What’s the Difference Between Anime and Cartoon?

The world of animation is vast and varied, with a wide range of styles, techniques, and themes. Although there are many ways to classify animated films into different genres, two stand above the rest as the most popular: cartoons and anime.

So what’re they? And how do they differ from other styles of animation? Let’s take a look!

What Is an Anime?

Anime is a form of Japanese animated film with hand-drawn or computer animation. The term “anime” comes from the Japanese word 漫画 manga (which in turn comes from 漫る mangaru, or “to do something without thinking”) and is often used as an abbreviation for “animation”.

Anime originated in Japan during World War II as propaganda films meant to inspire citizens who were going through difficult times. After the war ended, manga comics became popular throughout Japan and eventually spread throughout the world through exports such as television shows, video games, and toys.

Anime has evolved over the years and now encompasses a wide variety of genres. Some examples are:

  • Shōjo (young girl) anime – these stories are usually about young female characters who experience some sort of emotional growth throughout the story.
  • Shōnen (young boy) anime – these stories are usually about male characters who undergo some kind of emotional growth over the course of the story.
  • Seinen (adult male) anime – these stories typically focus on male characters who have already experienced some sort of emotional growth or maturity and are now faced with new challenges in their lives.

The anime genre focuses on storytelling and visuals. Story elements are often complex and characters are stylized with exaggerated physical features and personalities. The visual style features bright colors, deep shadows, and detailed lines.

What Is a Cartoon?

Cartoon is a word that comes from the Italian cartone, which means “cardboard.” It refers to a drawing on paper made with ink or pencil and has been known for over 200 years. 

The first cartoon was published in Europe in 1798. The cartoon showed a woman reading a newspaper while her husband sat next to her reading his own newspaper. The cartoonist wanted to show how different men and women are, so he drew a woman who was more interested in what she was reading than in anything else that was happening around her.

Cartoonists used to draw caricatures of famous people and events in the days when newspapers were printed on paper made of pulp (called newsprint). Cartoons were used to make fun of public figures who had done something wrong or stupid. This practice became very popular after World War II when the number of daily newspapers in America increased.

Today, a cartoon is defined as a form of visual art that uses a sequence of drawings to depict events in a humorous way. It is usually aimed at children, but in some cases can be used for an adult audience. Cartoons often use humor or non-sequiturs to entertain their audience and include slapstick, gags, and other forms of physical humor. 

Cartoons are usually aimed at children and teens – but not always! Some cartoons are also aimed at adults or contain adult themes.

Cartoons are often made using hand-drawn animation techniques such as stop-motion, claymation, or CGI (computer-generated imagery). They may also use live actors/actresses as well as animation techniques such as rotoscoping (which uses real footage as source material).

Anime Is Created in Japan, While Most Cartoons Come From America

Most cartoons are produced in America, but some are made in other countries (such as Canada) or even overseas (such as South Korea). They were originally created to entertain children, but cartoonists have expanded this idea over time, incorporating everything from adult-oriented humor to political satire into their cartoons.

Anime is traditionally produced in Japan. The Japanese government has been funding many of these projects for decades because it believes that its country’s unique cultural heritage should be preserved and shared with the rest of the world through this medium.

Anime Is Usually Made for Older Audiences, While Most American Cartoons Are Geared Toward Kids

The main difference between anime and cartoons is that anime is usually made for an older audience. The characters are often more mature, the stories more complex, and there are sometimes scenes of violence or nudity that aren’t suitable for younger viewers.

American cartoons, on the other hand, are geared toward children. They’re designed to be funny and entertaining and teach children about life through their adventures together as friends or family members.

Moreover, at the end of each cartoon episode, there are often catchy song lyrics to reinforce the lesson learned in each story – and it’s no coincidence that these songs become very popular with children who want to learn these lessons themselves!

Anime Has More Diverse Characters Than Cartoons Do

The main difference between anime and cartoons is that anime have more diverse characters than cartoons. Anime characters are not just white or black but have all colors of the spectrum.

There are also many different types of people portrayed in anime – people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTQ+ or non-binary gender, people living in poverty or wealth, young people, old people, fat people, skinny people… you name it!

Moreover, anime often features characters of different races who are by no means stereotypically foolish or evil, but simply people living their lives. Many of these characters are even portrayed as heroic leaders or mentors to other characters who might not have anyone to look up to without them!

The same goes for people with disabilities – they’re portrayed as people with abilities, not limitations!

In Western cartoons, on the other hand, characters are often one-dimensional and follow traditional, stereotypical roles. For example, if you watch a cartoon about a family, you can probably guess which character will be the father (because he’s usually tall and has a deep voice), who the mother is (because she’s usually short and has an accent), and who the children are (because they look like miniature versions of their parents).

While some anime characters conform to these traditional roles, many others don’t. For example, in One Piece: Romance Dawn Story: A New Day Dawns! Nami is a female pirate captain with an eye patch and long black hair tied into two ponytails – but she’s no ordinary damsel in distress. She’s incredibly strong and has beaten up men twice her size!

Anime Has More Complex Plot Lines Than Cartoons Do

Anime, or Japanese animation, is a very different art form than cartoons. While cartoons are often made for entertainment purposes, anime often serves as a medium to tell complex stories that can be both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Anime is mostly made for adults. The plots are more in-depth and complex than those in cartoons. They may contain science fiction or fantasy elements that appeal to adults, but may not be appropriate for children to watch alone. The content may also be violent or sexual, which is why some parents don’t want their children to watch certain adult-only shows!

In addition, the characters in an anime series can be very complex, which becomes apparent as the series progresses. For example, in Dragon Ball Z, Goku starts out as a nerdy boy who doesn’t know how to fight well, but slowly improves his skills until he can defeat Frieza (who was once feared by all the other warriors).

Some anime series even have multiple seasons! One example is One Piece, which has been running for over 20 years and still airs new episodes every week!

Furthermore, anime tends to focus more heavily on a single storyline than American cartoons do; however, this does not mean that there aren’t multiple storylines, just that there’s a common thread running through most of the content that ties everything together into one cohesive whole.


Cartoons are traditionally considered lighthearted and humorous, with an emphasis on slapstick humor and exaggerated character design. Anime, on the other hand, often has darker and more mature themes and more realistic character designs. This is not always the case, of course – there are many exceptions to both rules – but it is generally a fair characterization.

Another key difference between anime and cartoons is that anime is often told using sequential images, while cartoons are usually shown in a more traditional animation style. This makes anime seem more like manga, which can put off some viewers. Conversely, some people find the more realistic character designs of anime too garish or strange.

Ultimately, it’s all a matter of personal preference. Some people love both genres equally, while others prefer one over the other. The important thing is that there’s a wide selection of excellent anime and animated series for everyone to enjoy!

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