What is an anime?

This post was written by Dark_Sage. He is Dark_Sage.


Time to piss some people off.

What is an anime?

There are two prevailing views for what anime is:

1. Any animation that is professionally produced in Japan for a Japanese audience.

2. A style of animation.

We’ll see if I can’t convince myself that the first is a shit definition.



Let’s use MyAnimeList’s guidelines as the most thought-out incarnation of the first view (and I use “thought-out” in the loosest sense).

The following entries are allowed in the anime database:

Professionally produced, animated works created:

  • in Japan for the Japanese market;
  • in Korea/China for the Korean/Chinese market;
  • as a joint production between Japan/Korea/China and another country.
  • Note: This does not include productions where only the animation is outsourced.

Doujinshi/independent anime if:

  • it has been acquired and released by a reputable company;
  • the creator has won one of the following significant anime awards: Tokyo International Anime Award, Mainichi Film Award or Japan Media Arts Festival award; or
  • at least one staff member is a professional Japanese anime/manga creator.


The MAL view is held only by those who have no concept of a reality that exists outside their delusions of a Japan filled with millions of adoring anime fans, all of whom would instantly sex said waps simply due to their anime knowledge. In other words, it’s the belief system of a bunch of Japanese-worshiping wapanese virgins.

Let’s break the argument down.


>professionally produced

The only reason this is a factor is because if “unprofessional” works could be considered anime, then it would be impossible to track the nationality of the creators if they wanted to remain anonymous. And it’s all about the color of your skin and what your bloodline is to those who believe in the overall definition. And yeah, I’m going to call racists racist. If they believe only the Japanese can make anime, that’s what they are. Too bad if they can’t fucking handle the reality of their beliefs.

(I go in more on the “professional” part of this later, under the independent/doujin section.)


>animated works

This includes stop-motion animation, claymation, and flip books.


Fun fact: stop-motion animation can include humans. So if I were to go to Japan and be invited to participate in a short stop-motion segment on Japanese television, by MyAnimeList’s standards, I would be an anime character.

Guess that means everyone on earth is a potential anime character. No wonder these fuckwits like this definition of anime.

I’m not looking forward to the hentai she’d produce.


>created in Japan/Korea/China

Banzai nationalism

Ever since waps found out that everyone producing their cartoons is from China or Korea, they’ve changed the definition to include those countries. Hey dipshits, you’re still behind the times.

One Piece is mostly made in the Phillipines (no English subs unfortunately).

But you won’t see them changing the definition because they consider “joint productions” to still favor the Japan/Korea/China definition. Yes, even if only one person is even from one of those countries, it will still fit their definition. Super convenient way to ignore reality. And of course the reason the Phillipines aren’t included is because Fillipinos’ blood isn’t pure enough for these so-called anime fans.

You want to come up with a reason for the exclusion that doesn’t include race? Try it. Reality isn’t so nice, is it?


>Doujinshi/independent anime if:

  • it has been acquired and released by a reputable company;

  • the creator has won one of the following significant anime awards: Tokyo International Anime Award, Mainichi Film Award or Japan Media Arts Festival award; or

  • at least one staff member is a professional Japanese anime/manga creator.


Let’s just tackle this all at once. This definition means that an anime could be a cartoon one day and then it magically turns into an anime the next.


If an animator scores a job at an anime company in Japan (note they don’t accept China/Korea here, because they’re not pure enough to count) suddenly every animation he’s worked on is now anime. And if he gets fired? Well then, every independent animation he’s worked on is no longer an anime. Great definition!

Going further, if an animator’s creation gets licensed, now it’s anime when it wasn’t the day before. And if the creator wins one of three arbitrary awards, well now it’s also anime.

Consistency is for the weak.


So what is this? A cartoon? An anime? According to MAL, that depends on what day it is.


Note that the only reason to disqualify independent anime is because it’s hard to trace the bloodline of the creators if they wish to remain anonymous. And we can’t have non-Japanese creating anime. That’s been made very, very clear.


So Let’s Talk Pictures

The feasibility of the entire argument here relies on people solely referring to anime as a word to describe that which is watched. Well, how does one handle drawings?

Is this not an anime girl? By MAL’s standards we need a geneology trace to be sure. But that’s not possible. Everyone who considers themselves an anime fan would look at this and instantly agree this is an anime girl. So why does the view of “anime as a style” only apply to pictures? It’s extraordinarily hypocritical. So what’s with the focus on blood and nationality in anime? It doesn’t make one lick of sense.


Face the Facts

The only logical definition of anime is one that refers to anime as a style. How to define said style? Well, that’s an issue that does need to be addressed. But it’s not impossible to work out (you’ll notice that many artistic styles have definitions even though it’s not perfectly easy to do so) and it’s certainly better than one that relies on race and nationality as the benchmark.

Deal with it

25 thoughts on “What is an anime?”

  1. I agree with your general point that MAL’s definition of what constitutes an anime is bullshit. That definition may have held water at some point but as soon as Japanese animation companies started outsourcing parts of it that shit went out the window.

    However I feel that your definition of it as a particular style of animation is not workable at this time either, as the definition would have to be ridiculously broad. It’s like calling a band’s genre “rock”, it may fall under that umbrella but it’s not useful as a definition because it casts such a wide net.

    We have some well recognized anime subgenres but those are based primarily on content, with style being a secondary characteristic. I’d feel better about a definition of anime, broken into subgenres, that was based on the content of the show rather than the stylistic choices of the animation. But without some well recognized standards set out by an authority figure I don’t see it happening, people will continue using whatever bullshit they personally want to until/unless anime becomes popular enough among English speakers to achieve a critical mass of people who all have the same definition.

    But then again I’m a music nerd so it’s possible that I’m just predisposed to be biased in favor of classifications and subgenres, and overthinking this.

    Until such time as someone lays down the classification law on this I’m gonna go with the definition that anime is any animation intended for a Japanese audience first and foreign markets second, regardless of where it is made.

  2. “1. Any animation that is professionally produced in Japan for a Japanese audience.
    2. A style of animation.

    We’ll see if I can’t convince myself that the first is a shit definition.”

    The problem, DS, is that you don’t think big enough. Both definitions are shit. Compare the following four: Doraemon, Appleseed XIII, Hidamari Sketch and… I don’t know, Cowboy Bebop. The four styles could hardly be more different, yet they are all considered anime. Therefore, we must draw the conclusion that “anime” simply means “animated (as opposed to live-action) show”.


    • I’m going with this. Anime is just animation made primarily for a Japanese audience to be aired primarily on Japanese TV. Beyond that, there is no real definition. It has become synonymous as a style of animation, but as cow says, there are wildly varying styles within the “anime” field.

      Therefore, anime is just animation in Japan. QED.

    • Yes. There’s ambiguity here, since most TV shows can, to some extent, be called both animated and live-action, particularly if CGI is considered animation (and it has to be, or else there probably hasn’t been any “anime” made in several years). So say you mean a show must be entirely animated for it to be called an anime – that works in many cases, but then again, so does MAL’s definition. You still have problems on the periphery, though – consider First Squad: The Moment of Truth.
      This is an anime movie. Clearly, it is – just look at it. MAL has it in their database, even though it was made by a Japanese studio for the Russian market, and therefore shouldn’t be “anime.” So they don’t follow their own rules. Anyhow, it has live-action “documentary” interludes, which would make it “not an anime” by your definition.

      So we’ll adapt that again, and say that an anime must be “mostly” animated; that would include First Squad. Unfortunately, that would also include The History Channel’s “Battle 360” series.


      Good luck convincing anyone that that’s an anime. When you’re defining something that people already colloquially have an understanding of, your definition had better be one that at least matches up with the way most of those people can conceive of it.

      So you have a shit definition, too. But that’s okay! Everyone has a shit definition! The best definition would have to be that anime is like pornography:


  3. Let’s bury the “anime” term to the ground forever.

    They’re all cartoons. That’s all they are. Cartoons.

    “but cartoons are aimed at little kids-” The Simpsons, Futurama, King of the Hill, Persepolis, Daria, Aeon Flux…


    • If you’re going for examples of mature cartoons, at least pick ones not aimed at teens. I don’t know, Moral Orel or something.

      • If you’re going to respond to comments on the internet, at least pick ones not written over a year and a half ago. I don’t know, use the Recent Articles section or something.

  4. MAL is a piece of shit. I only use it because I like having a database of what anime I’ve seen, since I’ve watched a lot. Every time I go into the forums, though, I feel like my IQ drops by several points.

    Most of these losers probably don’t even realise that “anime” is not, in fact, a Japanese word originally.

    • Not a Japanese word insofar as donmai isn’t a Japanese word. Anime is really just shorthand for ‘Japanese cartoons’, which is still rather arbitrary in essence.

  5. Here’s what you should do: watch your chinese cartoons without caring about what MyAnimeFaggotry and its community of socially inept weeaboos classifies as “anime”. Problem solved.

  6. This is why using the word “anime” was a bad idea i the first place.
    The word HAS no set definition because it’s just borrowed from Japanese, where it’s used to mean “cartoon” or “animation”, and is used about all animated work, regardless of their origin. Why attempt to define a word that was never meant to mean any definition it has been given by non-Japanese speakers in the first place?

  7. The only thing that bothers me in MAL is that one day they suddenly stopped considering Going Merry a character in One Piece and deleted her. This really hit me because she was representative of whole crew in my favs as I love all of them, including the ship. Why would they change their definition of an anime/manga character? She has shape, soul, emotions, even goddamn seiyuu.
    *cries in the corner*


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