Common Characteristics of Anime

By Dawn R. Levesque

Anime is an animation style that originated in Japan. Created in color, styles and techniques of anime are inimitable and vary from artist to artist. With stylized backdrops, anime ranges from a cartoon childish style to a more realistic approach that delves into adult related themes. Characters, though individualistic, are largely stereotypical in their character traits and function. While there are distinct differences of certain attributes, a viewer can find common characteristics that define anime from other animation.

Visual Characteristics and Facial Expressions

Anime characters are shown with many moods, emotions and expressions. Basic facial positions include front and side view, along with moderate high and low angles are seen as well as close-ups. Eyes are a prominent feature of anime with an amplified eye shape and large, irises. Expressions are formed in conjunction with the eye lid and eyebrow. Minimal details of facial features and clothing such as a nose or an unadorned dress are all familiar aspects of anime.

Anime uses lip-synching for character simplicity. When closed, anime mouths are a simple shaped line and lips are represented with shading. Other common techniques are created with a simple curve of the tongue and open mouth, a stretched and contorted mouth to convey trauma or anxiety; speed lines will be noticeable to express yelling.

A visibly distressed or startled anime character will have one sizeable sweat-drop at the side of his head. Additionally, an enraged anime character will exhibit a bulging effect on his forehead like a popping vein.

Coloring and Penning

The use of solid color shading, called “cel shading,” is a common characteristic of Anime. Forms and surfaces such as metal, hair and skin are textured with high contrast. This stylized shading creates a distinction between shadows and highlights on characters with the use of solid blocks of color. These are usually created in layers with a darker tone for shading or silhouettes and a lighter tone for emphasis or highlighting.

Readers are able to experience speed in anime. Artists regularly pen diagonal strokes in black ink to suggest swiftness or velocity. Backgrounds are highly detailed and moody to fit the scene whereas most other details are kept at a minimum.

Thematic Elements

Certain thematic elements are frequently viewed in Anime such as death (as seen in the Death Note series), defiance, coming-of-age issues, violence and war and its effects (as seen in the Gundam series), gender identity, and attraction and love.

Genres

Anime presents a varied genre with universal attributes. Animations are classified as adventure like Full Metal Alchemist; science fiction and historical as in the movie, Like the Clouds, Like the Wind; romance and fantasy such as Code Geass or Inuyasha; and action, occult and horror such as D. Gray-Man or Devil May Cry. These genres are commonly interwoven in their theme.

Anime story lines are grouped and targeted for specific audiences. Sh?nen anime refers to a male audience while sh?jo anime is aimed for young females.

About the Author

Dawn Renée Levesque has been a writer for over 30 years. Her travel and fashion photographs have been exhibited in Europe and the United States. As a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Levesque is the author of "Women Who Walk With the Sky" and co-author of "Wisdom of Bear." She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography.