My view of the future of western 'anime'

September 9, 2013

In Is RWBY Anime? Jonathan Tappan says:

Once (as recently as the 1960s) American animators dominated the world and even Japanese animators sought to emulate them. Now America is an animation backwater and Japan dominates the world. So it’s natural for people like Monty Oum to try to imitate anime and even call their own work “anime”. It’s natural but it’s a mistake.

If America is ever to regain a respectable place in the world of animation, American animators need to develop a new style of their own, something distinctly American, [...]

In Anime and where it's made I said I didn't think this call was the right approach. Since Author has specifically mentioned my bit about this I want to say more about it (possibly rewriting myself in the process).

I don't think that a new form of good American animation will arise out of slavishly imitating Japanese anime, but then I don't think that good animators can do this slavish imitation in the first place. Truly good animators will inevitably evolve their own styles from all of the influences that are at work around them, and an American animator is inevitably going to be swimming in influences other than anime over the long run.

Or in short: if America is going to produce good animation it's going to be in a new style no matter what. You don't have to exhort people to do this; it will happen all on its own. People will find their own voice and after the fact it will be called 'distinctly American animation'.

(Although I don't know the history, I rather expect that this is what happened to create Japanese anime. I suspect that Tezuka and other early pioneers did not set out to deliberately create a non-American form of animation; instead it just happened in response to everything around them, including not being in America.)

But at the same time, animators start somewhere and they are influenced by things. Today an obvious starting point and influence is anime, especially if you think that anime has become better developed than western animation (perhaps on the grounds that western animation has by now been almost entirely confined to a few narrow styles and genres). So I think it's a mistake to tell animators 'don't start from anime and don't let yourself be influenced by it', especially if the reason why is merely 'because this isn't Japan'.

Regardless of what we think Monty Oum should call what he's making, I think it's sensible for him to consciously and deliberately model it on anime. If he's a good artist, he and it will go in their own way regardless of what the base was. And in the mean time I'd be a big hypocrite if I didn't think that anime makes a good base to build from.

Comments on this page:

By Author at 2013-09-09 20:59:09:

Are you familiar with Avatar (the last airbender)?

By cks at 2013-09-09 21:07:29:

Sadly I'm not. I've heard that it's good and I've also heard people suffix that with 'for an American cartoon'. My lack of knowledge there is one reason I talked much more about manga in my first entry.

(There is also apparently at least one or two French cartoons that may be on the level of anime, but in their own style.)

Written on 09 September 2013.
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Last modified: Mon Sep 9 20:40:16 2013
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