Is anime considered a cartoon?

The eternal discussion about what is an anime and what is a cartoon revives frequently due to the fact that both anime and cartoons share soo many different characteristics. Both anime and cartoons can be simplified in one way or to one common factor, “animation”. If they are both a type of animation, then what separates an anime from being considered a cartoon? Or why do people get upset when they call cartoons like Avatar the last air bended, an anime?


The origin of anime itself goes back to the Disney cartoons of the ’40s and how they inspired early Japanese animators. One of these strongly inspired animators was Osamu Tezuka, a fan of those early productions. His unique interpretations helped to lay the first brick in the characteristic style of anime today. So those cartoons had characteristics that we attribute to anime before it became synonymous with Japanese animation. The word anime is also a relatively recent term.


The word has its beginnings of use around the ’70s, becoming popular in the following decade. Interestingly, it came to mean something different outside of Japan than in its country of origin. While in Japan, it became popular as a shortened form of the foreign word “animation,” referring to animated works in general, for the rest of the world, it became the word that separates animations of Japanese origin from those of the rest. To the point that if one mentions the word anime, anyone will immediately think of Japanese animation. But it is also a word that both inside and outside Japan can refer to a specific defined artistic style that makes us say, “it looks like anime”.


If we refer to cartoon and anime as an artistic style used in a production, we can differentiate them. By this, I mean that the “cartoon” artistic style is one in which not much detail is sought in the characters and scenery, keeping everything based on simple figures to maintain a homogeneity easier to maintain among animators. In contrast, the anime style tends to have much more complex and stylized character designs, making animating them an even more complicated task, having to go through many revisions to ensure consistency. Even works that try to stick to the cartoon style, such as those of TRIGGER anime productions, still look like anime because they scale the design to be more colorful and detailed.


Considering that many anime nowadays have foreign labor coming from studios in Korea and China, yes. But if we determine that it is anime or not using the broader meaning of the word, for it to be considered anime, it will depend on whether its source of adaptation is of Japanese origin (novels, manga, Japanese video games, etc.) or if its original place of transmission was in Japan. If this is not the case, it could be considered an animation with an anime art style, just as anime with a cartoon style is still anime.

In conclusion, although in Japan, “anime” is just a word to refer to an animation, its global use has been to distinguish Japanese animation from the rest of cartoons in relation to the fact that before it exploded in popularity globally, its artistic style was limited to Japanese productions. A cartoon can be anime style and an anime cartoon style, but they cannot be considered otherwise. Anime is only considered “anime” if it is created in a studio based in Japan.

Larthian & Syanka

Afar Anime is a co-managed site operated by a husband and wife anime-loving team. Since an early age, they have both shared a love for all things anime. Some of their favorite titles include Naruto, Sailor Moon, and Hunter X Hunter. Post are published weekly and old articles are updated accordingly. If you are interested in collaborations, feel free to reach out at

Recent Posts