No Right Answer: Is Avatar an Anime?

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Is Avatar an Anime?

Are the adventures of Aang and Korra considered Anime? Or are they Western because they're American made?

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Are they anime? No. Having animation outsourced to Asian countries doesn't qualify something as foreign. Lots of special effects teams are based in foreign countries, but that doesn't qualify them as foreign cinema. The foreign influence is ever present in the Avatar series to its great benefit, but no amount of inspiration changes the shows nationality of origin.

I do see that some people don't want it categorized as anime because it is perceived as a slight against, but I see other people that do want the anime label for the reverse: the perception that anime is superior to American produced animation. Either rational is a fallacy. The genre of media doesn't carry with it an inherent positive or negative quality. Chris poses in this closing statement that if we can conclude that the series is good, we can conclude that it is anime. The two are only connected by people's biases, not by any technical distinctions.

Convincing somebody that a beef hotdog was made with pork doesn't make it a pork hotdog.

Damn you guys for making me want a calzone. Especially since I just ate. CURSE YOU! *shakes fist*

"In the style of" makes it something if that something is defined as "in the style of." This is how anime is largely defined in the Western world, and in Japan, it's used to describe things we wouldn't consider anime, so that argument doesn't work on either level. Manga, on the other hand, does tend to mean specifically Japanese created and published comics/whatever. I think this is a bad example, because you've jumped to another definition.

The "pop culture" thing may be the most relevant, since terms tend to go to the public acceptance. It may bother people that "literally" can literally mean "not literally," but hey. It's the way the language goes. And definitions of "champagne" have been changed or modified because I doubt many people other than snobs and the French really care.

I think part of the issue is exactly that. We have anime snobs.

And I'm not sure I care enough to really fight it out with them.

TL;DR: who cares? Let's all get calzones!

I really like Chris's pizza analogy. If it has all the elements of a pizza it's a pizza whether it's made in Italy or not.

However there are some things where region does matter, like Champagne, it is a sparkling white wine from the Champagne region of France. Sparkling white wine from anywhere else is just called sparkling white wine.

So this begs the question is anime pizza or champagne? Next weeks debate?

Anime (in the American sense, which is what's being debated here) is a cultural product of Japan.

Avatar is not.

Anime is not a style, there are thousands of anime out there and many of them have a distinct look and feel to them. You can't possibly tell me that a screenshot from Monster looks like it could come from Ouran High School Host Club or that a Gurren Lagann screenshot wouldn't be out of place in Full Metal Panic.

I haven't watched the video, but I know this weird trick that can answer the question with scientific certainty! But what is this weird trick, I hear you ask? It's quite simple, I say. It only consists in answering a simple question, whether a certain work of animation is made in Japan or not. Easy as pie, you say! So, without further ado, let's put it to work.

Is Avatar made in Japan? No.

Therefore it's not an anime.

There, I answered your deep philosophical question that gripped your mind for centuries. Now go find a job, you nerd.

So...no winner, yet again. Show's already slipped to the point where no one else watches it with me, and I'm quickly losing hope....

There is most definitely a right answer for this.

Anime is animation that originates in Japan, or at the very least the East Asian side of the continent. Avatar the Last Airbender originated here in the good old US of A. Therefore- while it's style may look like that of Anime, it is in fact- not anime.

Is the right answer "I couldn't possibly care less"?

A clarification is needed here regardless of what side of the argument you fall on:

ANIME IS NOT A GENRE!!!!

*phew*

Mahou shoujo(magical girl) is a genre. Mecha is a genre. Well technically those are both sub-genres of fantasy and sci-fi respectively. Anime is not a genre. Anime is a loan word used by the Japanese to describe animated works. Calling anime a genre is like calling "painting" an art style or "senator" a political faction.

There are as many types of anime as there are western live action shows and movies. So you could possibly call Avatar an anime, but that designation is largely meaningless because you could just as easily call most 80s cartoons anime for the same reasons(animated works bearing thematic similarities with animated works made by Japanese people). In fact, aside from the fact that they aren't animated, the recent rash of DC television series have as much in common with anime as Avatar. For that matter, the animated DC cartoons could as easily be called anime as Avatar, again for the same reasons.

I find it simpler just to call anime "cartoons from Japan."

Though that does put Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust in a weird position.

Zachary Amaranth:

The "pop culture" thing may be the most relevant, since terms tend to go to the public acceptance. It may bother people that "literally" can literally mean "not literally," but hey. It's the way the language goes. And definitions of "champagne" have been changed or modified because I doubt many people other than snobs and the French really care.

Even inside of linguistic descriptivism, there are some cases where terminology isn't defined by popular vote, so the majority of people can be wrong.

If most people say that the Immaculate Conception refers to Virgin Mary getting pregnant with Jesus, but the Pope says that it refers to Anne getting pregnant with Mary, then guess what? The Pope is right. If most people think that whales are a type of fish, but biologists categorize them as mammals, then the biologists are right.

Not all word usages are equal, a jargon is more strongly influenced by it's core users, than by random people who barely know about the concepts that it involves. Determining a word's "usage" doesn't just mean polling the Earth's whole population about it and let that decide: authoritive main users are also a factor.

If my mom thinks that anime is all that stuff with the shouting and the swords and the flashy attacks, but the anime fandom in general identifies itself by caring about japanese animation, and fan sites regularlycover shows like Mushishi, or Monster, but not Avatar, then my mom's uninformed opinion does not carry the same weight as an anime fan's who actually uses a consistent terminology every day.

Zachary Amaranth:

I think part of the issue is exactly that. We have anime snobs.

I think the problem is that some people really care about turning this into a matter of snobbery, even where no value judgements need to be involved.

It's like if some people would be trying to categorize paintball as a video game, (since it involves shooting others with guns, just like video games, so it's the same style), and if gamers protest, call them elitist snobs who want to exclude others from their hobby.

It's not a matter of snobbery, the problem is that the outsider definition itself is based on a misguidedly narrow and stereotypical definition where an older and more consistent one has been doing fine.

I've always thought that having a genre defined by its country of origin is kind of dumb. Something more limited like a Spaghetti western or Wuxia film makes some sense but Anime is way too broad.

How is it meaningful to consider "Spirited Away" and "Neon Genesis Evangelion" the same genre but Fullmetal Alchemist and Avatar to be different genres?

To be honest, my response to the "what genre is this?" question is almost always "who cares, is it any good?"

K12:
I've always thought that having a genre defined by its country of origin is kind of dumb. Something more limited like a Spaghetti western or Wuxia film makes some sense but Anime is way too broad.

How is it meaningful to consider "Spirited Away" and "Neon Genesis Evangelion" the same genre but Fullmetal Alchemist and Avatar to be different genres?

To be honest, my response to the "what genre is this?" question is almost always "who cares, is it any good?"

See my above post on genres. If anime is a genre, so is "book."

K12:
I've always thought that having a genre defined by its country of origin is kind of dumb. Something more limited like a Spaghetti western or Wuxia film makes some sense but Anime is way too broad.

How is it meaningful to consider "Spirited Away" and "Neon Genesis Evangelion" the same genre but Fullmetal Alchemist and Avatar to be different genres?

That would be dumb, if we were to consider anime to be a genre, that's why we don't. Spirited Away is in the fantasy genre, and Evangelion is in the mecha genre. Fullmetal Alchemist and Avatar are both in the shonen action series genre. The first three of the four also happen to be anime.

Just like how Star Wars, The Ten Commandments, Scream, and Mothra vs. Godzilla are all in separate genres, and the first three out of four are "Hollywood movies".

It's not like any categorization that we make about works, has to be their one and only identification.

Oh come on! We had a thread on this months ago!

OT- In my view, no it isn't anime per say (yes it is an animation) since for one of the reasons, it doesn't have the proper opening and ending sequence that most anime have (some band singing in the intro and outro).

Scarim Coral:
Oh come on! We had a thread on this months ago!

OT- In my view, no it isn't anime per say (yes it is an animation) since for one of the reasons, it doesn't have the proper opening and ending sequence that most anime have (some band singing in the intro and outro).

That's not a requirement.

It's generally the culture that permeates from anime that makes it "anime". There's plenty of anime that don't have the traditional anime style that still feel very much like anime because of the way it moves and tells its story.

Avatar has the anime look, but it feels like a Western animation in just the way it carries itself.

Ultimately the distinction is there to make it clear you're about to watch a cartoon from Japan with Japanese sensibilities.

Scars Unseen:

Scarim Coral:
Oh come on! We had a thread on this months ago!

OT- In my view, no it isn't anime per say (yes it is an animation) since for one of the reasons, it doesn't have the proper opening and ending sequence that most anime have (some band singing in the intro and outro).

That's not a requirement.

I know, that why I said most anime have some band singing in the intro and outro.

Please guys....

Anime is literally animation that was produced in Japan. If it wasn't produced in Japan it can't be anime, it is something else.

If you want to redefine the word you're going to run into all sorts of problems. Next time you should argue if Avatar is a delicious hamburger.

Scars Unseen:
snip

I agree with you 100%. It jarred me when they put down fighting as one defining component in anime! In some anime that's prominent yes, but not in all of them. There are even shounen series without fighting. One of last seasons best animes was a slow paced anime about a calligraphy artist who was forced to live on a remote island. It was really good and not a single fight or any martial arts in sight.

I've always felt there is a kind of atmosphere in a lot of anime that western cartoon doesn't manage to capture. I can't really describe it and you feel it differently in different series. It might be the fact that most animes keep a very particular balance between seriousness and comedy. They don't break a serious situation or a serious scene with a sudden comic relief. While I like Avatar, that was quite a common occurrence. The voice actors tend to be quite low key in anime as well (when not dubbed...). Sure some scream or shout at times but they are also subdued, in many dubbed anime as well as in Avatar they tend to be kind of loud. That adds to that special atmosphere.

Eh... well... Totally agree with you anyway. Anime is not a genre on it's own but it IS different from western cartoons. Much due to cultural differences that becomes prominent when in comparison.

Pickapok:
Anime is not a style, there are thousands of anime out there and many of them have a distinct look and feel to them. You can't possibly tell me that a screenshot from Monster looks like it could come from Ouran High School Host Club or that a Gurren Lagann screenshot wouldn't be out of place in Full Metal Panic.

So... if I prance over to google and type in "Anime Definition" I'm not going to get something like:

"a style of Japanese film and television animation, typically aimed at adults as well as children."

Anime is absolutely a style. The Last Airbender certainly borrows enough from them to warrant being described as being made in the style of Japanese television animation. Keep in mind that Anime is not purely an artistic style. There are other methods of story telling that are traditional to anime that transcends solely the look. There is a feel to it too. If the works you are describing do not look like Animes or feel like Animes then are they Animes as the term is currently being used? Or are they merely animes for the sole purpose of being Japanese-made animation?

What would you call it if not Anime? That wasn't really discussed. It certainly isn't traditional American animation.

FYI, it should be noted that the animation was done by three South Korean animation studios. JM Animation, DR Movie, and MOI Animation. So no, it isn't all made in America either. These are studios who have done a lot of Anime work. They've had work in IPs like Naruto, Inuyasha, Pokemon, Cowboy bebop, Ghost in the Shell, and a ton of others.

Are none of them now Anime shows/films because the studios are actually Korean? Sounds like shenanigans to me if you think that impacts their status.

Scars Unseen:

Mahou shoujo(magical girl) is a genre. Mecha is a genre. Well technically those are both sub-genres of fantasy and sci-fi respectively. Anime is not a genre. Anime is a loan word used by the Japanese to describe animated works. Calling anime a genre is like calling "painting" an art style or "senator" a political faction.

Sorry, that's just the way language works. Because the art of Japanese animation had a particular style it is now synonymous with that style and is defined as such. Not sure it would a genre then either though. Genres are kinds of stories. General plot lines. Anime's as understood as a style can be used to cover any such genre.

However, if people are talking about the tone of such style and how those genres are being told in a way that would be traditionally unique to anime then it could be an adjective appended to the genre. Like an Anime Western or Anime Noire.

K12:
I've always thought that having a genre defined by its country of origin is kind of dumb. Something more limited like a Spaghetti western or Wuxia film makes some sense but Anime is way too broad.

How is it meaningful to consider "Spirited Away" and "Neon Genesis Evangelion" the same genre but Fullmetal Alchemist and Avatar to be different genres?

To be honest, my response to the "what genre is this?" question is almost always "who cares, is it any good?"

They share too many influences and bases to not warrant a distinction even if they are seperate. We have Spaghetti westerns, Geallo (sp?) films, Mexican films
They can be diverse or very similar. But Anime hasa distinct market and production culture and factor of influences. BUT at least now.. we should know it isn't "superior" to western, european, or other works.

Many generes and tropes, and comments and actors, and producers are uniqueor at least emergent from anime not to talk about it it as a thing simeilar to pulp, Sword and Sorcery and so on

Scarim Coral:

I know, that why I said most anime have some band singing in the intro and outro.

Well, than it's not much of a help as a definitional criteria, we might as well say that Avatar is also one of those few that doesn't.

Casual Shinji:
It's generally the culture that permeates from anime that makes it "anime". There's plenty of anime that don't have the traditional anime style that still feel very much like anime because of the way it moves and tells its story.

Avatar has the anime look, but it feels like a Western animation in just the way it carries itself.

Ultimately the distinction is there to make it clear you're about to watch a cartoon from Japan with Japanese sensibilities.

That's another very true point. Even when a show is called "animesque" by laymen at a first glance, there are plenty of differences both in animation technique, (on far subtler details than just "they have big eyes, lol"). Japanese art is a lot more heavily based on showing off an aesthetic usage of your tools and arrangement of your building blocks, while western art cares a lot more about verisimilitude, suspending disbelief, and an invisible "fourth wall". That shows in lip synching, backround art, framerates, character designs, etc.

The same is true for narratives. You can also feel that in JRPGS, Visual Novels, and manga as well, after consuming dozens of them and then one english-based one, there is just so much distinctly western thought in it's morality, it's emotions, it's sense of humor, that it feels like it's own genre.

Part of it is something basic as frames of animation (on the twos I think is a critical referenceO)

Lightknight:
So... if I prance over to google and type in "Anime Definition" I'm not going to get something like:

"a style of Japanese film and television animation, typically aimed at adults as well as children."

Anime is absolutely a style. The Last Airbender certainly borrows enough from them to warrant being described as being made in the style of Japanese television animation. Keep in mind that Anime is not purely an artistic style. There are other methods of story telling that are traditional to anime that transcends solely the look. There is a feel to it too. If the works you are describing do not look like Animes or feel like Animes then are they Animes as the term is currently being used? Or are they merely animes for the sole purpose of being Japanese-made animation?

What would you call it if not Anime? That wasn't really discussed. It certainly isn't traditional American animation.

FYI, it should be noted that the animation was done by three South Korean animation studios. JM Animation, DR Movie, and MOI Animation. So no, it isn't all made in America either. These are studios who have done a lot of Anime work. They've had work in IPs like Naruto, Inuyasha, Pokemon, Cowboy bebop, Ghost in the Shell, and a ton of others.

Are none of them now Anime shows/films because the studios are actually Korean? Sounds like shenanigans to me if you think that impacts their status.

First of all, anime is both singular and plural. "Animes" is not a word.

Secondly, just because something is animated in Korea does not make it Korean. An anime animated in Korea is still produced by a Japanese company therefore it is Japanese. What you are suggesting is akin to saying that Nike makes Chinese shoes because the shoes are made in China.

And lastly I protest any definition that labels anime as a "style."

"2. a distinctive appearance, typically determined by the principles according to which something is designed."

You cannot point to any individual anime and say, definitively, that it exemplifies the anime "style" because anime has just as many if not more unique artistic styles in anime and manga as there are in western cartoons and comics. To say otherwise would express a profound ignorance in the sheer variety of anime on the market. You will never have somebody confuse Legend of the Galactic Heroes for Code Geass.

Lightknight:
So... if I prance over to google and type in "Anime Definition" I'm not going to get something like:

"a style of Japanese film and television animation, typically aimed at adults as well as children."

You would, but that definition would be written by idiots.

Lightknight:

Sorry, that's just the way language works. Because the art of Japanese animation had a particular style it is now synonymous with that style and is defined as such.

Well, THAT is certainly not how language works.

If tomorrow, we would do a poll, and it would turn out that 80% of the world's population agree that video games are "those things where you shoot enemies in the face on the TV with a controller", that wouldn't mean that Civilization is suddenly no longer a video game. Just because it's BELIEVED by ignorant mobs that gaming has a particular style restricted to shooting things in the face, doesn't actually make it so.

An established community's consistent, and regularly used jargon, trumps the vague feelings and assumptions of ten times as many people who have no idea what the hell they are talking about.

Animenewsnetwork and myanimelist, are a lot more authoritive on what is and isn't anime, than the vernacular is, much in the same way as the DSM-5 is more authoritive on whether or not you are "like, so OCD", than the simple fact that most people would say so.

Here's a thought:

Let's put less emphasis on labels and more emphasis on appraising the value of the individual work in question.

Problem solved.

Avatar is Jack Daniels. For those that don't know, there's always been this thing about Jack Daniels. It in many ways exemplifies the classic American-style aged corn-based whiskey- bourbon. However, it is not "Bourbon" because bourbon comes from Kentucky, and Jack is proudly from Tennessee.

This is different from pizza (which I'm sure someone has pointed out really doesn't belong to Italy), because bourbon- like champagne or scotch is defined not just by a style but by a particular region. But that doesn't stop people unconcerned with technicalities from calling it whatever they want.

Part of the problem is that these western cartoons made in a style similar to anime don't have their own distinct name. When people started imitating blues and added their own style to it, they called it Rock & Roll or Rockabilly in the earlier days. Right now there might not be enough of them (just Avatar, Korra, maybe the Boondocks/Black Dynamite) to really warrant its own name, but I would say that would be the best way to bridge the gap. Anna-May? Wanime?

coheedswicked:
I really like Chris's pizza analogy. If it has all the elements of a pizza it's a pizza whether it's made in Italy or not.

However there are some things where region does matter, like Champagne, it is a sparkling white wine from the Champagne region of France. Sparkling white wine from anywhere else is just called sparkling white wine.

So this begs the question is anime pizza or champagne? Next weeks debate?

The funny thing about the champagne analogy is that while you're correct that the only true champagne comes from champagne, almost everyone calls it champagne wherever it might come from, because if it looks like champagne, smells like champagne, and tastes like champagne, most people will generally call it for champagne

*sigh* I'm just asking pedants to fill my inbox for this but...

My Unofficial Anime Taxonomy: Creative Work -> Visual Medium (with audio) -> Motion Picture -> Animation (Produced Images) -> Japanese origin (both by location and culture)

Allows for a wide variety of artistic styles, like traditional animation, but trends toward detailed individual images with limited animation. Heavy Japanese influences for obvious reasons, but work does not necessarily have to reflect Japan, Japanese beliefs or Japanese culture directly.

Avatar utilizes stylistic elements common to many anime, but since there is no one definitive style for anime, it fails the classification.

Anime is a catch all phrase for animated shows from japan, its genre-less and tends to be consumable by adults ,teens and kids. Cartoons tend to be made for kids, sometimes they are consumable by adults/teens.

In Japan its anime, in the West Anime is from Japan, so its a Western made animated show is a cartoon. Tho if you expand Anime to animation to something that is consumed by Adults,teens and kids it could easily be anime.

The definition of anime according to Wikipedia is: "Anime are Japanese animated productions usually featuring hand-drawn or computer animation.".

Both[1] Avatar series are animated by Studio Mir, a Korean animation studio, and as a result, they are not anime. They may be Western cartoons in a Japanese animated style, but by the definition, neither series is an anime.

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuut if we are going on technicalities, The Legend of Korra: Book 2 - Spirits, episodes 1-7 are by definition, an anime. These episodes are not animated by Studio Mir, but are actually animated by Studio Perriot (Located in Tokyo, Japan) of Naruto and Bleach fame. That makes this half a season anime but but the other half of Book 2 as well as Books 1,3 and 4 a cartoon.

That being said, I do still call both Avatar series an anime because it is they look a hell of a lot like an anime, and calling the series "A western written and produced, Korean animated cartoon" is a hell of a mouthful to say. It is just easier regardless of what it actually, technically is.

On another note, frankly I would say that "anime" carries a lot less negative connotations than "cartoon". When I think of "cartoon" I instantly think of Spongebob, and I dont think that "cartoon" really gives Avatar justice.

[1] Aside from Book 2, episodes 1-7 of The Legend of Korra, but I will get onto the momentarily.

2cool4u:
I haven't watched the video, but I know this weird trick that can answer the question with scientific certainty! But what is this weird trick, I hear you ask? It's quite simple, I say. It only consists in answering a simple question, whether a certain work of animation is made in Japan or not. Easy as pie, you say! So, without further ado, let's put it to work.

Is Avatar made in Japan? No.

Therefore it's not an anime.

There, I answered your deep philosophical question that gripped your mind for centuries. Now go find a job, you nerd.

We...all have jobs? And just do this show as a hobby? So...done? I guess?

schmulki:
So...no winner, yet again. Show's already slipped to the point where no one else watches it with me, and I'm quickly losing hope....

Hey! Funny story! That sounds like us every time we film! Good to know we're not alone. :)

Laggyteabag:

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuut if we are going on technicalities, The Legend of Korra: Book 2 - Spirits, episodes 1-7 are by definition, an anime. These episodes are not animated by Studio Mir, but are actually animated by Studio Perriot (Located in Tokyo, Japan) of Naruto and Bleach fame. That makes this half a season anime but but the other half of Book 2 as well as Books 1,3 and 4 a cartoon.

It we are going by technicalities, that's wrong. Where the series is animated doesn't matter. What matters is where the series is produced. Avatar was produced by Nickelodeon, an American company.

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