Defending Manga and Anime

Reconciling opinions on eastern comic art and animation

From the fast-paced vignettes of a businessman’s experiences in a surreal and ominous hotel in “Gregory Horror Show,” to the heartfelt story of love and loss in “Clannad,” anime and manga span a wide range of genres, demographics, and styles. Yet, often when anime or manga are used attributively to describe a piece of art, it’s done to devalue the work and forces supporters of the art onto the defensive.

Illustrator: Helen Teague

Illustrator: Helen Teague

To a certain extent, it makes sense. For a long time, anime and manga grew and developed independent of the west. A veritable lexicon of artistic tools appeared in the east that were largely unused in the west. Among other things, serialized manga tend to have more space than western comic books, and thus can take up more space for setting a scene, or altering the pace of the action. This can make manga seem dull for some readers. The differences in the iconography and style between eastern and western art and animation alone are enough to alienate many newcomers. The design of anime—particularly the characters’ appearances—is often a divisive issue.

Opponents point out anatomical absurdities, strange hair, and outlandish outfits.

Supporters of anime will spring to the defense of the art, pointing to its uniqueness and the degree to which it can reveal information about the characters and their personalities. Opponents point out anatomical absurdities, strange hair, and outlandish outfits. While globalization has certainly helped to start bridging the gap between east and west, it’s likely that the differences aren’t fully reconcilable. As with almost any item of cultural significance, there are aspects or examples that just won’t appeal to the general western audience as they would to a general eastern audience. However, regardless of origin or audience, art is a medium of conveying information and emotion. If that is done more effectively with exaggerated designs or bizarre appearances, then so be it. For some people, those bizarre choices break immersion and make it more difficult to enjoy the story, no matter how well it’s told. No matter your opinion, however, it’s worth understanding these unique aspects in order to better appreciate the art.