How does Anime compare to American TV?

I don’t see that much TV and I have only seen a couple of anime serials and read about a few others so my opinion is tentative. Still I think it makes sense to compare anime with the full range of American TV because in Japan, animation clearly is used across the board in many genres unlike the US

But anyway my impression is:
Fantasy/sci fi based adventure: Anime seems to have American TV beat here. Animation is ideally suited to creating strange new worlds relatively cheaply. It’s not that American TV doesn’t have good serials in this genre but I get the impression that there is a whole lot more in Japan with a lot more variety . Both the anime I have enjoyed: Cowboy Bebop and Evangelion fall in this category and I can’t think of anything on American TV that good.

Sit-coms: Personally I find American sit-coms terribly mediocre with a few exceptions (Seinfeld and Frasier mainly ). I don’t know too much about anime comedy but my guess is that it’s not too much better or worse overall.

Drama shows: This is probably where American TV shines. Law and Order, ER, Sopranos etc. I don’t know if anime has realistic drama shows of that calibre (of course Japanese live-action TV shows may be good here).

What do you think?

I think that most of the anime brought over to the U.S. would beat out American television (in my opinion, anyway). But these are among the better, or at least more popular, shows, so I don’t feel it’s entirely accurate to compare this particular set. But I’m fairly sure that everything broadcast in Japan is much like everything broadcast in the U.S. Most is mediocre at best, but a few shows really shine. Perhaps there is a bit more variety in anime (or just different topics that are cliched), but I can’t say that either is really better.

You are of course probably right that most anime like most American TV is mediocre or worse.

However just restricting ourselves to good serials in both countries I think we can still attempt to compare the two in terms of the number and quality of the good shows. For instance even if we restrict ourselves to the good shows IMO American TV can’t match anime when it comes to fantasy/sci fi. Like I said, the opposite may be true for drama shows.

I just wanted to canvass more opinions of that kind.

BTW I don’t want to restrict the comparisons to genre-by-genre. If someone wants to compare by plot,characters,music etc I would be interested.

This is just my $0.02, but I think that the time element tends to make the good anime serials very good. A lot of the series run for 26 episodes, then they’re over. Perhaps then there will be an OVA or two, but that’s about it. Compare that with Babylon 5, which for 3 of its 5 seasons was IMHO the best SF ever on television. There’s something about having a closed story that makes the good shows really good, and it just seems that format is used more in anime series than the more-typical open-ended series in the States.

Preview of threads coming soon:

Anime compared to the Simpsons
Anime compared to the Sopranos
Anime compared to Cops
Anime compared to the Nightly Business Report
Anime compared to Teletubbies
Anime compared to the Osbournes
Anime compared to Soul Train
Anime compared to Star Wars
Anime compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey
Anime compared to the collected works of Akira Kurasawa
Anime compared to the collected works of William Shakespeare
Anime compared to the collected works of William Shatner
Anime compared to the collected works of Ginger Lynn
Anime compared to a McDonald’s hamburger
Anime compared to fine single-malt scotch
Anime compared to a summer’s day
Anime compared to the miracle of childbirth
Anime compared to photosynthesis
Anime compared to special relativity
Anime compared to Australia

True, anime does seem a bit better when it comes to science fiction and fantasy material than the U.S. shows, even with those fun super-formulaic shows. Maybe it’s more accepted as potential subject matter in Japan than the U.S.? No claims as to that, just speculating.

Will continue this later when I can concentrate.

It might be because of the story elements that could be considered almost commonplace in Anime, but are almost unknown in U.S. shows. i.e. Main characters dying (Aside from when an actor wants to leave the series), sympathetic villains, marked character development, heroines who don’t fall and break their ankles every five minutes, etc.

Most of this is due to the “closed story” aspect of anime that Mighty Maximino pointed out. These things are common in American movies, but as strange as the idea might seem at first, the open-ended nature of the traditional sitcom is far more limiting than a series with a pre-set endpoint. You can’t kill a popular character in a sitcom because then people might not tune in again next week. You can’t have too much character development, because if the characters change too much or if longstanding conflict between them is resolved, people might not tune in again next week. There’s not room for a lot of change. Comparing a television program like this to a mini-series or other “closed story” is apples and oranges, even without considering any other differences that may be due to genre and culture.

In closing, I’d just like to say that anime has it all over American television when it comes to tentacle porn. Thank you.

As a regular reader of’s game reviews, I also must point out America’s frightening deficiency in the production and distribution of terrifying pornographic computer games.

On the actual subject, as an anime fan I think the primary points have already been hit:

a) We only really get the top X% of anime titles over here. Although, some of the ones we do get are quite terrible in spite of this. BASTARD!, anyone?

b) The closed nature of most anime allows them to do things that are harder to accomplish on typical American TV. Last year’s 24, for example, featured many of the same plot elements that a good anime series might.

c) Hi Opal-chan!

Animes have better plots than most American cartoons (or most TV shows, come to think of it). For example, compare Trigun to Spongebob Squarepants (with all respects to Spongebob, who I love dearly). Anime isn’t just for kids, either. In fact, many animes aren’s appropriate for young children. Here at college, a group I belong to sponsors “Anime night,” and many 18-22-year-olds gather in front of the screen to enjoy Japanese cartoons. Last night we watched “The Adventures of Mini-Goddess,” and everyone had a good time (after migration to another building and a very late start due to technical difficulties). I’m not a hardcore anime fan, but I’d rather watch “Dragon Half” than “Sex and the City.”

Cartoons can do some things better than live action can, and among these things are using what in live action would be special effects, like a giant space battle, or tentacles reaching out and grabbing someone, or a puddle of goo becoming a monster, and most anime takes advantage of that. It would be difficult and expensive to produce a live action version of most anime titles.

Half the reason why most anime titles have better plots than American cartoons is because American cartoons tend to be geared towards kids. You can’t compare Trigun to Spongebob because the audiences are almost entirely separate. Pokemon would be the better show to use there. (I suspect Pokemon would win out plot-wise, but I haven’t watched much of either and don’t intend to). The kids’ shows rarely have continuous plots, they’re mostly one-shot episodes. It’s a good enough format unless you want the long plot. I’m rather fond of the one-shot episodes with continuity through seasons of shows. Daria uses that format and it works quite nicely.

I meant to expand upon the science fiction and fantasy comment I made before. It seems that most American science fiction shows are of the Star Trek variety…perfectly fine, if you like that sort of stuff, but I’m not too big on that. It’s easy to find fantasy and science fiction and the supernatural in anime (terribly cliched, almost), which appeals to me, being a long-time fan of novels with similar themes. I can’t find much of an equivalent on American television.

The point about the advantage of having a closed format is interesting and makes sense. It begs the question, though, why there aren’t more American serials which follow that format. Is it a matter of consumer taste or economics and why are things different in Japan?

I am not sure what your point is. I think it should have been clear that I was talking about fiction shows when I was referring to “American TV”. I think it makes sense to compare anime to the full range of fiction shows on live-action American TV. There are some differences and some similarities which is presumably what makes for an interesting comparison.

I expect the increasing market penetration of DVDs to cause more and more closed-format shows. Notice how many series are more rapidly getting box-set releases on disc these days? Once it really sinks in that there’s a lucrative market for closed-stories that are longer than a movie, epect many more mini-series and one-two season long complete arcs to start being shoveled out.

A couple of years ago, I would have agreed with everyone saying Anime beats American cartoons hands down, but when you look at the shit that’s coming over lately…Yu Gi Oh, Transformers: Robots in Disguise…those two alone have destroyed a LOT of respect I had for the anime that hits American airwaves. None of the shit shown on the major channels comes anywhere close to Jackie Chan Adventures (note: in that I’m talking about animes shown on Fox, the WB, UPN and the like, not premium channels like Cartoon Network).

Hmm most anime fans don’t give a second look at the kiddie shows that are shown on network TV in America so I don’t think it’s accurate to put too much weight in any evaluation of anime as a whole. And if you compare Pokemon,yugioh etc. to the average kid’s cartoon in the US they are probably not that bad.

In any case like I said the most sensible comparison is between good anime and good American shows.

I guess, Elvis that what we are seeing there is, as more stuff is imported and put on mainstream media, we’re likelier to see more of the dud acquisitions. Used to be that the “they paid money to license that?” mistakes would just became infamous in the smallish world of fandom, now everybody gets to see them (and it includes stuff actually made to American specs, on American commission). While American-made or American-commissioned stuff necessarily gets better in face of competition.
Gotta agree on the issue of differences between episodic/closed-story idioms for long-running shows. A half-way form of this, the “story-arc”, has been adopted by many of American TV’s successful dramatic shows – though often only season-long, or contained within a subplot or character. (OTOH, Soaps have used story-arcs forever: the difference is that they just move on to another arc, and another, and another, w/o any general resolution in sight). Was Babylon 5 the first “major” (a relative term, for sure) show that was intended from the start to have multiyear beginning-middle-end plot?

But traditionally the nature of US TV was that the really big money was to be made from either (a) a hit show that delivers consistent numbers “forever” (e.g. Gunsmoke) or (b) syndication to independent stations and export sales, where producers and programmers wanted at least 65 episodes AND that they be pretty much freestanding and independent of order of showing.

Not that Anime makers aren’t known to do “repeat-the-winning-formula-till-they’re-sick” if it profits them (how many decades has Doraemon been on?); only they often do that by contriving a “sequel/remake/update/spinoff” every year or two (e.g. all those farkin’ Gundams)

Oh, and…

Where do I sign in for the review panel :smiley: ?

One thing to note about the closed-story aspect of anime is that a lot of anime titles (a majority?) are based on existing and presumably successful manga (comic) titles. This gives the series a test run of sorts because obviously, you’d only want to adapt the manga serials that are successful.

This leads, of course, to a question about manga as a form of mainstream entertainment. IIRC, manga, like anime, is much more mainstream in Japan than comics are here in America, and are similarly advanced in terms of being “better” narrative fiction. (Note: If I stop posting after this, it’s because Fenris ripped my throat out.)

As for more genre stuff, anime is better in terms of historical fiction (read: samurai stories), while this isn’t exactly big in U.S. entertainment, the last two that come to mind being comedic, Bruce Campbell vehicles (Jack of All Trades and Brisco County Jr.).

You have to understand that animation and comic art is much more popular in Japan than it is in American culture. In American culture those mediums are relegated to the realm of children, the immature and overweight thirty year olds living in mom’s basement working at McDonalds.
There’s a lot of stuff produced in Japan that’s animated and in manga which is pure shit. America’s just lucky in there’s fandom who travel to Japan frequently or learn Japanese just to subtitle the work and will filter only the good stuff to Americans. Only get good stuff sent over, one will think that everything they do is good.
Japanese animation is much better than American animation, IMO, because there’s a certain life and an artistry that comes through which is lacking in American animation. When I saw Fantasia 2000 I thought “Uh, pretty. Boring too.” Plus the last bit was like some Disney artist was trying to emulate Miyazaki with all the nature stuff and failed because he or the director thought using a soft lens would make everything prettier. Unfortunately the entire piece just lacked a soul for want of a better word.
American comic stories all draw upon the same cliches and don’t rework them into something that looks brand new like the Japanese. American studios and artists don’t have the encouragement to make something truly original like Totoro or Ranma 1/2.

Hmm…thought the hardcore fans in Japan pretty much fit the same mold as obsessive American fanboys. From what I’ve been told, the manga is fairly mainstream, but most anime is not, thus leaving me with a fangirl reputation on both sides of the Pacific. (but not obsessive…no otaku here…I decline to comment on a friend of mine who is designing an anime magazine for her art and design tech class)

I still prefer the anime cliches to American cartoon cliches. I’m not sick of them yet and I can pretend to find a deep plotline in most of what I watch.