Friday, February 28, 2014

It's OK to Be Different.

As a current attendee of Ithaca College's, Park School of Communications, I have noticed a certain tension between students studying Television/Radio and students working towards a degree in Cinema. Because the two majors share similar territory, every determinable difference between the two degrees are immediately picked out and then blown entirely out of proportion. Recently, I've come to the realization that the stereotypes held between TV/R and Cinema majors are strangely reminiscent of those between American, and Japanese animators.

I know it sounds ridiculous now, but allow me to elaborate. You may discover that the comparison isn't as absurd as you thought.


Let me start out by describing some stylistic characteristics of American animation. Here in the U.S., many animations tend to lean toward a "cartoon-ish" animation style.

For example, cartoon characters often possess rounded, highly exaggerated features. Furthermore, the characters/settings of this style of animation tend to lack both detail and shading.

The character, "Cheese," from Cartoon Network's show,
"Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends"
is a great example of the American "cartoonish" animation style.

Compare this style now to that of Japanese animation-- specifically anime. Anime characters often possess large, detailed eyes and small noses/mouths. Japanese animators are known to use angular strokes, and pay far more attention to shading and highlights than their American counterparts. 

Below is a classic example of the "anime eye."

Notice the degree of detail portrayed through color and highlights to add depth to the eye. 

One of the primary reasons that American animators avoid including so much detail in their animation has to do with merchandising. It's a lot easier to produce a Mickey Mouse doll than it is to produce an intensely detailed anime character.

                   Mickey Mouse Doll--  $0.50 to produce,
                   extremely cuddly, and very durable.


                                                                       Anime Doll-- $10.00 to produce,
                                                                    not so cuddly, flyaway hair guaranteed 
                                                                    to snap off on the ride home from the toy 

Another stylistic difference between Japanese and American animation has to do with camera angles. Anime makes sure to incorporate creative angles and unconventional perspectives-- something that the majority of American animation lacks.

^Japanese angle chosen for dialogue between 2 characters ^

^American angle chosen for dialogue between two characters^


I realize that so far I've been successful in making American animators look like lazy, money-crazed SOBs; I can fix that. What American's lack in technical detail, they make up in animation. As a rule, American animations contain far more animation than the Japanese do. Why? Well, the answer is simple really: the Japanese are a bunch of rotten cheaters. That, or they're just a little bit smarter. Maybe both. 

Here are ways our asian counterparts cheat the system:

  1. When a character begins reciting a long monologue, the creators only focus on moving the character's mouth and perhaps a few strands of hair-- ignoring the rest of the scene. 
  1. Action sequences are created by moving the background in a quick, stylized fashion, while the character remains frozen in a cool fighting pose. (see below)


One of the main inconsistencies between American and Japanese animation has to do with the target audience: or the people whom the animation caters to. 

For example, the majority of American animation is intended for child viewers. Furthermore, the few animated series that DO cater to adults, (think Family Guy, The Simpsons, American Dad!, etc.) often possess absurd plots and vulgar humor. Because of their content, even adult animated series' may be considered "immature." 

In Japan, animation is not confined by generational boundaries. Anime is followed and enjoyed by children and grandparents alike. (This is why many American parents are shocked when they discover "mature" content in the anime "cartoons" their children are watching.)

Also, unlike cartoons in America that can be watched out of episodic sequence with little to no penalty, anime is distributed in serial episodes. Serial episodes require the viewer to understand the content revealed in previous episodes in order to fully appreciate the current episode. Some shows that follow this sequential building style in America include dramas like, "American Horror Story," or "Breaking Bad.


  1. Japanese animators like making the bad guys blonde-- Cinema students dye their hair dark to appear more "artsy."

"I hate blonde's because they're evil" -the Japanese and/or American cinema students

Ok, ok. You were right. My initial comparison between Japanese/American animators and Television Radio/ Cinema majors was unreasonable. But at least you learned a little something about animation. You'll thank me later.

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