What Is Anime Art? Fully Explained

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Anime art is a modern continuation of manga art, initially seen in Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga scrolls. Anime art is mostly seen in Japanese animation, often called anime. Manga art, on the other hand, is typically seen in manga comics.

Anime art is an expression of art, which, by tradition, is drawn by hand, but now, in the era of technology, it is increasingly more made with various art and design software.

The Japanese Ministry of Education officially recognized anime as an art form and is considered one of the most important forms of artistic expression in modern Japanese culture.

What Is Anime Art?

Typical anime-type illustration showcasing what kind of style anime art tends to have.
Anime stylized creature.

Anime art is a modern continuation of manga art, initially seen in Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga scrolls. Anime art can be thought of as any art that conveys typical themes seen in anime or manga.

Manga art is typically black, white, and shades of grey, whereas anime art has colors. Each frame you see in Japanese animation (anime) can be thought of as an art piece. Each frame presents an illustration, and each of those illustrations is anime artwork.

Anime art, however, isn’t just screen frames you can see when watching anime on TV. Anime art is also about artists who create anime-type illustrations (one form of illustration style).

Anime-type illustrations have specific themes and characteristics typical to anime art. Characters have big eyes, large heads, and often slim body shapes, and poses are often exaggerated.

Anime art also has multiple different art styles as it’s usually by the studio’s director or lead animator that brings his or her visual flair to the frames. Hiroyuki Imaishi’s art style is very different from Hayao Miyazakai’s style, for example.

Manga Art

Manga originated before Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, or other well-known anime and manga series.

The first examples of manga can be found in the Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga scrolls from the twelfth century. These scrolls were illustrated by an artist-monk called Toba Sōjō. This took place somewhere between 1053-1140AD. The Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga scrolls are part of a sub-genre of manga known as emakimono. 

Example of Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga style drawing.

The History Of Anime And Manga Art

When Japan moved from Edo to the Meiji period, Japan started to become influenced by other countries’ cultures, and it slowly started to influence the art style, too. In 1862, Japan Punch was born, and their first magazine already showed signs of a new, more cartoony style.

Cover of The Japan Punch from 1878.

Probably the most significant development in manga and anime art came from the hands and visions of Osamu Tezuka, the father of Astro Boy. This was in 1947-1963.

Osamu Tezuka, the father of Astro Boy.

Anime art began around 1963 in Japan, unlike the American comic, which dates back to the 1930s. It happened after the Second World War when Japan was exposed to a new Western culture that it was beginning to adopt.

In the first epoch (the 70s) of anime, the first series initiated this tour along with the world, Centella, Macross, Mazinger, Candy Candy, etc. Then come the golden years of anime and manga (the 80s), with Saint Seiya, Captain Tsubasa, Dragon Ball, etc.

Frieza from Dragon Ball Z (credits to Akira Toriyama). Notice the typical characteristics of an anime character, big eyes and a rather large head compared to the body.

With so many new trends, many pioneers started to collect ideas from the new American animation. Disney (think of Bambi) and Warner, the two great American animation schools, feed this trend combined with traditional Japanese Manga, which is the name given to comics.

Related article: The difference between anime and manga art

What Is Anime?

Anime is a word of French origin that means animated or alive, which the Japanese adopted in their language in 1985 to refer to cartoons on television. Thanks to the rapid growth in the 1970s of the distribution of Japanese cartoons on television in the Western world, the word anime became popular to refer exclusively to Japanese cartoons.

Anime is characterized by bizarre characters with exaggerated actions that usually have a mission. The characters are faithful to the genre they represent. For example, a romantic anime would be excessively tender and sweet, while a gore anime would have an excess of blood and violence.

With anime, studios and producers began to experience the camera moving, discovering details of the characters, or moving away from the object, revealing something new to the viewer. Because anime emerged in a situation of poverty, producers had to find new techniques like these to make the process cheaper without losing the quality of the final result.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Japanese animation entered an international boom, which led to many series beginning to be dubbed into English and Spanish.

In these years, cult series such as Dragon Ball, based on Akira Toriyama’s manga, emerged. Saint Seiya, also known as The Knights of the Zodiac, Captain Tsubasa, exported as Super Champions, Rurouni Kenshin, known in the West as Samurai X, Neon Genesis Evangelion by Hideaki Anno, Pokémon, Ranma 1/2, and Sakura Card Captor, etc.

In 2000, the anime was massified greatly by the acceptance and the enormous base of fans (often known as Otakus) that had been acquired by then.

Since then, there have been numerous animated productions that have been distributed around the world. Among the highlights of the new millennium are One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, Fullmetal Alchemist, Inuyasha, Yu-Gi-Oh, Rozen Maiden, Kuroshitsuji, and Death Note, all based on mangas that when they became successful, allowed the development of the animated series.

Nowadays, any manga that has many followers is very likely to have been adapted into an animated series, as was the case with Hunter x Hunter, Pandora Hearts, Ao no Exorcist, Mirai Nikki, Bakuman, and Shingeki no Kyojin, among many others.

The Difference Between Anime And Cartoon

Because anime and cartoons are both cartoons, people often think of anime as the same as children’s. However, despite its ability to entertain children, anime can also contain adult themes, intellectual themes, mixtures of comedy, drama, action, horror, science fiction, social criticism, and even adult animation (hentai).

People are used to American cartoons, in which the plots are simple, the characters always show the same side of their personality, their conflicts are easily resolved in a half-hour episode, and, most importantly, they are almost exclusively aimed at children.

Anime, unlike traditional anime (from the United States), is not only intended for children.

Cartoons tend to avoid death and other realities of everyday life, whereas anime tends to be more of a part of it.

Japanese animation, which is directly descended from the modern manga (inheriting all its characteristics, such as its narrative style and themes), is considered in its country of origin as one more narrative form, that is, another means of expressing ideas directed to children, young people or adults.

Thus, each character, whether heroes or villains, has feelings, aspirations, virtues, defects, and a life they can lose. Many series present their characters in everyday situations (one anime genre specifically caters to this, the slice of life genre) of the Japanese lifestyle: people at their workplace, at school, and in traditional Japanese rituals.

Another point of difference is the art style that makes anime look like anime. Anime tends to use its own well-developed techniques in its drawings; techniques used in Japan for centuries.

It is common, for example, to see big eyes and hair in the characters. They tend to use “unreal” colors (green, blue, violet) in the hair, for example, to denote personality, etc. It is also common to use simple lines and “peculiar” details in each character, although there are many variations.

But even music and special effects have to use a characteristic style, which more than decorates and complements the animation.

What Defines Anime As Art

Art is a discipline based on materializing emotions, objects, and real-world environments, seeking this and, above all, beauty. This recreation of the world surrounding the author must express a message, idea, feeling, or worldview pragmatically. Once they are transmitted to other people, they fulfill the function of enriching their personality.

Anime is a successful form of expression, narration, and cinematography thanks to its excellent diversity of themes, deep handling of the characters, and quality of animation.

Therefore, more intense stories are created that attracts the eye, mind, and heart, sharing a message and creating artistic magic so peculiar, addictive, and deep that it has earned the affection of millions of people in the world.

Feature image credits.

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