10 Things People Get Wrong About Anime

10 Things People Get Wrong About Anime

Anime might be popular in nerd culture, but that doesn’t mean people always understand what anime is all about. In fact, people often get anime all wrong.

Anime sometimes has a stigma for people who don’t watch it. Or, people make misconceptions about what anime can be, as well as assumptions about the type of people who like anime.

Although it’s a couple of years old, a very informative lecture from an event called AnimeFest has started making the rounds again today, and I thought it was worth sharing — especially since, criminally, only a few thousand people have actually watched it as of this writing. The lecture, which is led by anime expert Jonathan Clements, is a must-watch even for anime veterans — there is a ton of anime history contained within, and Clements breaks down many things that people don’t understand about anime:

The video, however, is almost an hour long. If you don’t have time for that, here’s some of what Clements argues in the lecture:

  1. There isn’t necessarily a unified opinion on what anime is.
  2. Anime is not always high-quality. Anime shows often take a lot of shortcuts, so they can fill the 30 min episode format while saving money. This is why things like transformation sequences, and long opening songs exist! It’s particularly bad with early anime, which is considered kind of terrible. For anime fans, this one is a “no-duh” point, but consider that, for many people, their only knowledge of anime comes from things like Miyazaki films — which is not representative of all anime. (As a side-point, it’s also fascinating to hear how anime pioneers tried to make anime work in the early days, and the tensions/problems that came with that. Miyazaki had some major beefs with cheap anime makers!)
  3. The western world has in fact influenced/changed anime — they can put stipulations on the format (they having episodes be self-contained, rather than continue a storyline), and demands on how certain races can be depicted in the shows. One early anime show, Kimba The White Lion, for example, had Americans pushing to get black people off the show — which, by the way, takes place in Africa. They settled on letting the show depict Africans, but “only if they were good.” Later, Disney purchasing Miyazaki films also influenced how some anime was depicted. Princess Mononoke, for example, was sped up.
  4. Anime did not always sell itself on its Japanese identity, because that makes it less marketable. Early anime was sold to audiences outside of Japan, but only if anything overtly tying the anime to Japan could be scrubbed out. So: references were changed, names were changed, locations were changed. Even if it meant the anime had to pretend ridiculous things, like having what is obviously Tokyo referred to as Paris. And remember “doughnuts” in Pokemon? It wasn’t until Akira that anime could start selling its Japanese identity to the rest of the world.
  5. Violence and sex weren’t always a subject anime felt comfortable depicting. That changed with the advent of video, which could bring programs to specific audiences that wanted the content, without having to worry about conforming the content to television standards. Hilariously, some early erotic anime was imported by other countries accidentally, before the world really know what hentai was…and it sold out quickly.
  6. Once erotic anime, like hentai, started floating around, it changed the public perception of anime fans. According to some people, anime is just a thing for perverts. Essentially, people started using anime as a way to be racist to Japanese people.
  7. People who purchase hentai are not always anime fans. In fact, they’re often not! Anime fans are a small niche compared to the wider number of people who sometimes buy hentai. But, anime fans are the ones that will take all the blame for the misconception.
  8. People blew up the Pokemon incident that made some kids feel ill — the number of people this affected is probably lower than what the media made it out to be.
  9. There’s this perception that just because something is Japanese, it has the special power to manipulate or corrupt children, or that Japanese trends are ploys to undermine western nationality. Again, this might be racism at work.
  10. Not every anime show or film is hugely popular — many are very niche. This also means that not all anime is the same: there are a a huge variety of anime shows, though only a few types get widespread attention. The result is that some anime shows sell for an incredible markup in Japan, because companies know that only a very limited audience is going to buy it.

These points are expanded upon in the actual video, so you should watch it if you have the time!

This article was originally published 13/2/15.


  • If anything, ignorance about anime has contributed to modern Western culture viewing animated features as somehow inferior to live-action.

    ‘We want a Legend of Zelda like Game of Thrones, not a cartoon because then it won’t be taken seriously.’

    ‘DC have never been able to what Marvel have done with their characters in other media.’

    ‘Legend of Korra is just for kids.’

    And so on.

    Remember when cartoons got nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars?

    • I remember the Oscars when that happened. Around the same time that Best Director, Best Picture and Best Screenplay were all won by women (female producer in the case of Best Picture.)

    • ‘Legend of Korra is just for kids.’It really annoys me that JB Hifi’s website puts LoK in the “TV Childrens” category instead of the “TV Animation” one.

      • IKR. It’s actually one of the most mature and emotionally resonant shows of recent years, animated or otherwise.

  • I think the biggest misunderstanding is that people think that anime is a genre in itself, when actually, like regular TV, the vast majority of it is awful and we just watch the good stuff.

    • Yes, it’s a medium, not a genre. Almost any topic you could think of is covered by some anime, somewhere: mystery, fantasy, SF, romance, spy thrillers, kiddy shows, postapocalytic dystoias, regular drama, vampires, crime, war, dumb action flicks, comedy, historical dramas…

      It tends to lean towards SF & fantasy as it doesn’t have to worry about a separate special effects budget, but pretty much everything is covered.

      And as you say, Sturgeon’s law applies – 90% of everything is cr*p. These days we get more of what is released in Japan, so this is becoming more obvious.

      (One thing to keep in mind is that while 90% of everything is cr*p, two different people may disagree about where the 10% lies. There are shows that some people hat and others love, and a smallish number of shows that more or less everyone despises.)

      • Great post, definitely agree. Though I thought for a second you wrote post-apocalyptic dystocia.. I guess difficult childbirths would be common in post-apocalyptic society though, come to think of it.

  • You could pretty much use this list for any subculture, just replace the examples and you could be talking about video games, or DnD, or particular book series, etc. For me, the top thing people get wrong about anime is that it is segregated as its own thing. Anime are cartoons that are created with Japanese aesthtics and culture just like you can have French cartoons and German cartoons and are thus subject to normal genre divisions. Heck, the word “Anime” itself is just the Japanese word for animation and is usually used just to distinguish a cartoon as having the particular style and themes from Eastern culture.

    It would be an interesting experiment to stop referring to it as “anime” and just call it “animation” like everything else then see what happens to people’s perceptions.

  • “According to some people, anime is just a thing for perverts. Essentially, people started using anime as a way to be racist to Japanese people.”

    That seems like a bit of a leap of logic to me. The whole “anime is for perverts” thing tends more directed towards Western fans than anyone else, and in my experience has never been that strong a stereotype anyway. “Anime is for Nerds” is far more prevalent.

    Also, I’ve found the “Japanese are Preverts” stereotype is more related to urban legend about vending machines selling used schoolgirls panties than anything else.

    Of course, this is just from personal experience.

  • Person A: Do you watch anime?

    Person B: Anime? … Oh you mean pokemon and tenticle porn right?

    Person A: Never mind

  • Just to clarify something on point 4.

    Akira was released in 1988, Pokemon was released in 1997. So pokemon was in a post-akira world in terms of localisation.

    The best one that I found for localization was Samurai Pizza cats, where they ignored the script (or weren’t given one to translate) so they watched the show and made up the plot from there!

  • When you grow up you’ll realise Anime is for kids. I dont mean ‘children’ kids. I mean adult kids too.
    Dont get me wrong, I was a huge anime fan right into my mid to late 20’s. Then one day you realise you grew past it.

    Ok, maybe saying its for kids is wrong, but you do grow out of it.

    • I’m 36 and still love it. I just don’t get as much time to watch it any more because I’d rather read or play video games in the time I have spare. I still watch some from time to time, but don’t get me wrong, if I were single and childless and didn’t have to work, I’d be getting a solid 3-4 hours per day.

      • When I realized anime takes a ton of time, I just began to read manga. Faster, can do anywhere, anytime, on my phone.

      • depends. like for me i really enjoy certain shows regardless of them being anime. I have noticed my general viewing overall and even gaming have dropped. I still enjoy them, but things do change. tastes also change. certain shows I enjoyed years ago no longer hold the same appeal, but other things come along to fill that void.

        for instance, in terms of general tv I used to watch merlin. then i tried watching it again a few monthes ago. I couldn’t do it. the main characters didn’t feel likeable anymore. yet I still watch other things in place of that specific show. it’s not like that genre just became uninteresting or anything.

    • You should see Monster by Naoki Urusawa and have your mind changed, HBO actually picked it up for adaptation by Guillermo Del Toro.

        • It’s a series, 74 episodes but really worth it. If the adaptation is done right, it could have the potential to be one of the best TV shows ever. It’s one of the best manga and anime right now though. After you see it, you’ll never look at anime the same way ever again.

    • idk, I personally cannot stand the recent live action films coming out of America. Grew out of those. But there are quite a number of animes like Bartender, Ristarante Paradiso, Mushishi, Natsume Yuuinjinchou, Kimi ni Todoke, Aria, which nail drama and character emotions without ever feeling like kids stuff at all. Kids wouldn’t sit through these shows, they’re made specifically for older audiences who have an attention span. Anorter thing I’ve found is that the Japanese are better at doing drama with relationships etc in a modern setting and getting it to appeal to both male and female viewers: I find the western (live action) equivalents split pretty much into action/comedy stuff for boys and “chick flick” stuff for the girls, and there’s no middle ground. Anime shows that there is a fertile middle ground (e.g. Toradora or Kimi ni Todoke).

  • Very interesting! I’ve been an anime fan for a long time, so it was good to have some of the history behind some of the shortcuts taken to fill episodes and so on. While i somewhat agree with some of the other posters that a large percentage of shows are garbage, i’ve only come across a few that i’ve really disliked/would never watch but hey that’s just me =)

    I think it’s a great time to be an anime fan as there’s many legal ways to watch it, with sites like Netflix and Hulu (yes i know they could be considered limited in their selection but hey at least it’s possible! to access in Australia with VPN)

    • Not sure if you’ll see this; but if you’re Australian I recommend checking out AnimeLab. It’s licensed for ANZ only, and has a fairly decent selection.

      It’s free to watch subbed with ads, or Netflix-style subscription if you want no ads and the dubs (where available)

  • Honestly I came for the comments. The manchildren defending kids’ shows. I mean I’m an anime person myself, but let’s not call shit sugar here guys. A disproportionate amount of cartoons is aimed at children there just as our animated shows are aimed at children here.

    A lot of them include adult oriented jokes and stuff because the creators know parents are going to watch it with their kids, and that all age groups can participate in the enjoyment of animation.

    But seriously. Let’s not call shit sugar guys.

  • It’s kind of hilarious/sad that the article is 5 years old and it’s still as relevant today as it was then. I’d have thought that with the ubiquity of anime these days people would have started realising it’s the same as any other animation, just culturally different. Maybe after another 5 years we’ll get there.

    The western world has in fact influenced/changed anime —It’s a little discussed fact that the large eyes that characterise a lot of anime are actually due to Osamu Tezuka being influenced by the large eyes used in Western animation like Betty Boop and Disney. So from the start Western animation had a pretty significant impact on anime, yet ironically people tend to think of large eyes as originating in anime.

  • Oooh forget the article, I’m more fascinated by the mysteriously deleted comment up there.

  • I looked out the window the other day, and some guy was Naruto running down the street, presumably under the impression nobody could see him. It improved my day.

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