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The word “anime” is frequently understood as “Japanese cartoons”, but in reality this term is deeper than it may seem! Usually when you hear the word “anime” you resemble an image of a character with huge eyes, funny hair and bright clothes.
In Japanese the word “anime” is written this way «アニメ» (literally “anime”). This is a contraction for the word “animation” (アニメーション or «animeeshon»).The snag is in the use of this world in the Land of the Rising Sun and abroad.
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Contractions of words are very common in Japan. If the language allows making a word shorter, you need to right it directly this way, for instance, a remote control (リ モ ー ト コ ン ト ロ ー ル or «rimooto kontorooru») becomes «rimokon» (リ モ コ ン), a television set (テ レ ビ ジ ョ ン or «terebijon») now is just «Terebi» (テ レ ビ), the long name of the «Family Computer» (フ ァ ミ リ ー コ ン ピ ュ ー タ or «Famirii Konpyuuta») becomes «Famicom» (フ ァ ミ コ ン). Even names can be contracted, “Brad Pitt”, for instance, can become “Burapi” (ブ ラ ピ). Native speakers seem to be obsessed with making their slang shorter and more compact in everyday speech.
These examples were foreign adopted words, but believe me, Japanese words can also be contracted. Adopted words in Japan are called “Gairaigo” (外 来 語 ), but even if they were adopted from other languages they easily fit the everyday language. They become a part of culture and society and are frequently used to express ideas and concepts in more detailed form. These words are being “delivered” by language immigrants which enroll in the Japanese society, thus words adopted from abroad become Japanese ones.
Well, let us turn to the most important point. The word “anime” is not so old itself. Originally it was only used by people connected to animated cartoons in Japan. Other words were used for Japanese cartoons, for instance, “manga eiga” ( 漫 画 映 画 ), «Terebi manga» (テ レ ビ 漫 画 ). There was also one variation of this word – “Douga” ( 動 画 ), which literally means a “moving image”. All these words are synonyms to the well-known word “anime”.
It all continued up to 1970 when this word first appeared on the big screen in Japan. This was the time when otaku have begun to appear all over the world. By the year 1980 the word “anime” has been widely used in Japan to stand for…well…anime.
Anime has become a great way to distinct Japanese cartoons from foreign ones. Now when we use the word “anime” everyone understands what we are talking about.
In the west this word relates to the Japanese cartoons, but it primarily relates to a certain kind of anime. Namely, the Japanese cartoons where characters have huge anime eyes and brightly dyed hair. The word “anime” is a contraction for this kind of cartoons and can be used in a mocking manner in English. “God, this is anime”. In other cases it is being used in the descriptive form.
This is Sazae-san. This seems the most popular anime show on the Japanese TV. It is being broadcasted from the year 1969, and every Japanese person knows this anime.
Characters look normal there. No one has huge Astro Boy eyes. The reason for this is that anime was based on the comic of the year 1940. But in the year 1940 American cartoon artists loved to draw big eyes (like in “The Simpsons”, for example).
The word “anime” has a lot of meanings in Japanese for practically anything from Pretty Cure to Popeye.
As in the English language, “anime” is related to the drawing style. But, as it was mentioned before, Japan does not hold rights for huge “anime” eyes. Nowadays, animated characters with big eyes continue to appear in the Western cartoons. However, the Japanese people often draw such analogies as “Looks like anime” or “Similar to anime”.
Do I think that we should use another world to describe the Japanese cartoons? No, of course not. This word fits well in many languages, so that an attempt to exclude it can lead to a great confusion.
However, keep in mind, that the word “anime” means more than simply “anime”.
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