Is Pokemon Considered Anime Or A Cartoon? (What Is The Difference?)


Is Pokemon Considered Anime Or A Cartoon? (What Is The Difference?)

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From video games to trading cards, toys, merchandise, and multiple TV series, the Pokemon franchise is one of the most popular in the world. But have you ever thought about whether Pokémon is considered anime or a cartoon? Is there a difference, or are they just different sides of the same coin?

Pokemon is considered to be anime by most people as it shares many of the same characteristics with other anime shows such as exaggerated character features, specific plot lines, and more. 

In this article we are going to dive deeper into the answer to this question for you and why I believe that it is more anime than cartoon. I will also give the reasons why some people feel it is a cartoon instead. 

We will start with a brief discussion about the definition of anime vs. cartoon and then look a little bit deeper at which word better describes Pokémon.

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What Exactly Is Anime?

Anime or Japanimations is a form of hand-drawn or computer-generated anime that was created in Japan. It also has a distinct style that differentiates it from other forms of animation. 

In fact, the term anime is the Japanese adaptation of the English word; animation.

In Japan, the word anime describes all forms of animation. This umbrella term is used regardless of the origin of the series and the style of the drawings. The earliest record of commercial use for animation dates as far back as 1917. It wasn’t until 1960 that the modern anime-style became mainstream.

Today Japan is filled with anime images as it is part of their culture and everyday life. You will come across anime in education, magazines, movies, books, and marketing.

What Exactly Are Cartoons?

The word cartoon is an umbrella term for a broad category of animation. However, nowadays, cartoons typically refer to TV programs and series whose target audience is children. These types of programs feature many child-friendly themes like superheroes, human-like animals, and so on. 

The word cartoon is more common in western terminology.

What Is The Difference Between Anime And Cartoons?

To be honest, there isn’t much difference between these two types of movies and tv series. In fact, the two terms can be used interchangeably because they mean basically the same thing. 


Both words are used to refer to animation and animated series.

As I mentioned earlier, the difference is that anime is the umbrella term for all forms of animation in Japan regardless of their origin. So, for example, the Disney film franchise is considered anime in Japan.

On the other hand, the term cartoon is used in western terminology to describe all forms of animation except for those that use the distinct Japanese style. That, in essence, is the significant difference between the two. 

So outside Japan, the Japanese style of illustration is considered anime.

There are also specific characteristics in the styles that show a difference between anime and cartoons. While both are animations, anime has very visually distinct character features that use limited motion depiction compared to western-style cartoons.  

Additionally, the Japanese animation style is often characterized by vibrant characters, colorful graphics, and fantastical themes. Moreover, the way anime is produced differs slightly from the way cartoons are created.

Is Pokemon Considered Anime Or A Cartoon?

This debate has been ongoing for decades now. 

Staunch fans of Pokémon insist that it is anime and not a cartoon. I think it’s safe to conclude that these fans are correct. In all aspects, Pokémon fits perfectly within the description of anime compared to the definition of a cartoon.

Experts point out that different factors such as visual characteristics, facial expressions, production techniques, and subject matter of the Pokemon franchise fit the description of anime more than that of a cartoon.

So now that the question is settled let’s take a detailed look at the factors that are used to categorize Pokemon as anime.

Differences In Visual Characteristics Between Anime And Cartoons

Production methods, techniques, and illustrations that are used to design anime characters are pretty different from those used in regular cartoons. Usually, the best way to spot the difference is by looking at the characters’ physical features in anime. 

If you take a look at Pokemon, you can clearly see a certain level of exaggeration in the character’s features.

Most anime characters have large eyes, smaller mouths, elongated limbs, and big hair. You will find a wide variety of distinct physical features that are further from reality than cartoons. Some anime styles include dramatic onomatopoeia and shaped speech bubbles, among other unique illustrations that have become synonymous with the genre.

On the other hand, cartoons usually have characters with features that have a certain level of realism compared to anime. 

While there still are caricatures, cartoons seem to have more realistic traces of human resemblance.

Both anime and western-style cartoons vary in the illustration style and exaggeration or realism of their characters. Certain factors like the series budget and the number of skilled staff affect the development of these shows.

Anime Vs. Cartoon Facial Expressions

Another critical feature that we can use to distinguish whether Pokemon is anime or a cartoon is the facial expressions that each character has.

When you look at the Pokemon characters, you can see specific expressions like the massive tear-shaped sweat-drops that appear when a character is embarrassed or stressed. The same distinct faces can be seen when a character blushes or is shocked or angry. 

For example, you will see bulging veins on the forehead or the neck when a character gets angry.

Another great example is when a mallet appears from nowhere when a character is angry and hits another character with it. These types of expressions or comic relief in the latter example are very unique to anime. 

You will be hard-pressed to find such expressions used widely in western-style cartoons.

Anime Vs. Cartoon Animation Techniques

In terms of production methods and techniques, anime producers use a combination of graphic art, cinematography, and characterization. Both anime and cartoons use traditional methods of production in character design, storyboarding, and voice acting. You will, however, find that the focus in anime is more on the realism of the settings and use of camera effects and less on the animation movement.  

What does this mean? 

For example, common parts are used over and over again between frames instead of re-drawing each new frame. To the human eye, it looks like there is more movement than there actually is. In Pokemon’s Sun and Moon series, you might see that the foreground and the background remain static in some scenes as some of the characters move. You might also be able to see that some of the character’s clothing, hair, tails, or limbs are also static.  

However, it can be hard to see these subtle details unless you are looking for them. Most anime productions use this type of animation technique because it lowers production costs since they don’t have to draw new frames.  

Another unique aspect of anime is the emphasis on three-dimensional views. So, for example, in some Pokemon scenes, you can clearly see the changing season. This is because the focus is on depicting the atmosphere in the background in such a way that new changes are easily noticeable.

Anime Vs. Cartoon Subject Matter

Another way that western-style cartoons differ from anime like Pokemon is on the subject matter. There have been thousands of debates online and among experts in the industry about whether cartoons are for children and anime is for teenagers.

The general consensus is that this notion is not necessarily true. 

Anime and cartoons appeal to and are created for a wide range of audiences. The difference lies in the subject matter, and perhaps that has been the cause of the confusion.

Let’s explain a bit further. 

You see, cartoons usually revolve around humorous themes intended to induce laughter. There are, of course, a wide variety of other concepts butl, the majority of cartoons in western media are comedic in nature. 

Another significant difference is that cartoons tend to be more lighthearted, so they are considered suited for younger audiences.

Moreover, cartoons are considered to vary more in style than anime. This is because of several factors but the most significant is that western-style cartoons are subject to stricter censorship standards that do not allow the use of excessively sexual or violent themes.

However, there are some adult-themed cartoons like South Park, The Simpsons, and Family Guy.  

Anime series, on the other hand, are not usually lighthearted or humorous. Instead, most of them follow a plot that is carried through the whole series, exploring themes like morality, for example. 

There is usually a hero who is also the protagonist of the story, like Ash Ketchum in Pokemon. 

The aim is to capture the attention span of viewers for a longer time. Maybe that is why there is the misconception that anime is for teenagers.

Unlike cartoons, anime is not subject to strict censorship standards in Japan. It seems violence and sexual themes are more tolerated than in the west.

The Bottom Line: Is Pokemon Considered Anime Or A Cartoon?

Ask an average person on the street today whether Pokemon is anime or cartoon and they might not be able to tell the difference. Although we’ve seen that both terms can be used interchangeably, there are subtle but significant differences between what most people consider anime and what is considered cartoons.

In my opinion, Pokemon definitely falls within the anime category.

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