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I'm not sure if this has been discussed before, but how do we define anime here in anime.SE? Is it the distinctive art style? Being an animated production originating from Japan? A bit of both?

For instance:

  • Avatar: The Last Air Bender has an anime-inspired art style. Is it anime?
  • Batman: The Animated Series has had its animation done in Japanese studios. Is it anime?
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Instead of trying to recreate a set of rules defining what an anime is, we have to identify at least two reliable sources to consult where the "it is not an anime" exception is moved.

The first two I can think of are:

  • Anime News Network encyclopedia
  • Wikipedia

Anime News Network apply these rules in the What is anime section of their FAQ:

anime is animation that is primarily produced and conceived in Japan. This includes animation conceived in Japan that has portions outsourced to other countries, but does not include animation primarily produced outside Japan and with the animation outsourced to Japan. It does however include animation that is co-conceived inside and outside of Japan and at least partially produced inside Japan.

ANN editors identify two technical definitions of anime, 1) by origin and 2) by style. They agree to "by origin" definition.

Wikipedia excerpts are cited in a previous answer I don't repeat here. The article is useful while defining the controversy about origin vs. style issue, but the very methods used in Wikipedia to identify what an anime is for Wikipedia are written in the Anime and manga WikiProject page (the Wikipedia equivalent of Meta SE), where they clarify:

Although its scope is broad, this project maintains an essential focus on anime, manga and related merchandise originally meant for consumption in Japan. This does not include works with incidental or minor association. Animated or printed works produced for consumption outside of Japan that nevertheless draw on or are similar to Japanese media in terms of content or form (such as Chinese animation, Korean animation, manhwa, manhua and Western manga-styled comics such as Gothic Sports and Peach Fuzz) do not fall under our scope.

Both Wikipedia and Anime News Network apply the "per origin" definition. First answers on Anime SE about this topic highlights a good consensus about this definition too. But to avoid controversy we have to rely to external, reliable sources like these when this exception is moved about a particular title.

Applying this rule to Batman: The Animated Series:

Batman TAS is not an anime.

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Most anime sites include stuff produced by Korean and Chinese animators for their markets such as Aachi & Ssipak. The number of titles we are talking about is small and I think that a loose definition is well warranted. FWIW, many Japanese anime outsource animation to Korea.

Western shows with anime connections will need to be tackled on a case by case basis. I would consider Batman: Gotham Knight and The Animatrix to be on topic. But I would consider Avatar, Batman: TAS, or The Simpsons for that matter to be off-topic.

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For the purposes of this question (and hence the FAQ), I propose that that we take "anime" to mean any animated series in which the either the primary animation studio is based in Japan and/or the show was originally broadcasted in Japanese. I don't think we should allow either of the two given examples unless we are going to go all the way and include all animated series. Under this proposal, First Squad (for example) would be allowed, but There She Is!! would not be.

This isn't perfect, of course. Paradoxically, the MADHOUSE Peanuts short would be allowed, while the original series would not be, and the 2011 ThunderCats television show is probably allowed while the original is not. But no matter what rule we choose, there are going to be exceptional cases, and we can deal with them as they arise.

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The main site has this question about the differences between anime and cartoons.

The answers are no definitions, but they surely show examples what anime is and what not.

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From Wikipedia:

Anime (Japanese: アニメ?, [a.ni.me] ( listen); i/ˈænɨmeɪ/ or /ˈɑːnɨmeɪ/) are Japanese cartoons and computer animation.1 The word is the abbreviated pronunciation of "animation" in Japanese. In English, the term is defined as a style of animation originating in Japan, which often features colorful graphics, vibrant characters and action-filled plots with fantastic or futuristic themes.[2] The intended meaning of the term sometimes varies depending on the context.[3]

And

English-language dictionaries define anime as "a Japanese style of motion-picture animation" or as "a style of animation developed in Japan"

From those two definitions I'd conclude an anime is:

  • An animated work.
  • One that is of Japanese style
  • One that is made in Japan.

By that definition, none of your examples fit the bill (Avatar wasn't made in Japan, while Batman doesn't have the Japanese style).

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  • 2
    Now you "just" have a problem with defining what the hell you mean by "Japanese style". Examples: "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within", "Appleseed Ex Machna", "Maya the Bee" or the "Momotarou" series of short films (日本一桃太郎, 空の桃太郎, 海の桃太郎). Dec 14 '12 at 11:13
  • While we could argue the conjunction, whether your cases should be connected with OR or with AND, at least please drop 'series' from your definition. Otherwise we're sending the whole Studio Ghibli down the drain.
    – SF.
    Dec 14 '12 at 20:49
  • @SF.: How's "work"? Dec 14 '12 at 20:54
  • @MadaraUchiha: Okay (it isn't perfectly precise, say, web flash animations would count, but that's nitpicking). Now for me it would be important: In English, the term is defined as a style of animation originating in Japan. Meaning western Anime is still Anime. Although we may apply far more loose constraints to movies made in Japan and demand the Western to be much more "classic" to be acceptable. Oh, and we could just broaden "works tangential to anime are conditionally acceptable"
    – SF.
    Dec 15 '12 at 12:09
  • @MartinSojka: These were made in Japan, but does the style originate in Japan, or is it just a Japanese derivative of western styles?
    – SF.
    Dec 15 '12 at 12:11
  • @SF: Momotarou (being from the 1920-ties) is based on original Japanese style. On the other hand, Naruto (just to name an example) is not - it's based on the style popularised by Osamu Tezuka, who in turn based it on the style of early Disney cartoons. Dec 15 '12 at 13:40

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