Ani-merican

While I’m a great fan of anime, I also love Western animation such as cartoons and Pixar movies. Of course, most discerning fans will argue that anime, cartoons and digital animation are completely different things and should not even be lumped together in the same column, but I shan’t be an anal Nazi here. All these categories are examples of animations, and I love them all. There, that’s good enough reason to talk about Western animation in an anime column.

Back when I was a child, I couldn’t tell the difference between cartoons and anime. They had roughly the same content and were dubbed anyway, and the only indicator that something was anime was that it was drawn and coloured quite differently. I believe Digimon came closest to giving off an anime feel, but the time when I felt most like I was watching anime was probably when I watched its Mandarin dubs, or maybe when I saw DNAngel. DNAngel was a show for teenagers, and so I felt very grown-up watching it. Anime was, after all, for grown-up teens.

But cartoons were an integral part of my life in my childhood. My favourite cartoon remains Teen Titans, with Xiaolin Showdown coming a close second. Cartoon Network made many fine cartoons in its day, I think, and Teen Titans can rival certain anime to this day. Some anime fans turn up their noses at cartoons for their amateur art and superficial storylines, but it really depends on what you’re watching. I agree that cartoons lately, like Phineas & Ferb, are quite disappointing to me. And the increasing number of Flash animation cartoons is an eyesore too. However, things like X-men Evolution boast great art and also a pretty mature plot beyond the years of their audience. And although American voice talents don’t command as much prestige as Japanese seiyuu, they lend great voices to the best productions. Most people don’t bother to check their credits, but people like Tara Strong are among the most out-performing voice actresses, voicing varied roles like Bubbles in the Powerpuff Girls, Ben in Ben 10 and Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

I forget if I’ve talked about cartoons before. I suddenly fancy that I have, and well, I think you guys have had enough of me raving about my old-time faves anyway. Maybe I shall go along a different trajectory now and talk about comic art versus manga art.

I don’t read many comics, but the few that I’ve seen are enough to highlight the broad differences. American comics just love extremities. Men are ridiculously muscular, women bulge all over the place, colours are used in broad vibrant strokes. Whereas for manga, the charm is really that they underplay many things. Girls are drawn with subtle demureness, colour tones are more muted, but this also means that when they mean to sketch their breasts large, the breasts really take up all the attention they intend. This is really a hallmark of Japanese packaging. Everything is minimalistic and mild, but only to draw attention to that part that really matters.

Maybe we should do a content analysis on comics sometime too. Does the extremity of American comic art translate into extreme passionate storylines as well? Do Japanese manga portray subtler meaning in their stories? And just what about anime can capture such a big piece of the Japanese population that Western animation fails to do in their country, where only kids watch cartoons after all?

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