The bias on characters’ visual traits in Japanese animation and the misconceived “transnationality” of anime


Anime and Manga
Cultural Agency
Visual Markers
Graphics Politics
Biased Scholarship

How to Cite

Pellitteri, M. “The Bias on characters’ Visual Traits in Japanese Animation and the Misconceived ‘transnationality’ of Anime”. Mutual Images Journal, no. 11, Dec. 2023, pp. 109-38, doi:10.32926/2023.11.7.


In the dynamics centred on East Asian cultural output, a special place is occupied by Japan’s production (namely, comics and animation, or manga and anime respectively) and the distribution and widespread consumption of this vast output around the world.

Despite the interpolations many anime series or films faced when exported, a specificity of the medium was/is usually recognised by foreign audiences. However, issues often unfold in the reception of anime’s visual codes, which entail problematical aspects in the grasping of the narratives and an underlying dimension of what I shall here call “graphic politics”. Today, the visual-narrative logics of anime characters’ physiognomies, and therefore, the motivations and intentions of their creators, are still largely misinterpreted based on culturally-inflected interpretations; this gives us clues on what the audiences of anime are, what they expect and draw from anime’s stories, and what this means for a global politics of anime as a medium of expression and a creative output. In this article, through the description of visual examples and established, or, at times controversial, scholarship in the field, I discuss the persistence of wide misunderstandings in the cultural politics of anime’s design and its impact on the reception of anime’s intentions globally.

Among the collateral effects of this misunderstanding, a technical and moral justification to call (or imply as) “anime” animations designed and produced outside of Japan by non-Japanese authors seems to be emerging in the global discourse, thus privileging a fabricated idea of anime as just a “form” over anime as also and mainly a Japanese cultural artefact, in a momentous process of progressive dilution of the Japan-embedded characteristics of the animations made in Japan.
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Copyright (c) 2024 Marco Pellitteri