Cartoons from Another Planet: Japanese Animation as Cross-Cultural Communication

By Price, Shinobu | Journal of American & Comparative Cultures, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Cartoons from Another Planet: Japanese Animation as Cross-Cultural Communication


Price, Shinobu, Journal of American & Comparative Cultures


Geisha, samurai, kimono, sushi, sumo ...eccentric mind-boggling animation? For years, Japanese animation has been heralded as an exciting, albeit bizarre, artistic phenomenon from the same country that introduced us to the tranquil Zen garden and the shockingly hard-working businessman. Despite often being stereotyped as nothing more than senseless cartoons featuring cutie-pie romping pocket critters, anime, as it is commonly called, is a delightfully inventive reference manual into the world of Japanese symbols, folklore, religion, history, social musings and aesthetic traditions. When audience members are no longer exclusively Japanese, anime unexpectedly becomes a vehicle for cross-cultural communication. Examining the history of anime distribution and fan appreciation in America is a free-for-all revelation into the effects of cultural appropriation, as well as a reflection of Western mores and artistic preferences. It also serves as an example of how art forms can cross national boundaries, uniting audiences from all over the globe under the guise of pure unadulterated entertainment. Disney fans beware; the following just might have dear Uncle Walt spinning in his cryogenic freezer!

Don't Call Me a Cartoon

Once upon a time, in a far away land, there lived a beautiful princess trapped in a shining castle. One moonlit night, a handsome prince rode up on his brilliant white horse and rescued her to live happily ever after. Unfortunately, being the cyberpunk flesh-craving gamine cyborg that she was, the princess had to neuromancer his brain, then decapitate and eat him. Naturally the prince, a genetically engineered resistance fighter, willingly sacrifices himself to her vampire-like appetite in accordance to his people's code of honor. But I digress...

This is not your father's animation. Nor is it really yours. Or is it? Welcome to the world of Japanese animation, a world where any imaginable subject, setting, or theme can pretty much find itself represented in the likeness of entertainment. Anime (a term borrowed from the French by the Japanese to refer to the entire medium of animation, but adopted by the West to refer solely to animation from Japan, go figure) is an art form used to tell stories in ways barely even alluded to in Western animation. In America especially, with the Disney name brand practically inseparable from the word "animation," this particular art form unfortunately suffers a restricted and limited fate. Animation here is predominantly kiddy fair (or at least stereotyped as such), stuck in the overly exhausted realm of fairy tales with manufactured happy endings and token animal sidekicks voiced by television comedians who were annoying enough before they were animated. American animation that veers away from the socalled harmless Disney model (Bambi is excluded; I still find it traumatizing!) always seems to be forced into sub-cultural, limited exposure film festivals labeled with names such as "Sick and Twisted."

This is not to say that anime (also called Japanimation) is only intended for older viewing generations. Much of it is highly geared to appeal to youngsters of a variety of ages. Japanese animation, however, does have a much freer palette from which to choose its audience and subject matter. It is hard to think of any cinematic or literary genre that is not represented in anime. Within the medium of Japanese animation, you can find: wrenching dramas, cheesy romances, storybook adventures, spooky thrillers, historical fantasies, robot shows, gothic fairy tales, slapstick parodies, futuristic dystopias, sports dramas, sci-fi series, gimmicky sci-fi series, sexy cyberpunk techno-- mythologies, misogynistic violent pornography, sword and sorcery stories, spoofs of sword and sorcery stories, epic environmental cautionary tales, Norse Goddess romantic comedies, not to mention your normal, everyday life family soap operas. All of this is achieved with nowhere near the stratospheric budgets allotted to big Disney productions, which tend to reach skyward of $100 million. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Cartoons from Another Planet: Japanese Animation as Cross-Cultural Communication
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.