I Appreciate Art, Really

Okay, well, I wouldn’t consider myself a connoisseur of fine art, but knowing today is Tuesday (hence a certain category of entries is primed) you may know the point I am driving at, so I shall not beat about the bush.

Why is anime not regarded as art?

It is maddening to anime fans like me. Everyone waxes lyrical about the visual arts — photography, painting, pottery, printmaking and various other “p” words. People even get into heated academic discussions about whether a urinal (see Fountain) or some boxes (see Brillo Boxes). And all this time anime gets politely relegated to the side, with not even a mention.

Not that Fountain or Brillo Boxes are any unworthy discussions. They are very valid and relevant, but so is anime. Anime may fall into the same level as cartoons, but it doesn’t make it any less valid or relevant. Cartoons are still art, and frankly anime is a lot more highly regarded in terms of aesthetic beauty by its fans. Cartoon fans (and I also am one of them) like cartoons for their storyline, characterisation, but not so much for art unless the art is really good. Nobody really commends the art of Looney Tunes even though it is really spectacular for its time. No one even commends Teen Titans (granted, people have bashed it for its fusion of Eastern and Western art styles) or X-men Evolution even though I really like their art.

But art is everything for anime, or at least a large part. Bad art on manga covers turn prospective fans off. Fans complain if characters don’t look “bishounen” or “bishoujo” enough. I personally feel quite insulted that anime is not even seriously considered when it comes to artistic contemplation, considering the effort and passion put in by their artists. One may argue that art created for commercial purposes are not art, therefore promotional material like posters are not art. But if they are done well, beautiful and evoke an artistic response in viewers, why are they losing to gimmicks like readymades?

Anime fans may form only a tiny niche in the world today, but no matter how tiny the group is, it is still a transnational group. There are starting to be academics in universities studying anime in Japanese Studies programmes, though mainly for their content and influence rather than their aesthetic function.

I tried searching on Google with the keyword “why is anime not art” for inspiration on what sorts of arguments are floating out there, and I came across this blog.

http://www.riuva.com/?p=1369

A rather emotional way of writing, but the writer basically says anime is not art because it is not creative. I was almost taken in by her argument till she talked about reusing old plots, which I felt was an analysis on content and not drawing style per se. So some of that angst became quite irrelevant. However, I admit that she does bring up a valid point. Anime cannot be an art because everybody under the sun is sketching the same way, with the characteristic large eyes and unrealistic body.

Guys, do these look kinda similar to you? That’s because they’re all graffiti. And graffiti is now art. So whoever said a bunch of people all over the world doing things with the same style can’t all be doing art?

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