Can American Cartoons Compare to Japanese Anime?

My brain spins in strange circles. Well the other day I was writing about the Japanese vs. American Style breakfast and started to get a little homesick when I was thinking about my family, and how we used to watch Saturday morning cartoons. My brain shifted from Saturday cartoons to the ones we used to watch together on weekdays. My mom would sometimes go to Sam’s (I like to think of Sam’s as a slightly broke-ass COSTCO) and buy this huge, wholesale box of Blow Pops. Blow-Pops, were these assorted fruit-flavored lollipops with gum inside (oh God, please tell me you remember those! SOOO Good!).

During our elementary school days, my brother and I would rush home, kick of our shoes, go to the Blow Pop box and get our favorite flavor. Clearly blue raspberry was the favorite so they would go really fast. Once those were gone, I’d go with the watermelon, and my little brother would get the sour apple. We’d sit in front of the TV and laugh with each other watching Tiny Toons, a spin-off of the original Looney Tunes franchise. For some reason one episode came to mind and I found it online. It was an episode where the Tiny Toons characters were singing or featured in different pop songs. The ones that I really liked were some slightly more obscure songs from the group “They May Be Giants.” Notably Particle Man and Istanbul.

I remember Plucky Duck being the featured as the character in the “Particle Man” video and I thought it was so simple but so brilliant. My brother and I used to like this one because we liked The Crusher, this Looney Tunes cartoon wrestler. We would sit and do what if matches. Like what if “Universe Man went against the Crusher?” Or “What if Triangle Man fought Universe Man?”Plus, the song was extremely catchy. If you haven’t seen it before, please click here to watch it really quick (I couldn’t find a good one on YouTube).

This is the Istanbul one:

These cartoons were AWESOME!

As I got older, though, I really started to get into Japanese anime. It really was one of the initial impetuses to learn more about Japanese culture. I thought the art was so well done that cartoons just drew you in. Japanese anime also had deeper and more unique stories. I had quite a few buddies that were into Japanese animation, too (if you’ve ever watched the original Thundercats, it was American in a sense, but the animation was Japanese).

Despite my love for Japanese anime, I have to really give credit where credit is due. The most famous, most recognizable cartoon characters (arguably in the world) have to come from the Disney franchise. I can show a picture of Mickey to anybody here in Japan, and they instantly know who he his. The same goes for many of the other characters like Minnie, Donald, and Daisy. However, just because they know the characters doesn’t mean that they actually like or watch the cartoons.

I really am curious to know how Japanse children respond to American cartoons. Knowing that this country is anime central, do they like the American cartoons as much as their own? Or do they just kind of ignore them? There has to be at least some kind of draw because movie theaters here do show the major Disney releases, even if they’re a bit late sometimes. Rental stores also have sections devoted to Disney (but not many of the other American cartoons, unfortunately).

Though American cartoons, on the whole, don’t seem to compare in terms of artwork (Pixar films don’t count) they can be just as entertaining, and in many cases (because I’m American) much much funnier. American cartoons are responsible for some cool classics like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Popeye, Tom and Jerry, Captain N (sorry had to throw that in for video game lovers), Casper the Friendly Ghost, The Flinstones, Captain Caveman, the Jetsons, and more.

I may have to do a little cartoon experiment with my kids at school, if they’ll let me.


Donald Ash

What Do You Think? How do American cartoons stack up against Japanese Anime?

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  • So I definitely agree with the notion that Japanimation has more unique plots to their cartoons. However, as a whole I would say comic relief, varied illustrations, and character dialogue goes to American cartoons. Not to slam Japanese animation or anything, but their character dialogue seems a bit choppy and cliche. lol.

    Nevertheless, they are entertaining as hell to watch. THUNDERCATS,HHOOO!

    • Donald Ash

      Alright, quiz time little bro. Cartoon question time: Who was the best Thundercat? Darkwing Duck vs. Gizmo Duck…who’d win? What are the lyrics to Donald Duck’s “The Army’s Not the Army anymore?”

      • First of all, let’s consider the history of the Thundercats. Aside from the fact that all of the other Thundercats are old as hell compared to Lion-O, it is safe to say that the leader of the Thundercats is the leader for a reason. He would kick all of their butts. Now, yielding to rawness of costume design and weapon choice, Tygra is the obvious choice. He can flip and freaking disappear! “What the hell! Oh, there he is! Psht-psht, hee-yah, psht!” You know the rest.

        Darkwing vs. Gizmo = a little harder competition. If I remember correctly, Darkwing and Gizmo were a little klutzy. However, in the heat of passion and anger, one duck takes a mechanical raping to his Dark-winged a#$. I ain’t saying no names though. lmbo!

        • After the Darkwing and Gizmo fight, you just see Donald Duck standing on the side shaking his duck-bill as the music plays, “The Army’s not the Army anymore. It’s better than it’s ever been before. You used to walk a-mile for beans and now they bring’em to ya; and all the generals say ‘HELLO!’as though they really knew ya. Ba-rum pa-da pum, Ba-rum pa-da pum, Ba-rum pa-da pum, pum-pum. Ooooh the Army’s not the Army anymore!

  • Joshua Shibata

    Great article. Plus big props on the mention of tiny toons. My younger brother and I had a very similiar tradition as your brother and u (we are now 25 and 29 respectively). Instead of blow pops though we would get the koolaid jar and some microwavable food and watch that whole Disney block: Tiny Toons (later replaced by the equally funny and wel written Animaniacs) Darkwing Duck, Tail Spin, Bonkers, Gargoyles (which was one of the most coolest and well written american cartoons of all time). I especiually did love that Wrestling theme song as I was a big fan of wrestling (still am) and thought Plucky was the bees knees. Aw takes me back. BTW they redid Thundercats just recently and its pretty damn good…i advise u check it out on youtube.

    • Donald Ash

      JOSHUA!! OH MY GOSH! I think you just opened Pandora’s Box! My brother and I loved Darkwing Duck and Tail Spin, too. The Animaniacs were awesome, too. I still remember Yakko singing all the countries of the world. That Disney Block was pretty hot, too (can’t forget the Rescue Rangers, Goof Troop, and Duck Tales :) )! Whey were Disney’s cartoon themes so freakin’ catchy. I know it’s kinda nerdy, but I actually have some of those songs on my ipod :O . Thanks for the Thundercats heads up. Yeah, I was pretty much all over that as soon as I found out there redid the show. MAJOR COOL POINTS FOR AN AWESOME COMMENT! Thanks Josh

  • Sean Patton

    I grew up with American cartoons on Saturday mornings and didn’t really experience Japanese animation until I was in my 20s. I would have to say that, story-wise, no American cartoon I’ve seen can compete with my favourite Japanese series (Hajime no Ippo, Clannad, Maison Ikkoku). The Japanese ones have more focus on character development and emotion, and tend to have way cooler fighting (if you like boxing, I highly recommend Hajime no Ippo – just as entertaining as watching real fights).

    However, the classic cartoons I grew up with will always be great in my mind. Batman, X-men, Flintstones, Ghostbusters… I’d watch Looney Tunes with my dad (the same episodes he watched when he was little), and still find them hilarious even today.

    As for The Crusher, I was just thinking about him yesterday! I compare myself to him when I buy pants. I’m not muscular, but I’m a 6′ tall guy who wears jeans with 28″ length. I’m pretty much an upper body wobbling around on Yosemite Sam legs.

    • Donald Ash

      “An upper body on Yosemite legs.” Hee hee. Man you guys are hitting all the good ones. Batman and the X-Men were cartoon staples for me, too. I watched so many different types of cartoons. I do agree with you on the anime stories being hard to compete with. I know I’ve said it before, but Samurai Champloo, though not a very long-running series, was one of the absolute, coolest cartoons I have ever watched in my entire life.

  • I used to love to do Istanbul on DDR! I need to get a new video game system so I can play DDR again. The arcade that had DDR in my city closed. It was replaced by pachinko. >:(

  • Anime_lover

    I quite agree with you. I grew up watching Tom and Jerry, Lion King… and those cartoons are really great. For Tom and Jerry, it is purely entertaining, but for Lion King… I actually cried when watching it.
    However, when I grow older, I am no longer interested in fairy tales-like cartoons which I think mostly target children, not the adults. But I’ve learned a lot from Japanese animes, especially those from Studio Ghibli. I learn how terrible the war could be with “Grave of Fireflies”, how our human beings affect the mother nature with Princess Mononoke and how peaceful and amazing the families are with Totoro and my neighbors: the Yamadas… . There is no need to have fighting, hero, witch, monsters, funny characters… to make a good and educational cartoon. And many Japanese animes have done that successfully. I’m sorry but now I do not really like the recently produced cartoons from Disney and other US cartoon makers, as the theme keeps repeating with fighting, hero, adventures of animals blah blah. In short, they need to really be creative and think more seriously about cartoon making, not just limited to entertaining purpose. If they don’t, I’m sorry but they will NEVER, NEVER be half as good as Japanese animes are.

    • Cartoon_lover

      It seems you’ve lost it, to be honest.

      Disney, Pixar, and other studios can carry the same type of emotion that Studio Ghibli has. You said yourself managed to cry at the Lion King, I’m very sure many others have. In addition, there are many animes that ARE aimed at children, which usually are just as bad as American children’s animated shows. And contrary to what you and others seem to think, Tom and Jerry and other cartoons of the era were initially NOT intended for children. Look at them and see all the clever humor and pop culture references.

      Some animes intended for older audiences are plagued with distasteful humor, unneeded fanservice, and woeful writing. That’s nowhere near the level of the Studio Ghibli movies. Anime in general suffers from stiff animation, which deeply hurts it.

      Sorry, but American cartoons have clearly reached “half as good as Japanese animes are”, but that’s because so much anime is really bad, and you seemed to ignore that.

  • enterkaras

    As much as I grew up watching cartoons on Saturday mornings, Battle Of The Planets (Japanese), Space Ghost, Thundarr The Barbarian, Tarzan, BlackStar. Dungeons and Dragons etc, all awesome cartoons. But I’d have to say in my opinion, nothing compares to anime, the art work, storyline, and imagination are just mind blowing….When I saw Akira for the first time when it came out, I was amazed for that time..Then, I got my hands on Battle Angel, Ghost In A Shell, Ninja Scroll, forget about it, Neo Tokyo, Wings Of Honneamaise, and these are just a few and years old….then came Karas The Prophecy and I never went back….:)

  • CallMeFreak

    American cartoons CAN compete with anime. Avatar and Korra shows that pretty well, but I don’t think even they can beat some of the best anime.

    Y’know, because they have emotion, plot, and when somebody dies, they usually STAY dead. (Brian, nudgenudge)

    • Rahul Reddy

      Can Avatar stand up to Naruto or One Piece or DBZ.Cartoons are for kids as you grow up you gradually lose interest.But Japanese Animes are targeted towards different age groups.

      • Mia Lewis

        Yes, Avatar can. In fact, I believe that A:TLA is actually much better than all three of those shows

        • TheAmbitiousOtaku

          Kissanime view number:
          One Piece: ~100 millions
          Naruto : ~40 millions
          Avatar : ~4.6 millions
          Dozens of anime surpass Avatar even the newest like Re:Zero
          Don’t forget that avatar is a cartoon inspired by anime

          • Mia Lewis

            So what if the art style was inspired by anime? A:TLA is one of the most original cartoons out there, and more work was put into both the original and Korra than it was for Naruto and One Piece

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