The Boondocks and The Legend of Korra: Anime or Just Anime-Inspired?

The Boondocks and The Legend of Korra: Anime or Just Anime-Inspired?

I recently put up Project Otaku’s first impressions on The Legend of Korra, Book 2: Spirits on Animeshinbun.com, hoping to generate some good discussion with fans the world over. When I logged onto Shinbun a few hours later, I see a message informing me that my article has been removed from the queue because “Avatar may be inspired by anime, but it’s not anime, it’s an American cartoon.” To say I was butt hurt – that I’m still butt hurt – is an understatement: I just got screwed up the ass so fast and hard that I’ve got friction burn. So let’s put all our cards on the table and have grown-up talk, real talk: what are we calling anime nowadays? And can it come from sources other than Japan?

Justice

The same Animeshinbun.com that rubbed my little Korra article raw approved a news story on Adult Swim’s The Boondocks, season 4 announcement (http://animeshinbun.com/news/1341066/the-boondocks-season-4-arrives-january-2014) several weeks ago. Did that somehow slip through the cracks of Shinbun’s all-seeing moderating eyes? Or is The Boondocks an anime? Anyone who really cares about the series can tell you that MOI Animation, an independent Korean branch of Japanese studio MADHOUSE, worked on it. What part of The Boondocks is Japanese again? Last I checked Aaron McGruder, creator of the original comic strip, was an African-American. Last I checked, most of the voice actors were also African-American. Last I checked, Korea wasn’t part of Japan. Get the picture? The Boondocks has almost zero ties to Japan save for the fact that MOI is owned by MADHOUSE. Does this mean they’re still anime producers? That’s debatable; The Boondocks doesn’t “look” like any anime I’ve seen. In fact, the style looks “derivative” of anime. Very interesting, how matters aren’t so black and white. I wonder if those Korean animators would call their work anime. Does being owned by a Japanese studio make MOI an anime producer? Does a pizza store in New York, owned by Italian-Americans who employ Mexican immigrants, serve Italian food? You tell me.

 

Let’s look now at the animation this article focuses on, The Legend of Korra, because here we’ll find some interesting overlaps between The Boondocks. Everyone knows that the Avatar: The Last Airbender franchise was created by Brian Konietzko and Michael Dante Dimartino, two American animation directors. The franchise has more than its share of East-Asian and Inuit influences, from the various cultures in the show to the very art of bending itself. What I’m certain almost no one knows is that Studio MIR, who animates The Legend of Korra, is also animating season 4 of The Boondocks, the same season 4 that got approved on Anime Shinbun as a news article. Studio MIR, for those who aren’t aware, is a Korean studio, and has no connections to MADHOUSE that I know of. You know who else works on Korra? Studio Pierrot, responsible for works like Yu-Yu Hakusho and Polar Bear Cafe. Is The Boondocks an anime only for certain seasons and not an anime during other seasons, just because Studio MOI stops being associated with the series? Is Korra closer to being an “anime” because Pierrot works on it? Where do these lines for what constitutes as “anime” lie?

There’s always the obvious route: “Anime is from Japan, funded by a Japanese studio, drawn by Japanese animators who live in Japanese culture.” Alright, that makes sense. Can’t go wrong with that safe answer. How about, “Anime is from Japan, funded by a Japanese studio, drawn by anyone (Japanese natives or otherwise) who live in Japanese culture.” This leaves some wiggle room for non-Japanese to enter the fray, such as the occasional Korean native who can squeeze his way through on a work visa. Maybe we can try, “Anime is from anywhere, funded by a Japanese studio, drawn by anyone (Japanese natives or otherwise).” We’re getting global now, so does the entire system collapse? It might if we go ahead and eliminate the Japanese element entirely: “Anime is produced anywhere, funded by anyone, and is drawn by anyone regardless of where they were raised.”

 

Here’s the thing: anime is obviously a visual style of animation that has thematic motifs that are unique to Japanese culture; you’d be hard pressed to find any other place on the planet that comes up with the shit Japan does. But these cultural ideas can be transplanted, and these art styles can be copied. Some of the earliest examples of “anime” were inspired by Walt Disney animations, for those who either conveniently forget or genuinely don’t know the history of anime.

If anyone has noticed my avoiding the word “cartoon” throughout this article, I did it on purpose. Animation is the act of making drawings come to “life” through sequential illustrations that create the illusion of motion, regardless of whether you call any particular “kind” of animation cartoons or anime. Animē, if taken directly from its Japanese, is just the abbreviation of animēshon, itself an import word derived from English, or possibly even French; the term “anime” as we know it is a recent development, one that demarcates Japanese animation from other styles of animation. Unless there’s some mystical “essence” that the Japanese imbue into their animation, there’s nothing stopping others from making anime as well. The Boondocks, created by an American, directed by and animated by Koreans employed under a Japanese company, is… what, exactly? An American cartoon? Korean Han-guk Manhwa Aenimeisyeon? Japanese anime? All three? The matter quickly dissolves into endless discussion of what it means to be “authentically” anything. The same goes for Korra. The creators were inspired by FLCL, of all shows! Do their efforts at going for an anime vibe while employing Korean and Japanese animators count for nothing? I don’t think so; perhaps this separation between “anime” and “cartoons” isn’t even an adequate system in an increasingly networked, globalized animation industry. Alas, all this crying won’t get that article posted on Shinbun; I’m still rubbing Neosporin on my anus.

 

 

About Nelson (Anime-Guardians)

Nelson (Anime-Guardians)
Life is hard. Anime makes it better, until you get out of your seat to eat or use the bathroom. Eventually anime will cure those problems too. Follow me as I navigate early adulthood and embrace my hikikkomori complex.
  • Ben ~LinkageAX~ Webb

    Here’s my copy paste from AnimeShinBun: “Anime inspired. I think that if we give the label of Anime to
    productions with different methods of direction, then whatever makes
    Anime unique will start to vanish until everything just sort of fits
    under one banner. Differentiation is good.”

    • Mrs Blunder

      Though, often times shows like the Boondocks and Korra are labeled “Western Anime.” Honestly, the biggest differentiation for me is this: “cartoons” are targeted toward young children; “anime,” whether Western, Japanese, Korean, or only the Gods know what else, is not.

      What really amuses me about this entire thing is the fact that, out of all the articles removed, they chose the one about Korra. Not the Boondocks, nor the various submissions I did for my personal blog when I was reviewing Dante’s Inferno — which, like the Boondocks, had help from MADHOUSE. In fact, I’m not the only blogger who submitted a piece about that abomination to AnimeShinBun. See: http://animeshinbun.com/news/1159470/movie-review-dantes-inferno-an-animated-epic-part-1-m-b-v-r and http://animeshinbun.com/news/1314456/anime-courtyard-dantes-inferno-an-animated-epic-review.

      Also, a brief search for The Legend of Korra (http://animeshinbun.com/channel/avatar-the-legend-of-korra) turns up many results, including episode previews. Hm. Sounds like a moderator has his panties in a wad. Why would there be a tag for something that they don’t want approved?

    • Anime Guardians

      Thanks for replying, Ben. Here was the response I posted to your original post on Anime Shinbun:

      “You’re onto something here, thanks for the input. The way a series is directed starts to say something about its “style,” even defines its style. That might be the best defense of any conception of “anime” and “anime-inspired.” The way certain shots are cut, the timing between cuts, scene transitions, the framing of objects on-screen; such things are conventions that are reinforced over time within a culture, and those versed in visual literacy learn to spot and “read” anime as looking a particular way. Wide-eyed characters and moe aside, most anime directors handle their animation a particular way. It’s a much clearer definition of what makes anime unique, in any case. But the world is getting smaller; the “differentiation” you speak of, good or bad, is getting smaller too, as countries continue to adapt from one another.”

      • Xipher

        So to be considered anime we need upward pantsu shots and downward cleavage shots? What about the clothing sailor suits and clothing material that rips off like one of Hulk Hogan’s shirts, does that make it anime :P?

  • Mrs Blunder

    I sent a PM to Lavalamp, the moderator who moved it to failed, asking why is there even a channel tag for it. Here’s his response:

    “Hey MrsBlunder, within the submission process, any Contributor can create a tag, and I suspect the Avatar tag was made long before I joined the moderation team. It wasn’t until about a little over a year ago that Archaic really started policing American cartoons and franchises which didn’t fit into the scope of AnimeShinbun. I hope this answers your question!”

    You’d think that, if that’s the case, they’d… I don’t know… REMOVE the channel? Logic. I don’t even know. On another note, I do have respect for Lavalamp – he’s always willing to answer the questions I throw his way.

    • Anime Guardians

      Yeah… There’s not much to say about that. Heaven only knows why the tags are still there. If there’s something that can be done about the matter and isn’t being done, then it might be a matter of laziness. And laziness isn’t a respectable trait to have.

    • Xipher

      If that’s true and it’s been a year since they started policing American cartoons then why did the Boondocks slip through their radar? This guy’s full of shit…