Japanese people do not revere anime.

In the modern lexicon, "anime" and "manga" are often used to refer to a mindless 24 minutes of entertainment in the same manner as "cartoon" is used in English.

You might be surprised to learn that there isn't much of a difference between anime viewer demographics in Japan and cartoon viewer demographics in America (or wherever). Granted, there are big differences between Japanese anime and Western cartoons, and there are of course differences in target audiences. There are also major differences between, for example, our pizzas, including what's on them, who eats them, how often, and why.

While it is true that many Japanese people read manga, Japanese adults don't really watch anime any more than their American counterparts would watch the occasional Bugs Bunny rerun, or The Simpsons. (In Japan, this might be old Tetsuwan Atomu reruns, which are especially popular in 2003, or the new Chibi Maruko-Chan.)

To many Japanese who consider themselves too mature for children's fare, "anime" has an unpleasant connotation not unlike the word "cartoon" in English. The vast majority of the anime in a Japanese video store is found in the children's section. Very few (props to Prof. Pi) Japanese people would agree that the word means "a compelling art medium that is known the world over for its style, versatility, and character." Anime is mass-marketing. Anime is cliches. Anime is cartoons.

If anything, anime has a better reputation as an artform in other countries than in Japan itself. True, some Japanese anime arguably achieves higher artistic levels than any other animation in the world. But the Japanese also have a LOT of anime. They are desensitized to the style, and when some anime film does well, it doesn't really change their impression of "anime" in general.

But the biggest shock might just be Japanese girls' cars. A Canadian from Alberta might expect to see the Totoro plushies so familiar from every CBC girl's rig. In Japan, even the cutest of anime characters can't compete with soulless not-quite-anime "character goods". Disney characters, especially Puu-chan, also handily clobber home-grown anime.

The word anime in Japanese has no specific cultural attachment.

If you show The Flintstones to any Japanese person, and then ask them, "Is this anime?" they will almost undoubtably reply "Yes, it is."

In Japanese, the word anime is simply an abbreviation for the word animeeshon (animation). It's the word they use for the mass-consumption cartoons on TV and Miyazaki movies alike. An adult might say "I like Miyazaki movies," or "I like (some cartoon from their childhood)," but it would be very strange for any adult to say "I like anime."

Anime does not have mystical properties just because it's a Japanese word.
Despite being of foreign origin, (it was originally a loanword from English) the word "anime" holds none of the mystique to the Japanese that it does to Westerners.

If we want to see what the word "anime" is nihongo for, I suggest that we check a nihongo dictionary.
(Contains Japanese characters in Unicode. Japanese entries have also been transliterated into romaji and translated into English by me.)

アニメ anime

animeeshon no ryaku.
Shortened form of "animeeshon".

アニメーション animeeshon (cf. animation)

sukoshi zutsu ugokashita ningyou, mata wa sukoshi zutsu henka sasete kaita ichiren no e nado wo hitokoma goto ni satsuei shi, kore wo renzoku eisha shite ugoki no kankaku wo ataeru eiga / terebi gihou.
manga / gekiga eiga / terebi bangumi no seisaku ni riyou. mata, sono eiga / terebi bangumi.
douga. anime.
A movie- and television-making technique in which a model is moved slightly or a picture is redrawn slightly, frame-by-frame, to create a continuous series of images with the sensation of motion. Used in the production of movies, animated stories, and television programs. Or, movies or television made by the above process. Motion pictures. Anime.

Source: Koujien 5th Ed. (This is a CST Approved use of copyrighted material.)

We all grow out of it. Well, most of us do.

The Japanese (except the very elderly) have had anime all of their lives, and thus a lot more time to grow out of it than most non-Japanese anime fans. It's interesting that an anime fan (late-teens / early twentyish) will experience not only a culture gap, but also a generation gap of sorts if they visit Japan.

The author was an avid anime fan for years, started an anime club which still runs today, acted as a senior organizer for a major anime convention, worked on fansubs, and still enjoys a good episode of Patlabor now and then. This article reflects how his opinions have changed after living in Japan for over three years and experiencing homestays with three different families. Domo.

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