Though animation from companies such as Pixar and Dreamworks tends toward 3D tales of charming and family friendly characters, anime is different in the way that it uniquely interprets its themes and storytelling. Coming from Japanese studios such as Studio Ghibli and Toho, anime features eye-popping colors in 2D digital animation styles which tell a story based around a certain character in a very intense way.
One film that utilizes this formula is “A Silent Voice,”which focuses on Shoya Ishida (Miyu Irino) and his journey as an adult who is constantly affected by his past, specifically his unstable friendship with a deaf girl, Shoko Nishimiya (Saori Hayami). This is a much more complex plot than a film like “Ice Age.”
In addition, anime can be seen to have a more confusing story structure than traditional Western animation. Anime tends to have a style more closely related to the style of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino than Disney movies. However, using this story structure creates a more complex way to have an audience think critically of the theme presented.
“Plots are often complex and convoluted, serving primarily as vessels to display incredible visuals,” dubbing and adaptation expert Mary Claypool said to Japan Times.
One anime film that best represents this is “Your Name” by Makoto Shinkai. The film focuses on two characters and how they switched bodies throughout the film. Taki (Ryunosuke Kamik) lives in Tokyo, Japan and stresses over his responsibilities in school and his full-time job as a waiter. On the other hand, Mitsuha (Mone Kamishibai) lives in a town called Itormi and dreams of being in Tokyo in order to get away from her tedious lifestyle. As the film progresses, Taki and Mitsuha mysteriously begin to switch bodies. At one point, Taki stopped switching bodies with Mitsuha and discovered that she died seven years before due to a comet directly striking the town.
“It’s about individual memory and collective memory, the forgetting of a certain morality and sense of tradition,” director Makoto Shinkai said to the South China Morning Post.
Despite the emphasis on the natural disaster, which Japanese audiences would certainly relate to, the main theme of the film is how love can never be separated by unexpected events. The audience understands this through figurative meaning and symbolism, which enhances this theme. For instance, the film heavily focuses on the red ribbon worn by Mitsuha, and how the red symbolizes love and connection between people. In this case, the ribbon is the love connection between Taki and Mitsusha that they both develop throughout the film. These complex plot elements help separate anime from Western films.
This contrasts with a film like “Wall-E,” which tackles a similar theme of love but lacks the symbolism and intensity of the plot of “Your Name.” While “Your Name” does not shy away from disaster in its backstory, “Wall-E” does not spend much time on the process of the Earth being destroyed by pollution. The film, instead, shows the aftermath in order to maintain a charming tone, without focusing on the dark elements.
While both film styles have value, one as more of an escape and one as a complex story, there is a clear difference between the two.