What Is Anime Art Called – Understanding the Term


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Anime art and manga art are often mixed together when in fact, they are two different art forms, each having its own unique style. In this article, we explore what anime art is called and what type of art anime is.

Key Takeaways

  • Anime art is typically called anime or anime art, as it’s derived from Japanese animation.
  • Anime word was initially derived from the English word animation, but later on, it has been seen as part of animation coming from Japan.
  • You can see and experience anime art either as standalone art in anime art posters (or in another form) or in each frame in an anime series or movie.

The Style of Anime Art Originates From Manga

Anime and anime art, in many ways, is a natural evolution of manga. Many anime shows and movies actually start out as manga to begin with, although admittedly not all of them because some anime can be originally produced, for example, Weathering With You by CoMix Wave Films, and many manga comic books exist that have simply never been made into anime.


The main difference between the two mediums is that manga can be seen simply as a graphic novel or comic book illustrated in style identical to anime.

The differences between anime and manga aren’t actually in the artistic style per se but rather in the medium in which they are shared with the world.

Manga can be thought of as a graphic novel or comic book that has been illustrated in a very similar style to anime, but anime is an animated TV show or a movie.

You need only look at manga and anime side by side to see that the work is very similar in style.

Although stylistically, the two are very similar, you will likely note that most manga is created in black and white. In contrast, anime is infamous for its bursts of bright color and vivid, detailed backgrounds and characters.

In terms of the production of the art, manga very often only requires a very small team, as generally, the illustrator and writer of the manga are the same person.

On the other hand, anime usually requires a large team of people across a range of specialisms.

As you can see, anime is very much the logical ‘next step’ after the manga, to bring the art form to an even wider audience.

But, regarding art style and in terms of their production, the two are very closely related. If you were to place the original illustrations, which were then animated for anime next to a manga illustration, you’d notice that the two could almost be interchangeable.

What Type of Art Is Anime?

In general terms, anime is a stylized art form originating in Japan that relies heavily on drawing human characters with large eyes and a head that is proportionally bigger than a regular human head.

Anime art also uses color, whereas manga art relies on black, white, shades of grey, and halftones.

While anime initially starts out as a series of illustrations and drawings, they are then put together into another art form: animation.

I’ll list some of the most popular genres and types of anime below, just so you are familiar with them. If you do check them out yourself, you might notice slight differences in the style of art used in the different genres of anime:

  • Shounen – Intended Audience: Teenage Males
  • Shoujo – Intended Audience: Teenage Females
  • Seinen – Intended Audience: Adult Males
  • Josei – Intended Audience: Adult Females
  • Kodomo-muke – Intended Audience: Children

There are many more sub-genres besides these main five demographic categories, but if you were to research the ones above, you’d get a good idea about the subtle differences in art style.

For example, children’s anime, or Kodomo, will focus more on bright colors and even larger eyes that are attractive to children.

It isn’t just the subject matters that change to suit the audience, but the actual art style too.

These bright colors are key in Kodomo, but so are illustrations that represent interesting things that children will find interesting, such as cute monsters or animal sidekicks.

This requires a slightly different artistic approach. Likewise, seinen, or anime intended for adult males, might be slightly darker in color.

As generally, adult males will expect to see scenes that are slightly darker in tone, the colors need to match that.

In terms of the illustrations themselves, you might notice slightly harsher features on the characters or slightly more pronounced anatomy to appeal to an older audience.

Again, artistically, subtle differences are required to appeal more to one audience over another.

What Is Anime Illustration?

Anime illustration is a drawing or artwork produced digitally or with a traditional medium. Anime illustration has either a stylized anime environment or a character in it.

Every animated TV show or movie that is categorized as anime begins as a series of sketches and illustrations, which are then compiled to create moving images.

Anime illustration usually involves an anime artist producing work at a desk using a pen or pencil.

They first sketch out the illustrations they intend to use for the animation process. Each of these sketches and final key animation frames are all anime illustrations, even if not finalized yet with color and shades.

These are then animated, eventually resulting in an anime film. If the artist were to stop at the illustration stage, it would be more suitable for manga than anime.

Is Anime A Contemporary Art?

The anime that you see on TV or in the movies nowadays might look contemporary, and the method of production has certainly come a long way since the first anime was produced, but anime as an art form can be traced back to at least 1907 or 1917 when the first anime film was produced.

Related: The short history of anime.

What is contemporary art?

Contemporary art refers to the art produced in the present time or recent years, typically from the 1960s onwards. It encompasses various styles and mediums, including painting, sculpture, installation, performance, video, and digital art.

Anime art as a contemporary art form

If you want to be more technical, manga was a term first used as early as the late 1700s (the term manga is said to be created by Santō Kyōden in 1798) in Japan, and as an art form, it is believed to date back to the Kamakura period and the 12th and 13th century.

The style of illustration used in anime today can all be linked back to these early manga illustrations, and so in many ways, anime is far from contemporary.

Nowadays, it is common to see anime produced predominantly on a computer using anime animation software, but the style of art that anime is based on is certainly an age-old tradition in Japan.

Many people might believe anime is a contemporary art simply because it is quite new to Western society. It only really started to become popular in countries like the US and the UK in the 1980s when anime saw a huge boom in the Japanese market, and they began to widen the net in terms of their potential audiences.

Another reason for the misconception that anime could be seen as contemporary art is based simply on the style of the artwork.

Anime illustrations have a way of capturing scenes that make everything seem so fresh and new.

The style of art itself is incredibly modern, and the issues that are explored throughout different anime are very modern too, but this simply shows anime art’s ability to move with the times and adapt to a more modern audience.

What Is Anime Short For?

Anime is short for animation. In Japan, anime refers to all animation, regardless of style or origin.

In Western countries, anime has come to mean animation that specifically originates from Japan, especially in the stylized form of artwork that we have come to expect from those TV shows or movies that are classed as ‘anime.’

So while anime literally means animation in Japan, most countries have come to add something of a sub-meaning to the word, as it is our main way of categorizing animation produced and originally published in Japan.

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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