If you ever want to start a verbal civil war with an anime fandom, just asked a simple question: can non-Japanese anime still be legit? It is a point fans have been arguing for many, many years. On the one hand, hard-core fans say any anime not made in Japan is not anime at all. Others say anime is a form of art that can be created anywhere on the planet.
The argument seems to be a silly one on its face. After all, a pair of jeans is still a pair of jeans whether it’s made in the U.S. or Great Britain. Honda cars are still cars even though they are made at plants all over the world. So what’s the big deal with anime produced in places other than Japan?
1. Originally a Japanese Art Form
To die-hard fans, there is no escaping the fact that anime was originally a Japanese art form. Though its origins predate American animation, what we now know as modern anime was developed in response to animation in the West. Japanese content creators wanted a uniquely Japanese form of animation that was distinct from what was being produced elsewhere.
Any form of allegiance to anime’s origins would be reasonable motivation to suspect content created outside of Japan. But the fact is that Japanese content creators have willingly given their creations to the world. They have sold their content to distributors throughout North America, Europe, and other places. If they are not afraid to share their creations worldwide, why should fans be afraid of non-Japanese creators getting on board?
2. The Cultural Appropriation Argument
Unfortunately, there are some hard-core fans who have turned the debate into a political issue. Rather than discuss how art is created, they have to accuse non-Japanese content creators of cultural appropriation. Their argument is even more silly than the original one.
There are only a limited number of ideas and themes for art. Because they are limited, they have pretty much been exhausted throughout all of history. Applying the cultural appropriation argument would suggest that any artist, working in any medium, is guilty of appropriation if anything they have created was based on an idea or theme originating with someone else.
But why stop with art? No language on the planet is pure. Every one of them borrows from other languages. So that means every human being is guilty of cultural appropriation simply by speaking. It is a silly argument that should be put to rest once and for all.
3. Not an Ethnic Prize
It all boils down to one simple thing: anime is an art form, not an ethnic prize. Any artist with the skill, talent, and knowledge can create any form of art they desire. Skin color, ethnic origin, and geographic location have nothing to do with it.
The anime artwork featured on Umai T-shirts, sweatshirts, and posters is created by one of the company’s founders who, by the way, is an accomplished artist. Not being a native to Japan in no way diminishes from the fantastic images found on Umai pieces. It is true to the art form regardless of origin.
Can non-Japanese anime still be legit? That depends on whether you have an open mind. If you understand anime as a form of art rather than an ethnic prize, it is legitimate no matter where it is produced. If you are hung up on the fact that only genuine Japanese content creators can create anime, then you are limiting the art form to a small amount of land in the Pacific Ocean.