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American Animation Versus Japanese Animation

Updated on February 4, 2012

While Sitting On My Couch . . .

In the little indent that I have made for myself, I was watching one of my favorite Hayao Miyazaki films. He is a genius animation director who directed such movies as "Kiki's Delivery Service", "Spirited Away", "Howl's Moving Castle", and the character which Studio Ghibli uses as a mascot, "My Neighbor Totoro", among others. (Side note: The South Park episode "Mysterion Rises" actually parodies "My neighbor Totoro". The whole beginning interaction between Cartman and Cthuthulu is almost the same as what is seen in that movie.)

While watching my movie, my mother comes walking into the room, eating so she could go into work. She watches my movie a little bit and then says one thing to me, "Japanese animation is a lot less detailed than American cartoons."

My mother said that. My mother, raised off of "Scooby Doo" and an avid watcher of "South Park", said that Hayao Miyazaki's work seemed to be less detailed, less complex, and less well drawn than American cartoons. Putting aside my amazement that the beautiful work of my favorite animation director was just dissed, I began to think about the difference between Japanese animation and American animation.

"Pencil" Animation program

Other software that you can get for animation are Adobe Flash and Toon Boom
Other software that you can get for animation are Adobe Flash and Toon Boom | Source

"Tweens" Tutorial for Animation

Bare Basics of Animation

To understand how cartoons can differ, one must first understand the art of animation, at least at it's most basic level. There are a few methods that one can use to make an animated sequence or film. One is filming each picture, frame by frame. You take a drawing, take a picture of it with a camera, and then get another slightly different drawing and shoot that. It's a long, arduous process. This is pretty much the process for claymation--the movement of clay figures like Gumby. South Park was originally done this way, as well.

Of course, there is also drawing the animation by hand. The old Disney animation movies and such were done like this, using the stop-moving camera filming mentioned up above.

Computers have helped stream-line the process. A computer installed with a certain type of software can really speed up the process and makes shooting each and every frame obsolete. But this type of animation is done in layers. Each frame has at least one layer to start with. You can just draw everything using a mouse or a drawing pad, or you could create symbols that have repeating movements or are alone. If you use a symbol and have it move, however, you need another layer. For each moving piece, there will be another layer added to that one frame.

In the video I have here, you can see the animator teaching how to use "tweens", or shortcuts to make an object move or change shape without actually drawing it out in every single frame. He is working with at least three different layers--each shape is on a different layer. As a final note, the more frames that happen per second, the better the animation. The average in animation is about 24 to 36 frames per second, or 24 fps.

This is the bare, bare, bare basics of animation and it is still a LOT of work.

Seriously, How Big is That House!? I'm Thinking They Must Have Harry Potter as A Decorator

They just walk and walk and walk down this never ending hallway!  Stop the walking cycle!
They just walk and walk and walk down this never ending hallway! Stop the walking cycle! | Source

Now For Drawing

That above section is the bare, bare basics, as stated before. It seems pretty complicated for just basics, right? Right! But once you get a hang of it and start to know the program you're working with, it isn't too bad. Still, a lot of work is put into it. Drawing frame upon frame, coloring, adding effects, background, and adding sound can make the process very difficult, no matter where in the world you are.

So that means, determining if one style of animation is better than another would primarily be centered on the effort put into it by the animating team and/or the style that the animation is in.

It's pretty safe to say that animation has come along way from "Steamboat Willy" and the never-ending home walking scenes that happened all the time in cartoons like "The Flintstones" (You remember them. Even as a kid, you wonder how big their house is or if they're just walking around in circles.)

So a lot needs to be decided on and figured out before the animation work is done. First, what is the plot of the cartoon? Japanese anime usually follows a comic, or manga, that was published. Rurouni Kenshin was a manga of over 200 chapters before it was a 90+ episode cartoon, a movie, and an OVA (which is an animation made that goes outside of the original series). There is a drawing base, usually, for many animes. American cartoons usually start off with an idea or a little drawing on a napkin (which was how Spongebob Squarepants started).

Once an idea is in place, a storyline is made. People will create rough sketches and a lot of corrections for any type of animation that is being created. Drawing style, character design, environment design, and a lot of other parts to the animation is decided on. And if it's coming from a previous drawing, like frequently seen in anime, there is a lot of trouble in adjusting it for television. (To see what I mean, watch the first minute of the second episode of Cromartie Highschool. I won't post it in the hub because I would be posting the entire episode. Also, it has a curse word in it.)

Afterwards, it goes into the animation process.


So I Guess It's Up To Opinion

I presented how complex animation can be, from planning it to drawing it. However, this doesn't really show which animation is better. I think back to old cartoons, like "Looney Toons", "The Jetsons", "Rugrats", "Ah! Real Monsters", and many other American cartoons and can point out a lot of flaws in the design or drawing. I think of anime that I have seen and can do the exact same thing. It's just a different drawing style and they both ignore and follow-through on different aspects.

Anime may have unrealistic, out of proportion characters, but the background and environment can be really realistic. American cartoons may represent humans better, but the backgrounds are just really simplistic. Animating speaking is different in both styles as well as the creation of action sequences!

So I present to you some pictures of both as well as a video. You be the judge.

Are both animations equal, or is one more detailed and better than the other?

For the record, I love them both and will watch both very willingly!

Howl's Moving Castle

Look at the detail of the houses.  Each and every shingle was drawn.  But look at the lack of wrinkles on the clothing and the lack of hair strands.
Look at the detail of the houses. Each and every shingle was drawn. But look at the lack of wrinkles on the clothing and the lack of hair strands. | Source

Futurama

Note how realistic the people look--more in proportion.  But the ship is not very detailed.
Note how realistic the people look--more in proportion. But the ship is not very detailed. | Source

Misao from Rurouni Kenshin

Once again, look at the background; leaves and grass blades.  But look at Misao.
Once again, look at the background; leaves and grass blades. But look at Misao. | Source

Spongebob Squarepants

Note the background is not very detailed.  Spongebob is (his holes are always in the same locations, believe it or not)
Note the background is not very detailed. Spongebob is (his holes are always in the same locations, believe it or not) | Source

Anime Vs. American Cartoons--Warning, this song has curse words in it. Sorry

Which Do You Like Better?

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    • rabbit75 profile image

      rabbit75 5 years ago

      I definitely favor American animation over japanime. Disney movies were a huge influence while growing up. As well as the G.I. Joe and Transformer cartoons. My older brother likes Japanime.

      This is a really interesting hub. Brought me back to animation class in college...haha! Voted up and interesting!

    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 5 years ago from Mason City

      Very interesting. I think I would like both American and Japaniese animation. Animation does sounds like lots of work, though. I think the colorful pictures are really great.

    • Cammiebar profile image
      Author

      Cammiebar 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      @ Rabbit I'm glad it brought you back to your college animation days. That means I wasn't totally wrong in my explanation!

      @ Gail I'm glad you stopped by. I ended up doing a minute animation once and it took a very long time--over 800 frames of drawing! And it wasn't even that good! Thanks for sharing your opinion! All the best!

    • DougBerry profile image

      DougBerry 5 years ago from Abilene, TX

      I like both, but tend to watch Japanese more. When I'm writing alone at home, I generally either have some anime or British comedies running.

    • Cammiebar profile image
      Author

      Cammiebar 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Doug,

      It's the same with me! When I'm writing, some sort of animation is on in the background. Or I'm listening to something my family is watching.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I love cartoon and animation. Thanks for writing and share with us. I learn many things from you. I really enjoy all pictures and video above. Well done and rated up!

      Prasetio

    • Cammiebar profile image
      Author

      Cammiebar 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for commenting! I'm glad that you have learned a little bit from me and that you have enjoyed my hub. All the best to you!!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I don't think it's an either/or thing. I enjoy both types of animation because of their differences. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I like both types of animation, I think variety is good. Hehe your comment about the Flinstones walking a never-ending hallway made me chuckle. Vote up!

    • Cammiebar profile image
      Author

      Cammiebar 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      @alocsin

      I agree with you entirely. But there are a lot of people who just see it as one or the other. It's kind of sad, really.

      @Christy

      I also agree with you that variety is wonderful. But that Flintstones thing always bothered me! It had to have bothered other people, as well haha

    • bmukherjii profile image

      bmukherjii 5 years ago

      I like American cartoon. They offer very pleasing and cute graphics along with funny stories that every children love to watch. But Japanese cartoon put more emphasize on actions.

    • Cammiebar profile image
      Author

      Cammiebar 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      bmukherjii,

      I agree with your observations. American cartoons are cute whereas anime does have a lot of action. But I enjoy both and will actually get into the mood to see one or the other. Thanks for commenting and all the best.

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