They are Both Animated Pictures, Right?
Besides comic books and comic strips, is there a more quintessential US-American art form than the cartoon?
From Bugs Bunny to Mickey Mouse to Porky Pig to Donald Duck to Tom and Jerry to Betty Boop to Scooby-Doo to Bart Simpson to Eric Cartman to Johnny Bravo to Fred Flinstone to those Powerpuff Girls, USA-made cartoons have conquered the whole world.
And don’t get me started on those Disney and Pixar films. Or those underrated and amazing DC/Warner superhero animation (the one area where Marvel cannot compete with DC).
Anime is nothing but cartoons made in Japan, right? Wrong.
Anime is more than just Japanese (and Korean) made cartoons. Anime is a genre in itself. And despite its similarities, there is more to anime than just moving pictures.
Granted, ultimately, anime is cartoons. Yet, not all cartoons are anime, although some come very close (Samurai Jack?)
From Goku to Astro Boy to Doraemon to Eren Yeager to Ranma Saotome to Sailor Moon to Ichigo Kurosaki to Eikichi Onizuka to Luffy to Kenichi to Naruto to Vash the Stampede to Spike Spiegel to Natsu Dragneel to Deku, Japanese anime also have unforgettable characters.
On one side, speed lines, realistic violence, and big eyes. On the other side, sound effects, cartoonish violence, and big heads.
This debate is mostly pointless. Both are fun, and both are beloved parts of pop culture.
East versus West, Japan versus USA, nose bleeds versus Acme explosions… Today, we will debate which one is better, anime or cartoons?
The Case for Anime
Anime is aimed at different ages but mostly at adults and teens. Anime is not only a big international business but it is taken seriously, not as a “for kids only” genre.
No wonder we are seeing darker and more mature content in anime.
Furthermore, anime has long plots and character arcs, going for several seasons. Contrast that with most cartoons that are not serialized and can be watched in any order.
Similarly, anime is more than just animation. It has become a lifestyle, with toys, cards, cosplay, games, etc.
There is also a certain atmosphere with anime where the panels are allowed to breathe and the viewer gets lost in these beautiful shots of nature.
Decompressed storytelling? Sure. But let’s not forget anime was born from the manga.
Granted, anime cuts corners with repetition of panels, limited animation style, and chibi art. We noticed and we don’t care. Nothing is perfect.
Conversely, you could argue anime has better fight scenes and more memorable villains.
And how can we forget anime intros? Anime overall does have better intros–although The Simpsons and the Batman cartoons intros are on par with anime.
And finally, anime does have better music. Catchy J-pop songs that you play over and over despite not knowing what the Japanese lyrics mean.
The Case for Cartoons
Cartoons are awesome. There is a reason those cartoon characters named above are pop culture icons worldwide. And yes, they are made for kids, but adults love them too.
Furthermore, in the past thirty years, cartoons with adult content have become popular.
Although when you look at Family Guy, American Dad, Archer, King of the Hill, BoJack Horseman, Bob’s Burgers, and South Park, they go for the lowest common denominator and easy shock value situations, gruesome violence, and crude language.
At least we got Samurai Jack and Avatar: The Last Airbender representing adult-themed US cartoons that can honestly compete with anime in storytelling quality.
By the way, am I the only one who misses Saturday morning cartoons?
Conversely, the cartoon characters we grow up with have lots of charm and quirks. We do not care they were meant to sell a toy line or the plots were simple and repetitive.
In effect, the status quo in cartoons never changes. I cannot.
How many times can Jerry outsmart Tom? How many times can the Coyote hurt himself chasing the Road Runner? How many times will the Scooby-Doo monster of the week turn out to be a guy in a mask?
We did not care. We ate them up. When you are a child you don’t seek nuance, you want to laugh and be entertained.
Cartoons are comfort food with mostly one-dimensional characters. It works for what it does. And their endurance means the formula does not need to change.
Western cartoons are family-friendly fare, and Disney, Nickelodeon, and Warner Bros currently dominate the market.
Cartoons or Anime, Which One is Better?
So, after making the case for both, which one is the best?
My answer is not a cop-out, but if you are a child under twelve, cartoons win. Even if we consider child-friendly anime. Disney and Looney Tunes alone are wholesome and entertaining enough for young minds.
However, if you are a teenager or an adult, anime is better.
Granted, both formats have voice acting, storyboarding, and design to make those moving pictures real. And it is well known Japan took inspiration from Disney films like Bambi.
Nevertheless, modern anime such a Jujutsu Kaisen, Erased, or Doctor Stone are more my speed these days. This is rewarding storytelling for discerning adults.
And is no secret I am a huge fan of sports anime.
However, if I had little kids, I would get them initiated in cartoons. And no, cartoon violence does not bother me. It is not real and it is played for laughs.
Thus, let the little ones enjoy Hulu, Nickelodeon, Dreamworks, Warner Bros, Pixar, and the like. They are awesome. And let some adults enjoy their Fox, Comedy Central, and MTV adult cartoons.
Meanwhile, Mappa, Sunrise, Toei, Kyoto Animation, Studio Ghibli, Kodansha, Madhouse, A-1 Pictures say hello.
Therefore, let us, adults who want challenging storytelling, characterization, adult themes, genre variety watch our anime. We will (mostly) ignore the fan service.
Because, eventually, those little kids will grow up to watch One Piece and My Hero Academia. Hence, in the end, anime wins.
Reader, are you team anime or team cartoon? Which animation style do you prefer?