Matthew Robinson (
Mon, 19 Mar 2001 17:20:38 -0700

Forgive a newbie for butting in with a near-rant, but...

I don't claim to be any expert on TV or movies, but I've seen a fair amount
of American TV and cartoons in my life and here's what I've noticed.

First off, as has been said before, it's really not fair to compare
made-for-TV anime to Disney-quality movies. A fairer comparison would be
American TV cartoons vs Gundam and other anime.

I think a lot of the characterization issues mentioned stem from one of the
main differences between American TV in general and anime: on American TV,
the general rule seems to be that every episode has to stand on its own.
This means that you have to establish the characters' personalities every
single episode -- usually characterization in American cartoons amounts to
drawing and casting the character's voice so that you can tell their
personality (often stereotyped) after a few seconds of watching them. Since
a lot of the anime I've seen has a single, continuous story arc throughout
the series, characterization seems based more on actions throughout the
story rather than constant mannerisms or expressions. I'm not sure if I've
ever seen an American cartoon character -- TV or movie -- that doesn't fit
some stereotype of a hero or villain. It probably comes from the American
view that all animation is kid's stuff, and having characters that don't fit
the accepted "good vs. evil" mold like honorable villains or
not-always-heroic heroes would uncomfortably blur the idealized,
black-and-white world Americans usually try to portray in cartoons. Plus,
I'm sure TV executives feel that characters more complex than the usual
stereotypes are too complicated for the target demographic.

As for "illusion of life," get real. I've never seen an American
made-for-TV cartoon that even comes close. Heck, most recent Disney movies
I've seen have characters that seem too bouncy (for lack of a better word).

I can kind of buy the "lack of weight" thing if they're referring to the
fight scene, since the one they watched was Heero and Wufei's duel in
Endless Waltz. Seeing large machinery move that fast requires a fair amount
of suspension of disbelief. Personally I like it, though.

I think it all comes down to asking what the purpose of animation is. Since
most American animation is targeted at kids, it usually amounts to eye candy
and music with a shallow story and simple humor. It's meant to be easy to
follow, to fit the presumed short attention span and shallow tastes of
American kids today. Anime like Gundam assumes a more intelligent audience,
and story becomes almost as important as animation. I've noticed how the
original Mobile Suit Gundam, with somewhat dated animation but a good
storyline, is much better received in many circles than Gundam 0083, which
features better animation but apparently also plot holes you could drive the
Dendrobium Orchis through. (Haven't seen them yet but I'm eagerly awaiting

In any case it comes down to an artistic judgement call, and you could write
libraries of books and talk until you pass out without coming to any real
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