essence, the Japanese form of animation. In general, it is characterized by extremely stylized and colorful graphics, and the use of vivacious and vibrant colors. The graphics used depict energetic and effervescent characters that are set in a large number of scenes and settings. The storylines used too are numerous, and comprise a large variety, and they are aimed at a variety of different types of audiences. (Definition, Anime) In English, the word ‘anime’ actually transliterates a Japanese term, and its history of origin can be traced back to the abbreviation of the transliteration of the English word ‘animation’, into Japanese. Initially, the word ‘Japanimation’ was used to describe anime, and today, it is also referred to as ‘manga’. The word ‘manga’ in Japanese generally refers to both animation and comics. (Anime, terminology)

Anime features in a large number of genres and some of them are adventure, science fiction, live action, romance, erotica and at times, medieval fantasy and the occult, and the horror. Most of the time, however, anime would include two or more of these genres in one work, and this work is more often than not of a strictly commercial nature. The producers and marketers of anime aim at a certain specific audience, which generally would include focused categories meant for boys, also ‘shonen’, and girls, also ‘shojo’. At times, teenagers and adults too would be targeted. (Anime, characteristics) ‘Hentai’ is yet another genre of anime, and this is primarily meant for adult audiences. Hentai is the literal translation of the Japanese term for perversions, and it generally refers to sexually explicit anime. (Anime: Hentai)

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Why has anime been so very successful? How has it become globalized today? A major part of the reason for the popularity of anime is that it has managed to spread all throughout the world, and everyone knows what it is. As in the general case where something that spreads all over the world quite naturally becomes a global phenomenon, global recognition and fame means that anime has now become a global occurrence and it is well loved by people other than form whose nation it originally was created. One must study the extent of the globalization of anime based on the amount of permeation or penetration into other societies that it has managed to achieve in recent times. This also means that one must look carefully at and analyze the numerous factors involved in why exactly anime became a global phenomenon, and this would in turn mean that one would be able to comprehend how it became so very popular among a large variety of people, all over the world. One must now understand the age old practice of using ‘subs’ and ‘dubs’, which are short forms of subtitles and dubbing. The processes involved in coming up with appropriate subtitles and for dubbing in a suitable and appropriate voice for the characters must never be underestimated, and another important fact to remember is that the basic appeal and charm of a particular character comes from the acting of the voice, or the dubbing, behind it. This ‘voice acting’ is in fact hidden behind the animated ‘mask’ of the character of the anime. (Animel Info. Org, Lesson 1)

The very nature of the sub, in an anime, is based on the essence of the character. In general, the subs in the anime preserve the original Japanese format, even though it is being translated into the language desired. This means that not only would the language be translated, but so would the songs, the titles, the on-screen characters, and so on. One important advantage of using subs is that the original audio would be preserved, and the audience would be able to actually listen to their favorite characters conversing in their mother tongue, while at the same time understanding what is happening on the screen, because of the subs. (Animel Info. Org, Lesson 2)

However when one feels that they cannot follow subs while at the same time concentrating on the action taking place on screen, then one must think of using dubs, which in other words means that one must use one’s own native language and overlay it on the anime’s language. Today, most professionals in the field of anime have made significant progress in dubbing, and gone are the days when characters would move their mouths while the dialogue on screen would have stopped running a long while ago. Synchronized dubbing is today progressing, and most producers of anime are today extremely proficient in this aspect of popularizing anime all over the world, and thus making it a global phenomenon. The basic and most important advantage of using a dub is that one gets the feeling that one is watching the anime in one’s own native language, without the inevitable distractions of having to watch out for subtitles while engrossed in the actions on screen. (Animel Info. Org, Lesson 3)

In addition, dubs have made it infinitely easier for an individual to be introduced to anime for the first time, and are a lot less intimidating for that person, because he does not have to feel that he is watching an alien or a foreign film, which he would not understand at all. One perfect example of this is the ‘Toonami’ that is aired on ‘Cartoon Network’, in various parts of the world. Without dubs, this may not have been possible at all. However, one disadvantage of using dubbing for the characters of the anime is that one is at the mercy of the translators, who may or may not do a good job of the translation of the original Japanese version into any other language. (Animel Info. Org, Lesson 3)

It was in the year 2003 that the development and the growth of Japanese culture, especially in relation to anime, or Japanese animation, was reviewed and re-evaluated. This was also the year in which the Japanese anime fans celebrated the fictional Birthday of the fictional character ‘Astro Boy’, and also the year in which the contract was signed for the creation of a brand new Hollywood series based on a Japanese anime. The year 2003 was also the year in which the anime film, ‘Spirited Away’, by Miyazaki Hayao happened to win the coveted Academy Award. Therefore, it can be stated that this was the most important year for the medium known as anime, since this was the year that it managed to gain a foothold into the global arena, with recognition and accolades coming its way that same year, from all over the world. (Yoshida, 2004)

Anime has a place in the global arena of today, and is today also a part of the globalized cultural industry. What it does is that it relates the children’s media industry to the various other national cultures of the world. One important aspect of the globalization of anime lies in the fact that national identities are being shaped by the numerous power sifts and the changing dynamics that have been brought in through regionalization or localization. In particular, children’s media is a fantasy that is constructed by animation, and this in fact is what has made it so very popular. Theodore Levitt states that a global marketing strategy is what would ultimately lead to the development of a sort of cultural convergence, and when this has been achieved, and then it would mean that anime would be able to penetrate even more of the global market. In essence, Japanese anime is a sort of a hybridized product, because of the capability exhibited by Japan in importing in an extremely selective manner, while at the same time demonstrating an ability to retain much of its core national and cultural identity. (Yoshida, 2004)

In short it can be said that Japanese anime has become a global phenomenon because of its interactions with Disney or in other words, American hegemony and supremacy, and Asian regionalism. For example, when the parent of an American child were to sit down and take notice, then he would have to face the fact that for the past few years, his child has in fact become completely enamored of Japanese culture, through the very cute and charming animes that are aired regularly on all the poplar children’s television channels. This comes as a shock because until today, American domination and its predominance over other cultures in terms of popularity, especially in the global and world wide market, was recognized. Today, however, it seems that the Japanese anime has gained in popularity even over the most poplar American cartoons, and the various theories of American or in other words, Western cultural imperialism are not able to satisfactorily explain the rising of the anime phenomenon in their culture.

Susan Napier stresses on the fact that anime is indeed becoming more and more poplar in the global stage, and she states that this needs to be investigated. She also stated that the medium has indeed become a major cultural force in the world today, and is therefore involved in several important issues concerning globalization as well as localization. Kusanagi Satoshi states that the so called ‘anime’ phenomenon did not, in fact, rise up all of a sudden within the past few years; in fact, it has been slowly developing over a longer period of time, perhaps from the 1960’s onwards. This was the time that very many Japanese shows were in reality produce with such a clearly American style that the final product came to be labeled as an American one, despite the fact that they were really Japanese. What this means is that in a world where American domination of mass culture has more often than not been taken for granted, anime was one art form that began to be recognized for its very cultural resistance. In other words, anime is an art form that has very true Japanese roots, but still manages to exert an extremely wide influence on large areas beyond its natural boundaries. (Yoshida, 2004)

As a matter of fact, the film scholar Susan Pointon has said that this particular medium has a very definite unique and original style which makes hitherto unacceptable narratives possible, to the ever widening American and other world wide global audiences. Numerous anime fans have also stated that this is exactly the reason why they do like this particular genre so much; that is; it is quite unlike the traditional American art forms that they have been used to, and is ‘exotic, different’, and is completely un-American, and a change from the usual ‘candy coated’ Walt Disney films that they had been watching.

In addition, anime can be watched by anybody, at any age, and all the plots of an anime form try to be as different from each other as possible. Its aesthetic standards are very different and distinct from those films that are generally produced in the Western part of the world, and this makes it even more interesting to the people of the West, and to filmmakers like for example, Walt Disney, which reflect American values. Today, anime fans have in fact formed a community of their own, and they all share a similar critical appreciation of the various qualities of anime. Anime has thus successfully managed to blur the boundaries between the West and the non-West audiences, and it is also stated that Japan has incorporated itself into American soil through anime. (Yoshida, 2004)

When the 2002 Academy Award for the ‘Best Animated Feature’ was awarded to Hayao Miyazaki, the master Japanese animator, for his film ‘Spirited Away’, two important facts came to the notice of filmmakers in America and in the West in general, and these were that, for one, Japanese films were now becoming viable commercially in the West, and secondly, Japanese anime films were of first rate quality and were of excellent craftsmanship. Anime, however, did not just leap over to the Western film world; rather, anime became a very important part of Cartoon Network, a children’s television channel, and also on Tech TV, and on other cable TV networks, which recognized its importance. Comic books base on anime are also, today, extremely popular, especially among children. Anime became a ‘worldwide cultural phenomenon’, and became recognized for its excellent features. (Hollywood heads East, the business of Japanese animation and comics)

Today, in Japan, more than half of all the numerous movies made there are all based on anime, and do not involve live action with real flesh and blood characters. Dr. Susan Napier, the Mitsubishi Professor of Japanese Studies in the Department of Asian Studies in the College of Liberal Arts, relates her experience of seeing her very first comic Japanese book named ‘Akira’, which was later made into a film. She says that it was almost a ‘visceral experience’ for her, because of the intensity of the experience that she enjoyed when she viewed the film Akira in America. Anime today is the only real alternative to American culture available, and Japanese anime is sturdily making inroads into American pop culture, and has become even more popular than the traditional art forms in America, and in other parts of the Western world. (An anime explosion: The University of Texas at Austin)

Therefore, to say that Japanese anime has had a tremendous impact on American culture is a big understatement, and this is evident right from the 1960’s, when the ever popular Astroboy character was created, right up to 2002, when Spirited Away won the Academy Award. When Akira became a resounding success, the result was that efforts were made to bridge the existing gap between Western films and the Japanese ones. One of the more popular evidence of these efforts is the ‘Ghost in the Shell’, an extremely dark and violent film set in a sort of a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk landscape. It was at this same time that the computer and animated graphics started to fuse together, and this gradually paved the way to the silver screen. Blue Submarine Number 6, Macross Plus, and the Final Fantasy were all the popular video games that followed, and two different mediums were mixed in these games, and this was nothing new to the genre of anime. (Big in Japan, the Impact of anime)

It is often stated that it is these games and the stunningly dramatic and eye-catching animations that they exhibited that led to studios such as Pixar and Dreamworks to creating their computer animated comedies. However, it must be remembered at this point that Disney, with its huge budget for making animated films, has been quite unsuccessful in comparison to the small budget anime of Japan, and today, Disney has managed to purchase all the rights to the works of the Japanese anime master, Hayao Miyazaki, and has been in the process of gradually releasing them to the American public. Some of these works are Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoru, and Castle in the Sky, all Hayao Miyazaki’s works. Therefore, it is quite evident that American films are today attempting to incorporate the aesthetics of Japanese anime, and some other such films are ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ by director John Singleton, and other films by directors like James Cameron and Guillermo Del Toro.

Anime it is clearly evident, will continue to exert its influence on American and especially Hollywood films, and a large number of anime classics are slated for release in America, like for example, Dragonball, by Twentieth Century Fox, and Battle Angel Alta, an epic of immense proportions by James Cameron. However, this in no way means that anime films in the original Japanese will not be produced in its original form any more; rather, it will continue to be made in the same way as before, with the only difference being that now there is a world wide market and also a very appreciative world wide audience for it. (Big in Japan, the Impact of anime)

There is a wide consensus that anime is today becoming more and more commoditized. Perhaps the reason for this occurrence is that these anime shows are all hyped up to a large extent even before they are released, and they are then meant to sell as a mere commodity. This in turn means that the quality is most definitely compromised, and the result becomes a poor version of the original aesthetically appealing Japanese anime. Today, the large quantity of anime titles available in the America market means that one single anime title cannot dominate the market, and this in turn means that it is the outstanding ones that can stand out, while the rest just fade into oblivion. Making something into a saleable commodity has this type of undesirable result more often than not, and this is exactly what has happened to anime today. (Ask John, why are recent anime disappointing?) The world wide marketing of anime is also extremely important in determining how the product will sell in the long run. One of the foremost marketing companies of anime is the ‘Manga Entertainment Inc.’, which specializes in the distribution of Japanese anime for theatres, for television, internet, DVD’s, and for home video releases. Aggressive marketing is the watch word of this team of marketers. (About Manga)

It was on the thirteenth of May 2004 that Manga Entertainment was acquired by a company called IDT Entertainment, and this film company would be able to specialize in an aggressive marketing of the Japanese anime. IDT Entertainment is a subsidiary of IDT Corporation, the multinational carrier and Telephony Company. However, it must be stated that it was Manga’s efforts that made anime reach where it is today, since the time in 1991 when it was established in London, UK, in order to facilitate the distribution of anime outside of Japan. Today, IDT has established itself as a world wide leader in anime distribution and marketing, and is also one of the top producers of animated films. Now that it has acquired Manga, it will definitely enjoy a foothold on the anime market emerging out of Japan. This in turn will mean that the company would be able to create and develop as well as co-produce numerous titles that are at present emerging, and make them suitable for world over broadcast and distribution. (IDT Entertainment acquires Manga Entertainment)

There are other companies too which are in the process of trying to acquire the rights to the Japanese anime genre of films that are being produced, and since it has become a well recognized fact that anime is one of the most popular art forms today, preferred by many individuals, as a very real alternative to the existing American popular culture of today, these companies would be able to harvest the profits from the aggressive marketing techniques that they would use in order to sell this form of art to a world wide audience. Therefore, it must be stated that anime is here to stay.

References

About Manga” Retrieved at http://www.manga.com/about.html. Accessed 6 August, 2005

An anime explosion” The University of Texas at Austin Retrieved at http://www.utexas.edu/features/archive/2004/anime.html. Accessed 6 August, 2005

Anime, characteristics” Retrieved at http://encyclopedia.laborlawtalk.com/Anime#Characteristics. Accessed 5 August, 2005

Anime: Hentai” Retrieved at http://anime.about.com/library/glossary/bldef_hentai.htm. Accessed 5 August, 2005

Animel Info. Org, Lesson 1″ Retrieved at http://www.animeinfo.org/animeu/ling102-l1.html. Accessed 5 August, 2005

Animel Info. Org, Lesson 2″ Retrieved at http://www.animeinfo.org/animeu/ling102-l2.html. Accessed 5 August, 2005

Anime, terminology” Retrieved at http://encyclopedia.laborlawtalk.com/Anime#TerminologyAccessed 5 August, 2005

Ask John, why are recent anime disappointing?” (15 February, 2005) Retrieved at http://www.animenation.net/news/askjohn.php?id=1038Accessed 6 August, 2005

Definition, Anime” Retrieved at http://encyclopedia.laborlawtalk.com/AnimeAccessed 5 August, 2005

Hollywood heads East, the business of Japanese animation and comics” Retrieved at http://www.international.ucla.edu/asia/article.asp?parentid=5029. Accessed 6 August, 2005

IDT Entertainment acquires Manga Entertainment” (13 May, 2005) Retrieved at http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/pressrelease.php?id=361. Accessed 6 August, 2005

Quaglia, Marc. “Big in Japan, the Impact of anime” Retrieved at http://sil.mcmaster.ca/Archive/andy/041125andyanime.html. Accessed 6 August, 2005

Sanchez, Frank. “Animel Info. Org, Lesson 3” Retrieved at http://www.animeinfo.org/animeu/ling102-l3.html. Accessed 5 August, 2005

Yoshida, Kaori. (February 5-7, 2004) “Issues in Children’s media as Glob/calized Cultural

Industry” A paper presented at the Graduate Student Research Conference; “Asia Pacific: Local Knowledge vs. Western Theory,” hosted by the Institute of Asian Research and the Centre for Japanese Research at The University of British Columbia. Retrieved at http://www.iar.ubc.ca/centres/cjr/publications/grad2004/KaoriYoshida.pdf. Accessed 5 August, 2005

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