To purists art-forms come in a hierarchy and anime sits near the bottom of the list alongside professional wrestling and comic books (if they even consider professional wrestling or comic books as art). Anime is not just mass entertainment; it is a legitimate and established art-form such as literature and painting. However, some might view anime as “foreign” because of its “Japanese-ness”.
If it weren’t for anime, we would never have seen the action-packed martial-arts science-fantasy exploits of Goku in Dragon Ball Z or the mecha genre, military-science and socio-political commentary of Gundam Wing or the delicious hybrid of hip-hop and samurai-sword-fighting (chanbara) in Samurai Champloo. Many have grown up on anime by watching shows like Pokemon, Digimon, Yu Gi Oh, Monster Rancher, and Sailor Moon. These shows contained universal themes and archetypes which resonated with many kids, helping them understand their world through art. Because of the vast types of genres in anime, there is literally something for everyone regardless of preference as there are anime with athletes, princesses, monsters, detectives, and shop owners as the main characters. Anime has many features which distinguish it from others from the large eyed facial expressions and voices of the characters to hilarious tropes like face plants and snot bubbles to convey meaning. Particularly significant is the manipulation of mise-en-scène found within various anime such as the emphasis on slow atmospheric moments in vast and detailed urban or natural settings, conveying deep emotion through the animation of characters’ facial and body language, and creation of excitement and anticipation with whizzing action sequences interrupted by dramatic slow-motion pauses.
There is certainly no shortage of rabid fans that will defend anime to the death but if you are still on the fence, anime is at the very least an art-form worth exploring. From Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy to Haruka Kawachi’s Natsuyuki Rendevous, there lies a world of artistic expression that deserves the same kind of attention given to Shakespearean plays or Renaissance paintings. When Commodore Matthew Perry sailed to the shores of Japan to open the country up to the West in the mid-1800s, I do not think he could have foreseen something like this.