Though not always at the forefront of mainstream entertainment around the world, anime and manga have had a significant influence on a lot of artists’ and creators’ work. Some aim to create “anime” or “manga,” while others are show the impact of Japanese popular media in subtler ways, Prominent series such as Avatar: The Last Airbender and the more recent Steven Universe tend to be at the center of these discussions, and all of this leads to questions such as how one defines anime, or whether or not something “counts” as manga.
When thinking about whether or not Steven Universe or Megatokyo can be defined as anime or manga, what I find important isn’t the semantics of definition or how close to a certain truth we need to get, nor is it necessary to have to strictly categorize anime or manga. Instead, it reminds me of something that a classic anime dirctor, the late Ishiguro Noboru (Macross, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Space Battleship Yamato) had to say about what influenced his own work in Japanese animation. At Otakon 2011, Ishiguro cited as some of his influences Czech puppet shows and animator Norm McLaren, both of which are visually extremely different from Japanese animation both old and new.
While Ishiguro did not state that he was creating Japanese Czech Puppet Theater (OJP Animation instead of OEL Manga?), what I think is more important is understanding that how art influences art does not always result in something visually familiar. How it’s processed from its presentation to the creator who sees it, who then incorporates it in their own work, is unpredictable, and it might end up looking new and different. So, while Avatar: The Last Airbender looks closer to what people think of when they hear the term “anime” and Steven Universe looks a lot closer to an “American cartoon,” both are examples of series that draw influence from Japanese animation, and on some level it should be expected that there would be a transformative process when anime crosses, time, space, cultures, and different artists.
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That was some grade A pure navel gazing.
Bottom line: Don’t let your influences be confined to the medium you’re working in.
(On the flip side, don’t use something you saw elsewhere just because you liked it there. Think about what it’s doing in your work.)