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“Japanimation ROCKS!” And How It Fell Out Of Use

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"Letters from the New York Otaku"

By David Cabrera


#58 - “Japanimation ROCKS!” And How It Fell Out Of Use

In the old days, when people were trying to figure out just what to call the stuff these tapes they got from Japan, they just put two words together. Japan plus animation. Japanimation.

Nobody really uses this term anymore, but it's come up in conversation lately An old advertisement resurfaced, (you'll see it later) and after that a friend in Japan told me “Japanimation” was actually used by Japanese in reference to anime titles that foreigners like. What an interesting bit of cultural exchange!

I remember this word being scorned by fans at the time it was being used. If you used the word “anime,” you were alright. If you used “cartoons,” you were terrible. If you used “Japanimation,” that was a problem.

It was a marketing buzzword, in the same sense that “Original English Language manga” was, in the same sense that “anime” eventually became. Check out this ad for Central Park Media's VHS tapes, (http://bit.ly/LsjxlF) which states “JAPANIMATION ROCKS!” In my mind it evokes old sales pitches, breathless late '80s announcers insisting that “state-of-the-art Japanimation is the new wave that's going to take America by storm!” or something silly like that. This kind of commercial (http://bit.ly/MaxqSS).. in which the word “Japanimation” isn't actually used. Moving along, then!

Like “cartoon”, the word was seen as belittling the work, or relegating it to novelty territory. To some fans, the person who used this “Japanimation” wasn't treating the work with respect, and they were therefore lower in fan status. Anime fans have always been fiercely protective of the material, and would cringe to hear something like “Hey, have you seen that crazy Japanimation? It's all got tons of blood and naked chicks! Japan is totally nuts!”

There were even those who considered the word racist because it could also be read as a combination of the slur “Jap” and “animation”.

“Japanimation” was also just a really long, clunky word: after all, how many times could you say “Japanimation” in a conversation about your favorite anime before giving up? Why even say “animation,” right? “Anime” is just a much catchier and easier word.

So it was just a matter of time before the word “Japanimation” eventually gave way. Today, it's kind of a joke word. If you say “Japanimation” you're just being silly and ironic, and the person you're talking to probably knows it. In this old review of Mazinkaiser SKL, I jokingly called it “Japanimation” due to its resemblance to the gory hits of that era. (http://bit.ly/oxs0Tv)

Though the word has mostly fallen out of wide use, a Google search reveals a few online stores using the name, including the long-lived Joy's Japanimation, whose website dates back to 1997. Yeah, those were still the Japanimation days...
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