Identify the Difference Between Anime and Cartoons

Edited by Yuliya, Anonymous

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What's the difference between cartoons and anime?


On the surface, cartoons and anime appear quite similar. In fact, anime is a type of cartoon originating in Japan, which is characterized by a distinct style, culture, and history. The term anime comes from the abbreviation of Animation, and in Japanese is used to describe all animations from anywhere in the world, while the rest of the world uses it to refer specifically to Japanese animations. The style has evolved and flourished in the past century.

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How to identify anime


If you grew up watching morning cartoons like Pokemon or Dragon Ball Z, you've already been exposed to anime. Some anime has made its way into mainstream Western culture, known by many in the US and beyond (who hasn't heard of Pokemon?).

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Anime has evolved to include many different styles and variations, but some general characteristics that define a large portion of anime include:

  1. 1
    Exaggerated facial features abnormally large eyes and expressions.
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  2. 2
    Brightly colored hair (green, pink, etc).
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  3. 3
    Simplified lines and shading.
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  4. 4
    Human proportions derived from head size.
    Many anime artists use the head as a unit of measurement to determine proportions in their characters.
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  5. 5
    Default icons and expressions are often used to denote certain emotions and feelings.
    For instance, anger is often shown as a vein popping out on a character's forehead, while exasperation or embarrassment is sometimes portrayed with a sweat-drop.
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Not all animes have these characteristics. In fact there are few of these staples in the animations of Studio Ghibli, one of the most popular anime studios whose movies have found acclaim and popularity on US shores.

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Different genres in anime

Anime on its own is not a genre in the same way that "movie" is not a genre. There are a number of different genres within anime, often geared towards specific segments of the audience:

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    This style of anime is geared towards young boys, and usually features action, adventure, fighting, and young male protagonists. Some examples include One Piece, Bleach, and Naruto.
    One piece intro.gif
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  2. 2
    This style is for young girls instead, and focuses more on relationships. Many shoujo animes have a female protagonist, with some elements of romance or friendship. Some examples include Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura, and Fruits Basket.
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  3. 3
    These animes are geared towards men in their late teens through mid-twenties, and are generally more mature, psychological, and sometimes explicit. Some examples are Ghost in the Shell, Hellsing, and Elfen Lied.
    6548403 6409287 elfen lied screenshots n0064.jpg
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  4. 4
    Aimed at adult women, these animes explore relationships in a more mature manner than shoujo anime. They often involve romance, sometimes of a homosexual nature, and explore mature or dark themes like infidelity and rape. Some examples include Honey and Clover, Paradise Kiss, and Princess Jellyfish.
    Screen shot 2011-07-03 at 3.54.36 PM.png
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  5. 5
    These are light-hearted animes that are aimed towards teaching young children values, morals, and imagination. Some examples include Doraemon and Hello Kitty.
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  • Pokemon Company International - Pokemon [1]
  • FUNimation - Dragon Ball Z [2]
  • Studio Ghibli - Spirited Away [3]
  • FUNimation, Viz media - One piece [4]
  • Viz media - Sailor Moon [5]
  • Lynn Okamoto, Shueisha/VAP, Genco - Elfen Lied [6]
  • FUNimation - Princess Jellyfish [7]
  • Shogakukan - Doreamon [8]
  • Kenji Inoue - Baka To Testo [9]


  • Open Culture - Early Japanese Animations: The Origins of Anime [10]
  • Nippon - The Evolution of the Japanese Anime Industry [11]
  • Kotaku - How to Identify the Basic Types of Anime and Manga [12]



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Recent edits by: Yuliya

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