There is an intriguing philosophical question that has made its way into the fabric of American culture. It asks the following: if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Coming up with a concrete answer requires defining your terms. If you can agree on the definition of a sound, the answer becomes self-evident. Here is another question that isn’t answered so easily: is anime still anime if it doesn’t move?
Anime is one of the hottest things going in pop culture right now. The anime industry is worth billions annually. Streaming platforms are falling all over themselves to sign new series while content creators are busily churning out story after story for distributors looking to put it on TV and the silver screen.
Then again, you can also buy anime T-shirts and hoodies from a boutique apparel company that operates under the Umai clothing brand. All the company’s images are created by the owner himself. His work is recognized as anime by fans, despite the fact that it has never been animated. His images don’t move.
Anime and manga are two iterations of the same art form. Manga is built around still images. Anime is built on animation, thus the name. The corresponding Western art form is set up the same way. Illustrations are static images that don’t move. Animation turns thousands of still images into animated scenes.
Using the literal definitions of the words, manga is still imagery while anime is animated. Literal definitions dictate that Umai artwork isn’t really anime. But is it even manga? You could make the case that it’s not.
Pick up any piece of manga and you will discover that it tells a story. It does so with a series of still images and text bubbles. Rarely will you find a single illustration referred to as manga by artists in the professional world. So does that make Umai artwork illustrations rather than anime or manga? Technically, yes. Artistically and in terms of fan appreciation, no.
Even if you take away the technical aspects and the storytelling, anime and manga both present a unique artistic style. Both types of art have a certain look. Human characters are more accurately proportioned, for example. There is a certain shape to the faces. Emotions are evoked through a combination of illustration and visual cues.
In short, manga and anime are easily recognizable in terms of their visual style. To fans of both, it is that style that separates anime and manga from Western illustration and animation. And for certain fans, anything that remains true to the style qualifies anime.
The debate over whether anime has to move is just as unresolvable as the tree in the forest question if terms are not defined. If we go with the most familiar terms, illustrations that adhere to the Japanese style constitute anime. But if one adheres to technical definitions, Umai’s imagery is mere illustration. It is neither anime nor manga in technical terms.
There is one other thing the two questions have in common: their answers do not matter all that much. Who really cares if a tree makes a sound when it falls in the woods? Nobody. Likewise, only the purists draw that fine line of distinction between anime, manga, and illustration.
Most of anime’s fan base doesn’t care one way or the other. As long as content creators keep pushing out high-quality stuff, fans will keep consuming it no matter what it’s called.
Mar 20, 2022 0
May 01, 2022 0