To Be or Not to Be: The Controversy in Japan over the Anime Label
Abstract: This paper examines how Japanese animators perceive and relate to the term “anime.” Anime has frequently been loosely defined as an abbreviation of animation written in katakana, and is often used to refer to Japanese animation in general. Nonetheless, some major feature animation directors including Miyazaki Hayao, Oshii Mamoru, and the prominent figure in short animation Yamamura Koji, firmly reject seeing their works labeled as anime and favor the term animation. Employing essays by and about key Japanese animators coupled with some interviews with them, I delineate and analyze the major features of this ongoing debate over “anime” in Japan.
Biographical Statement: Since completing my doctorate on animation at Kyoto University, I have been continuing to work on the idea of selective animation as a more effective analytical term for what has been called limited animation. This proposal reflects my recent research on the relationship between selective animation and the category of “anime.” Despite the popularity of the term, the perceived gap between the label of animation (fully animated, higher quality) and anime (not fully animated, cheaply produced) is pronounced among many Japanese animators. Through this paper I explore the controversy in Japan over the meaning and usage of the term anime to describe animation in Japan. This study is intended to help prepare the groundwork for a book of essays and interviews on Japanese animation.