What is anime?

A short introduction

“Anime” describes an animated show or movie of Japanese origin. Outside Japan, the market for anime is relatively small, but inside the country it’s a multi-billion dollar industry. There are anime toys and merchandise, and a huge fan base. Of the thousands of animated series produced in Japan, only a few make it to foreign countries. Many excellent shows are never translated or licensed to be screened outside Japan – and that’s a real shame!


Lots of people have a very distorted idea of anime – mostly due to simple ignorance. They think anime is either Japanese children’s cartoons, or that it’s pornography. And because it’s not very popular in Western countries, some people simply know nothing about it. This site takes a look at the most famous anime prejudices.

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ANIME IS NOT JUST PORN

"You watch anime? Ewwww..."

Sadly, this is one of the biggest misconceptions. No: anime definitely doesn’t refer to cartoon porn, at least not primarily. An anime is an ordinary, animated film or animated show (well-known examples include Pokémon or Spirited Away), often based on a previously published manga or light novel. It’s that simple.


There are, of course, dozens of anime genres aimed at almost any imaginable audience. Examples include harem, yuri, and mecha. And, yes, there is also a genre called hentai, which is essentially what you might call "cartoon porn" – but it would be a mistake to equate all anime with hentai. After all, live-action television also features porn. Think how ridiculous it would be to claim that all live-action shows are porn! In the same way, assuming that all anime is porn is, quite simply, wrong.


"... so you watch animated porn?"

You shouldn’t assume that someone who watches anime also watches animated porn (or porn generally). Neither should you lump anime and animated porn together: the two are totally different subjects. Seeing them as the same thing is like assuming that someone who likes Will Smith movies must also watch porn featuring Will Smith lookalikes. But I don’t want to turn this into a discussion of porn preferences. Just remember: Hentai is merely a genre. Not everyone who loves anime also watches anime porn. PPS: Don't forget Rule #34

Anime is not mainly about schoolgirls in skirts

Manga iconography

Anime makes use of a range of stylistic devices with different cultural backgrounds. For example, many public and private schools in Japan require their students to wear school uniform. Some schools are known for their particular uniform, and these cultural references play a prominent role in anime and manga. With this in mind, you shouldn’t be too surprised to see schoolgirls wearing skirts if you watch an anime set in a school.


There is a belief that all female anime characters have (unrealistically) huge breasts. It’s true that this reflects one Japanese ideal of a woman – mainly because most Japanese women have a petite, almost boyish physique – so it is sometimes used in anime and manga. Nonetheless, you won't often come across these big-breasted characters outside the specialist hentai or ecchi genres.

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Girl thinking of lolicon

Anime is not childporn

Anime and underage girls

Just as there is a hentai genre, there is also a genre which features underage or childish-looking girls, often portrayed in an "erotic-cute" manner. This is called lolicon. Its resemblance to illustrated child pornography makes lolicon fairly controversial. It’s important to remember that anime in this genre are pure fantasy – they are not at all comparable to films featuring real actors – and they often play out in unrealistic settings. Just as not all anime and manga fans like hentai, they don’t all like lolicon, either. The markets for both genres are very small, and anime of this kind are not usually screened on television or in movie theaters.

ANIME IS NOT ONLY FOR KIDS

Anime is more than Pokémon

Many anime and mangas deal with very disturbing settings, images and psychology, and include a great deal of gore. If you go beyond Digimon or Pokémon in your exploration of anime, you’ll see that it’s neither dumb nor boring: in fact, anime can be fascinating and create a truly thrilling atmosphere. Many people feel more emotionally affected by anime and manga than by live-action characters in mainstream Hollywood movies. This is mainly because anime has a bolder production style and offers unlimited storytelling possibilities.


Anime is not childish

Anime can be anything from shockingly serious to side-splittingly hilarious. Just because anime are not filmed like “normal” movies with real actors, this doesn’t mean they’re only for kids. While Western cartoons are mostly targeted at children, Japanese animated shows simply make use of a particular production style which has evolved from, and reflects, Japan’s unique cultural background. In fact, anime sometimes deal with content that would be rated “R” in the United States and with stories that have a lot more emotional depth than many of the mainstream shows screened on US television. In short: don’t assume anime is childish just because you used to watch Western cartoons when you were a kid.

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So what did we learn today?

Anime simply uses a different production style which might seem strange to Western viewers but is well-known in Japanese culture. If this style doesn’t appeal to you and you prefer "real", live-action movies over animated shows, that’s fine – but it’s not a reason to judge people who like anime. It’s very frustrating for an anime fan when people only associate anime with porn and Pokémon. As I’ve explained above, anime is more than just porn, it’s not only for kids, and it covers a whole range of genres aimed at just about every conceivable audience. So just accept it! Even if anime fans sometimes prefer 2D animations over live-action shows, that doesn’t mean they reject the "real world".

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How to contribute

Like & share

Spread this website via Twitter, “like” our Facebook page, discuss it online and, if there’s anyone who annoys you with their prejudices towards anime – tell them about it! Even if we can’t change everyone’s minds, our aim is to encourage people to be a bit more accepting of anime.


Link to Us!

If you have a blog, page, fansub-group, or if you're publisher of anime or manga and want to participate in this project, just link to this page on your website. This is not limited to websites located in the U.S.


Other support

If you have any ideas, suggestions or modifications, or you would like to participate in other ways, feel free to get in touch with me via e-mail. All suggestions and tips are welcome!

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