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Cartoons have grown up.  Disney and Hanna-Barbara may have paved the way for the first cartoons in North America, but these days the Japanese are rulers of the animated realm.  Their flavor?  How about ultra-realistic action, highly iconic characters, and ridiculously exciting storylines?  That is anime (pronounced anne-nih-may) in a nutshell.  Let’s get one thing down for certain: anime is a fantasy world just like any other cartoon.  The difference is in the use of unconventional (to the American audience) plot lines combined with a very unique style of animation.  Once you’ve seen one, you’ll know the difference.

Anime has three major medias: full-length cinematic movies, television series, and original animation video (direct to video movies).  We’ll cover the major television series along with the classic movies that have defined the genre. 

The quality of animation is generally better in the movies, which can be explained by higher budgets.  Of course, some TV shows have great animation too.  Just like you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, the quality of animation is not an indication of how good the anime will be.  Some movies were flops while some television shows were runaway hits.  For better or for worse, the American market only has access to a small fraction of all the anime out there.  Translating and sub-titling all of the movies and shows takes so much hard work that most distribution companies only want to invest in the big hits.

For some rare television series, it’s up to the fans to translate the content and add subtitles.  Though often this is quite illegal, it may be the only way you’ll ever catch a truly unique and entertaining series.  Most of these fan-subtitled films are found online through file-sharing or fan-websites.

Mainstream anime has a rich history in America.  From the early days of Astroboy to the newest youthful-lunatic-crazes like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, anime has been persistently marketed and distributed to American youth culture.  Another trend that has spread largely thanks to the Internet is the popularity of more mature anime for teens and adults.  Many of these older fans have banded together into various fan clubs spread throughout the country.  You can probably find one in your city without too much of a hassle! 

Many comic book stores carry anime either on the side or as a completely separate section.  If you’re looking for the full-on anime experience, then head over to your next comic book/anime convention and start talking to people.  Most anime is spread through word of mouth.  The anime that actually hits the theatres and airwaves is small compared to the amount that any person can access through videos and DVDs on sale right now in a store near you!

In the following sections we will discuss the most popular movies and shows of all time!  Enjoy the read.