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The Japanese word for "animation," anime (pronounced ANNee-may) is a general term for any animated image or cartoon. It refers more specifically to the modern animation industry in Japan, with its prolific output of television (see entry under 1940s—TV and Radio in volume 3) programs, video games (see entry under 1970s—Sports and Games in volume 4), and computer software. These products tend to feature strong fantasy-based story lines that often reflect the escapist dreams of ordinary people. Observers have pointed out that the characters in Japanese anime are more closely related to their real-world fans than are the distant superheroes of American cartoons, who inhabit a universe that is removed from everyday experience. Popular anime series like Doraemon (1979–) and Ranma12 (1989–) focus on the everyday lives of students and workers who live shadow lives alongside their normal existences.

Anime was relatively unknown in the United States before the 1980s, though a notable exception was the popular Speed Racer (see entry under 1960s—TV and Radio in volume 4) series of the 1960s. Anime has since become a popular source of entertainment. The Internet (see entry under 1990s—The Way We Lived in volume 5) culture of the 1990s allowed fans around the world to play the latest anime games or view new images as soon as they were made available. Pokémon (1997–; see entry under 1990s—The Way We Lived in volume 5), with its array of card collections, games, and videos, is the most popular anime-derived image among American fans. Since the late 1990s, several producers have been releasing English-language anime for the domestic film and video markets, including Miramax's critically acclaimed Princess Mononoke (1997). Thousands of anime clubs have sprung up to share information and exchange releases, some of them pirated.

Japan has a centuries-old tradition of cartoonlike images, including caricatures and humorous drawings with sparse lines and stylized features. In the electronic age, anime producers got much of their material from contemporary Japanese comic books, or manga, which are written for adults as well as for children. Some of the adult-oriented manga have far more explicit descriptions of sex and violence than are common in the United States. Other manga evoke Disney (see entry under 1920s—Film and Theater in volume 2) films with their romantic or picturesque situations. Japanese anime is also noted for its artful use of sound effects and for its ever present and sympathetic portrayal of technology, a style that is often downplayed in American cartoons.

—Edward Moran

For More Information

Harcoff, Pete. The Anime Critic. (accessed April 2, 2002).

Kim, Michael. Japanese Animation (Anime) on the WWW. (accessed April 2, 2002).

Ledoux, Trish, ed. Anime Interviews: The First Five Years of Animerica, Anime & Manga Monthly (1992–97). San Francisco: Cadence Books, 1997.

McCarthy, Helen. The Anime Movie Guide: Movie-by-Movie Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1983. London: Titan Books, 1996.

Poitras, Gilles. The Anime Companion: What's Japanese in Japanese Animation. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press, 1999.

Poitras, Gilles. Anime Essentials: Every Thing a Fan Needs to Know. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press, 2001.