What Is Anime Called In Different Countries – Explained With Examples


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Key Takeaways

  • In Japan, anime is called anime.
  • In China, anime is called donghua.
  • In Korea, anime is called hanguk aeni (Korean animation) or guksan aeni (domestic animation).

Although anime is a worldwide phenomenon, it is called by different names in different parts of the world. We went the extra mile, did some thorough research, and created this post to tell you exactly what to call it and why do people call it that way.

What Is Anime Called In Japan?

The birthplace of what we know today as anime worldwide is Japan. Funny enough, they don´t use the word the same way we do.

The word “anime” comes from the English word “animation.” It was taken by the Japanese early on, and it has been associated with animation ever since. Thus, whenever they use the word anime, they talk about any animated cartoon, not only our Western consideration of anime.

A screenshot from the critically acclaimed movie AKIRA

Does It Have To Come From Japan To Call It Anime?

No. Anime is a form of animation that originated in Japan. While anime shares some similarities with Western-style cartoons, for example, such as the use of exaggerated characters and caricatured expressions, there are also many differences in terms of style, themes, and storytelling. Therefore, while anime is a type of animation, it is not necessarily the same as what is typically considered a cartoon in Western culture.

The main point is that any country producing anime with Japanese aesthetics can be called anime, whether or not it originated from Japan.

However, many countries such as China and Korea have named their anime donghua and hanguk aeni, respectively.

Example series and movies that were produced in Japan:

  • Evangelion
  • My Neighbor Totoro
  • Ghost In The Shell
  • Dragon Ball

What Is Anime Called In China?

Although not many people know it, China and Japan started creating animated cartoons nearly in the same year (1917). Furthermore, China produced Asia´s first animated feature film called, Princess Iron Fan, in 1941. It is indeed safe to say that China was the mecca for animated cartoons in Eastern Asia until the 1960s.

Early Cultural Revolution times

The Cultural Revolution in China forced many animators and studios to stop working. On the one hand, the complicated economic conditions of the early times and, on the other, the harsh treatment of the Red Guards that would sometimes destroy their work put Chinese animation off the map for decades.

The animators who survived these conditions went on to work on propaganda and advertisement rather than on feature films.

The 1990s And The Comeback

By the 1990s, with the implementation of the social market economy and the arrival of the internet, the animation industry took off once again. Since this take-off was after Japan´s anime explosion, the animations created in China received the name of “Chinese anime” in most places.

Nevertheless, there is a unique word to refer to the animation created on China´s mainland: donghua. This word comes from the Pinyin definition of “Chinese animation” (Zhōngguó dònghuà). Donghua is having a meteoric ascend in the world, and so is Manhua, Chinese Manga.

Is Donghua A Type Of Anime?

Arguably we can say that the juxtaposition of an element from one culture into another can never be a copy; it is always unique. This is the case with Donghua, and it takes elements from Chinese folklore and idiosyncrasy to create a unique product.

Beyond that, the well-woven stories, the characters, the epic fight scenes, the amazing artwork, and the diversity make Donghua a niche of its own with a prosperous future.

We could say that it draws elements from anime and that it resembles the amazing Japanese hits from the 80s and 90s but with a unique voice.

Examples of Chinese anime (donghua):

  • Quan Zhi Gao Shou
  • Quanzhi Fashi
  • Mo Dao Zu Shi
  • Lan Mo De Hua

What Is Anime Called In Korea?

South Korea also has a very own unique style of animation that is known by most people as aeni (or hanguk aeni). Another word commonly associated with it is manhwa, but it is usually employed to talk about Korean manga rather than anime.

The South Korean animation industry, unlike its Chinese and Japanese counterparts, didn´t start so many decades ago.

Rough Draft Korea And The 90s Explosion

Do you remember Ren & Stimpy? Well, those bizarre characters were designed, drawn, and animated by RDK in South Korea. Another major studio from that era was Sun Woo which rejected Disney´s exclusivity contract to grow even further. Other names were Plus One, AKOM Productions, and Koko, among many others.

By 1997, South Korea handled 30% of the world market in terms of animation production. For example, in 1996, AKOM Productions (Animation Korea Movie) reported producing nearly 200 animated shows for that year only.

Pororo & The Origami Warriors

The South Korean animation industry went through some dark times in terms of sales and movie tickets during the 2000s. It wasn´t until the 2010s that they managed to make it back to the surface. Their success was partly because of the release of Pororo, The Little Penguin, and Origami Warriors (among others).

These animation characters made it big not only in Korea but also in the rest of the world, giving the Korean animation industry the push it needed to be back to the world´s elite.

Examples of Korean anime (aeni):

  • Ghost Messenger
  • Badaui Jeonseol Jangbogo
  • Jang Geum’s Dream
  • The God of Highschool
  • Noblesse

What Is Anime Called In America?

Castlevania anime from Netflix

The technical term for the anime created in the USA would be “anime-influenced” animation. That being said, there is a long tradition of collaboration among both countries dating back to The King Kong Show (late 60s, early 70s). This cartoon was made and broadcast in the USA with the help of Toei Animation, one of the major Japanese animation companies.


Throughout the eighties and nineties, many US studios outsourced their work to Japanese animators. If you can recall (or look up on YouTube) The Thunder Cats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Chip n Dale, Animaniacs, X-Men, and Spiderman, among others, you will notice this influence right away.

Beyond collaboration

By the end of the nineties, some shows appeared with no direct collaboration from Japanese artists but with a very strong resemblance to anime. A great example of this would be Cartoon Network´s The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter´s Laboratory, among many others.

The list could go on indefinitely because the anime-influenced video production from US artists is humongous. As a final example, if you love movies and were lucky enough to watch Matrix Revolutions, you might have spotted the anime-like nature of Neo´s final fight with Agent Smith.

The long-lasting influence of anime over the artists creating in the US is now incalculable. We have already seen it on the small and the big screen; will it get to the fashion industry as well? We shall see.

Examples of anime made in the U.S.:

  • Teen Titans
  • Castlevania
  • The Powerpuff Girls
  • Avatar: The Last Air Bender

Feature image credits.



Digital Artist

I’m a digital artist who is passionate about anime and manga art. My true artist journey pretty much started with CTRL+Z. When I experienced that and the limitless color choices and the number of tools I could use with art software, I was sold. Drawing digital anime art is the thing that makes me happy among eating cheeseburgers in between veggie meals.

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