In order to tell a beginner about Anime, it’s vital to start at the beginning. Traditional animation started in France, Russia, Germany, and the United States in the 20th century. However, it was Japan that really started using animation to the fullest after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs came out in 1937. By the 60’s, Osamu Tezuka was influenced by Disney animators, and drew many of his characters with large eyes. In the 70’s, manga’s became popular again, and many of the anime’s were based off manga’s. This is the start of anime. When Osamu Tezuka drew Astro Boy in manga form, it was made into one the first anime series ever made. CBS picked it up and it ran for three seasons I think. He is also credited in creating the giant robot genre. (There are many genres in anime, I’ll talk about those later.)
Now that you know about the start, let’s talk about the present state of anime. It’s only called anime if it’s from Japan. (Now I know some of you have sharp eyes and read the credits on modern animation from the US. They are usually made in Korea, right? Yes, but the drafts are sent overseas and sent back to US. So this makes it animation from US.) Usually anime form Japan has a producing company, animators, producers, editors, background artist’s, directors, colorers, storyboards, voice actors and writers. Sounds like a live-action movie crew, eh? Nowadays this is what it takes to make a good quality, high-grade anime.
There are three ways to make an anime.
One technique is cel animation. This is hand-drawn, traditional anime. The artist draws on a cel-(a clear piece of paper designed for filming), and gradually draws different poses of the character in increments to make it appear as though there is movement. Backgrounds are drawn on a different cel, and based on the scene, moves a little or a lot.
The second is computer animation. This takes hand drawings (you have to start with something) and the information is fed into special computers designed for animation. With just a little bit of work, the computer does the rest, and this way much more detail can be obtained overall, and you can film a broader range of scenes.
The third type is digital animation. Hand drawings are scanned into a computer and digitally colored and processed using a variety of software. The result is anime can be sent to different studio’s easily and anime looks crisp, clear and very detailed.
Now that the boring stuff is out the way, it’s time for more interesting anime talk: Genres.
There are animes about love, war, action, sadness, comedy, robots, outer space, monsters, horror, mystery- on just about anything! Popular one’s now are action, (DragonBall Z, AstroBoy, Naruto, Naruto Shippuden) love, (Fruit’s Basket, Love Hina), comedy (Love Hina, Naruto, Fooly Cooly) and mecha (Robotech, Gundam.)
A major difference between anime and animation is the influences.
Anime is based off what the animators are surrounded by and their day to day life. A lot of anime will have references to Japan, nature, mountains, cultures, food, famous people, old battles and school uniforms. If you ever have the chance to watch an anime, look at what they are portraying to you. It can immerse you in feelings and make you a part of the world you are watching. Sometimes it is very moving and touching. Sometimes you laugh out loud or you can experience sadness. That is the influence of anime. Colors are drawn most of the time realistically, with realistic backgrounds with a decent amount of detail. An episode of anime runs to 22-25 minutes.
American animation is completely different. Animation is often drawn with shortcuts and bright colors, to draw kids in. Backgrounds are drawn usually in watercolor or are very limited. And programs run to about 20-24 minutes. Some animation is influenced by anime like Avatar: The Last Airbender. Don’t get me wrong, there is some great animation out there like Samurai Jack, Spongebob Squarepants, and Avatar. But the majority of it is pretty lackluster.