Thursday, January 30, 2014

Avatar: The Last Airbender is cool and all, but is it anime?

Avatar: The Last Airbender and its successor, The Legend of Korra, are two of the deepest and unequivocally greatest shows produced on a western cartoon channel in the past decade.

But one thing they're not, strictly speaking, is anime.

At least that's the opinion of westerns (and by westerners, I really mean "otaku") who - perhaps rightfully - insist that proper anime needs to be produced in Japan.

Yet Mike Rugnetta from PBS's Idea Channel - who's been featured here before - thinks there's a lot more going on beneath the surface and launched an incredible video editorial asking whether fans should consider Avatar and Korra anime despite the fact that they're not made in Japan.

Rugnetta eventually wanders to a great point in the below video - in Japan, "anime" is used to refer to any and all animated TV programs from B. Gata H Kei and Spice and Wolf to, say, Bob's Burgers and American Dad.

Sure, they might be differentiated as western anime and eastern anime - but they're all anime.  Pretty interesting, huh?  The fact that the Japanese, who produce "proper anime" wouldn't kick Avatar and Korra out of the club that westerns have created for them.

It's not half as interesting as when Rugnetta dances around to the issue of genre solidity (e.g., the classic debate on how sparkling wine isn't champagne or how Bravely Default isn't Final Fantasy) before undermining the legitimacy of hipsterian exclusivity.

In other words, what's gained by excluding exemplars that are - for all intents and purposes - group members from a broad genre label?  The short answer is nothing.

Purists may argue that they're protecting a brand or a name (a valid point in the case of Champagne), but in reality all they're doing is being exclusionary for the sake of being exclusionary.

To put it more simply: if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, call it a fucking duck and be done with it.  No one who really matters in life will care if you list Avatar and Korra as two of your favorite animes.