Difference between Anime and Cartoon

There is a common belief that every motion picture that is drawn and animated is a cartoon, while anime is a Japanese sub-genre of a cartoon. However, there are some substantial differences between a cartoon and anime and we will take a closer look at these differences in this article.


Anime vs Cartoon
Modern anime artists employ many distinct visual styles and utilize a variety of techniques

In the United States audience, the term “anime” refers to Japanese-produced animation features and their style. The history of anime goes back to the beginning of the 20th century, when Japanese movie directors started experimenting with various drawing and animating techniques as a means to tell their stories. The modern anime style emerged in the 1960s with the works of the renowned anime artist Osamu Tezuka. By the end of the 20th century anime had gained a world-wide reputation and nowadays anime and anime-related sub culture has a devoted community all over the world. Anime is distinguished from various other styles of animation by the diversity of its artistic approaches and  subject matters. The anime industry in Japan consists of more than 400 production companies.

Mickey Mouse, a funny animal cartoon character and the protagonist of a cartoon series made in the Walt Disney Studio

Today the term “cartoon” often refers to television shows and short fictional movies that create the illusion of movement of drawn or computer generated images. Cartoons mostly target pre-teen audiences, and because of that they have gained a reputation as being somewhat silly, shallow, and merely “entertaining.” Common personages of cartoons include little children, anthropomorphized animals and comic-like superheroes. The subject matter of most cartoons is the adventures of the above personages.

Comparison chart

Anime Cartoon
Is often devoid of humor Usually has a humorous content
Subject matter often touches on violent and sexual issues Subject matter is adventure or silly humorous situations
Made both for young and adult audiences Made for a young audience
Emphasis on art qualities Emphasis on motion
Techniques similar to the techniques used in creating movies Do not utilize complex techniques
The visuals are produced before the voice acting Voice acting is done first, then the visuals
Is sometimes distributed theatrically Is intended to be watched on TV
Facial expressions and physical features of the personages are exaggerated Facial expressions and physical features of the personages are normal

Anime vs Cartoon

What is the difference between anime and cartoon?

  • Anime often deals with serious subject matters and is often either devoid of humor entirely or contains dark humor and satire. Cartoons, on the other hand, almost always contain elements of silly humor because they were designed primarily to entertain little kids and make them laugh.
  • Anime touches on a variety of subject matter. Adult-oriented anime often delves deeply into sexual, social or political matters and often contains scenes of graphic violence. Cartoons, on the other hand, never employ serious subject matter, instead dealing with simple adventures or slap- stick comedy scenes. There is no graphic violence in cartoons.
  • Anime targets all kinds of audiences, from little children to adults. Cartoons, on the other hand, specifically target little children.
  • In creating anime, artists employ techniques borrowed from the motion picture industry. These include panning and tilting, zooming, angled shots and complex staging and blocking mise-en-scene techniques. In addition, anime is famous for its art quality with the detailed three-dimensional look which aims to create an atmosphere and invite a viewer into the world of a particular picture. Cartoons, on the other hand, are characterized by their simple techniques, a “two-dimensional” look and the lack of complex art-direction. Cartoons instead put an emphasis on action and movement in the scene.
  • In the production process of most anime, the visuals are created first, and the characters are voiced later. In the production process of cartoons voice acting is done in the first place, and then the visuals.
  • Anime is distributed in Japan and all over the world, both via television and theatrically. There are international theatrical premieres of distinguished anime productions and special festivals dedicated to anime. Cartoons, on the other hand, are distributed almost exclusively via television.
  • Facial expressions and physical features of the characters of anime are almost always exaggerated. This exaggeration has become a distinct mark of anime. Cartoons, on the other hand, do not employ exaggerated features of the “human” personages. They are made to be identified with by the young audience.
anime skull
A drawing of how the skull of the anime person would look