Anime is an abbreviation of the word “animation”. Outside Japan, the term most popularly refers to animation originating in Japan. To the West, not all animation is considered anime; and anime is considered a subset of animation.
While some anime is hand drawn, computer assisted animation techniques have become quite common in recent years. Like any entertainment medium, the story lines represent most major genres of fiction. Anime is broadcast on television, distributed on media such as DVD and VHS, and included in computer and video games. Additionally, some are produced as full length motion pictures. Anime often draws influence from Japanese manga and light novels. Some anime storylines have been adapted into live action films and television series.
The history of anime begins at the start of the 20th century, when Yamamoto experimented with the animation techniques that were being explored in France, Germany, United States and Russia.
Animation became popular in Japan as it provided an alternative format of storytelling compared to the underdeveloped live-action industry in Japan. Unlike America, where live-action shows and movies have generous budgets, the live-action industry in Japan is a small market and suffered from budgeting, location, and casting restrictions. The lack of Western-looking actors, for example, made it next to impossible to shoot films set in Europe, America, or fantasy worlds that do not naturally involve Asians. The varied use of animation allowed artists to create characters and settings that did not look Japanese at all.
During the 1970s, there was a surge of growth in the popularity of manga comics — which were often later animated — especially those of Osamu Tezuka, who has been called a “legend” and the “god of manga”. As a result of his work and that of other pioneers in the field, anime developed characteristics and genres that are fundamental elements of the art today. The giant robot genre (known as “mecha” outside Japan), for instance, took shape under Tezuka, developed under Go Nagai and others, and was revolutionized at the end of the decade by Yoshiyuki Tomino. Robot anime like Gundam and Macross became instant classics in the 80s, and the robot genre of anime is still one of the most popular in Japan and worldwide today. In the 1980s, anime was accepted in the mainstream in Japan, and experienced a boom in production (It should be noticed that, Manga has significantly more mainstream exposure than anime in Japan). The mid-to-late ’90s, on into the 2000s, saw an increased acceptance of anime in overseas markets.
Anime has many genres typically found in any mass media form. Such genres include action, adventure, children’s stories, comedy, drama, erotica (hentai), medieval fantasy, occult/horror, romance, and science fiction.
Most anime includes content from several different genres, as well as a variety of thematic elements. This can make it difficult to categorize some titles by genres. A show may have a seemingly simple surface plot, but at the same time may feature a far more complex, deeper storyline and character development. It is not uncommon for an action themed anime to also involve humor, romance, and even social commentary. The same can be applied to a romance themed anime in that it may involve an action element, or in some cases brutal violence.
The following is a list of the major genres and designations that are specific to anime and manga.
- Bishōjo: Japanese for ‘beautiful girl’, blanket term that can be used to describe any anime that features pretty girl characters, for example Magic Knight Rayearth.
- Bishōnen: Japanese for ‘beautiful boy’ blanket term that can be used to describe any anime that features “pretty” and elegant boys and men, for example Fushigi Yūgi and most CLAMP shows.
- Ecchi: Derived from the pronunciation of the letter ‘H,’the first letter of the word ‘Hentai’. Japanese for ‘indecent sexuality’. Contains mild sexual humor, and some fan service, for example Love Hina and He Is My Master.
- Hentai: Japanese for ‘abnormal’ or ‘perverted’, and used by Western Audiences to refer to pornographic anime or erotica. However, in Japan the term used to refer to the same material is typically Poruno or Ero. Example: La Blue Girl, MeruPuri.
- Josei: Japanese for ‘young woman’, this is anime or manga that is aimed at young women, and is one of the rarest forms. Example: NANA.
- Kodomo: Japanese for ‘child’, this is anime or manga that is aimed at young children, for example Doraemon. Hello Kitty, Keropi and Panda-Z are other examples.
- Robot/Mecha: Anime or manga featuring super robots, examples: Mobile Suit Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion.
- Moé: Anime or manga featuring characters that are extremely perky or cute, for example A Little Snow Fairy Sugar and Akazukin Chacha.
- Progressive: “Art films” or extremely stylized anime, for example Voices of a Distant Star or Byōsoku 5 Centimetre.
- Seinen: Anime or manga targeted at teenage or young male adults, for example Oh My Goddess!, Outlaw Star and Cowboy Bebop.
- Sentai/Super Sentai: Literally “fighting team” in Japanese, refers to any show that involves a superhero team, for example Cyborg 009.
- Shōjo: Japanese for ‘young lady’ or ‘little girl’, refers to anime or manga targeted at girls, for example Fruits Basket, “Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch”
- Mahō shōjo: Subgenre of shōjo known for ‘Magical Girl’ stories, for example Sailor Moon.
Shōnen: Japanese for ‘boys’, Shōnen is like Seinen, but refers to anime or manga targeted at younger boys, for example Dragon Ball Z or Naruto .
- Mahō shōnen: Male equivalent of Mahō Shōjo, for example DNAngel.
- Shōjo-ai/yuri: Japanese for ‘girl-love’, refers to anime or manga that focus on love and romance between female characters, for example Revolutionary Girl Utena and Kannazuki no Miko. It is often being replaced by the term “Girls Love” (GL).
- Shōnen-ai/Yaoi: Japanese for ‘boy-love’, refers to anime or manga that focus on love and romance between male characters. The term “Shōnen-ai” is being phased out in Japan due to its other meaning of pederasty, and is being replaced by the term “Boys Love” (BL). An example of this style is Loveless.