Anime's Big Picture
The question concerns us most outside of Asia because we experience anime as an alternative to other forms of animation and pop culture; we aren't immersed in it from a cultural or entertainment standpoint.
Often, this leads to a filtering effect: we see only a certain slice of anime in a certain context, and we extrapolate from that to determine what all anime must be like. Anime fans have witnessed the dark side of this effect many times over. In an editorial for the print edition of fps ten years ago, I wrote about an Indianapolis Star story that breathlessly reported on a woman accidentally stumbling on a late-night airing of Crying Freeman. That she was surprised at its content is fair; many people still can't get past the idea of cartoons for the over-twelve set. But the third paragraph in the article reads: "This style of Japanese animation—aggressive style, bright colors, often comparatively graphic depictions of violence and sexuality—is called anime (pronounced 'Anny May')."
And there you have it: from a limited sample comes a broad, inaccurate description. While there's generally more awareness of Japanese animation now than in 1996, these things do still happen. Most chilling was a recent gaffe here in Canada: in February, the Canadian National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre had a fact sheet on its website describing anime as "adult oriented material that contains scenes depicting sexual acts"—an error encouraged and compounded by limited research.
It's easy to write this off as ignorance on the part of certain reporters, and many people do. But fans themselves have long been guilty of blinkered viewpoints themselves.
Want to read the rest of this editorial?
You'll find it and many other articles in the June 2006 issue of fps, available for only $1.49 US.