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The Anime Art Style: Why is it So Popular?

Anime art has exploded in recent years, and has even earned its own genre on Netflix! In the 90s, what we knew as "Anime" were poorly dubbed Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball episodes among the sea of American-style cartoons.

Now it's everywhere: from Fandoms, to Discord servers, subreddits to Facebook groups. There seems to be a million online communities dedicated to the art of anime. It's not just tweens and teens who are obsessed with drawing fan art... it's even widespread among professional artists, particularly in the character and game design industries!

  1. Anime connects people and cultures together

  2. The anime art style is found in many popular video games, which originated in classic Japanese games like Final Fantasy and Nintendo games

  3. The anime art style has wide appeal (a principle of animation)

What is the Anime Art Style called?

There are many different variations of the anime style! Some are simplistic like: Kawaii, chibi, and moe, while others are more realistic or semi realistic.

To get more specific, there are five types of categories that anime can fit into: shonen, shojo, seinen, josei, and kodomomuke that differ based on subject matter, audience, and general themes.

Shonen anime

Usually tailored towards young teen males, Shoene anime feature male heroes and follow this general style:

Shojo anime

Shojo anime is usually tailored more towards teen and young adult women. It has an emphasis on emotions instead of actions and follows this general style:

Seinen anime

Seinen anime is tailored towards young and older men. Many seinen shows are science / fantasy based and follow this general style:

Josei anime

Josei anime is the opposite of Seinen and is tailored towards adult women. It features older women and more realistic stories, and it usually follows this general style:


Kodomomuke is a type of anime that is tailored specifically for children. It features stories that teach morals and core values to youth, and it follows this general style:

Among the five styles of anime mentioned above, which one is your favorite? Anime art is a great way to add instant appeal to all types of products and accessories, from keychains to custom lanyards to stickers and other creative gifts.

Why is Anime Art so Appealing?

It’s not just about large eyes, but fascinating stories, expressive features, and the aesthetic that is captivating everyone from youth to adults. Appeal is one of the 12 principles of animation. This means that the characters are made to be easy to read and have strong character development to captivate viewers. Cute eyes, clothing, and expressions are all characteristics that add to a character’s appeal! Japanese artists have mastered this in their cartoon style. From extremely stylized characters to extreme forms of exaggeration, anime lets viewers immerse themselves into a world of human and inhuman experiences we can empathize with that are beautifully depicted.

Does Anime Count as Real Art?

Absolutely! It may not be sold as "fine art" (unless you are Takashi Murakami) but it serves a very wide audience and has mass appeal, from kids to adults — TV series, movies to games. Anime has been a huge source of inspiration for youth, and many of our students begin to draw because of their love for fan art! In entertainment, anime is considered a genre in itself that employs many commercial artists, designers and animators. So it really comes down to how you define “real art” — and we see “real art” as much more than just gallery art.

Why Do Art Schools Hate Anime?

Many art schools explicitly say they do not accept anime art in school portfolios. This is because most North American art schools are biased towards American-style animation and cartoons (aka Disney), but now that Anime has exploded all over the world, we can no longer ignore its presence and importance in popular culture and entertainment today! So we at Winged Canvas can't disagree more with the art schools that choose not to include it in the portfolio evaluation process. When evaluating your anime art in a portfolio, the one thing to watch out for is Fan Art vs original art in the anime aesthetic.

Watch the clip from our art portfolio tips video series on YouTube!

Is it Bad to Draw Anime Instead of Realism?

Almost all professional anime artists have art fundamentals and knowledge of realism, since anime characters are based on human anatomy. A good base for anime art is an understanding of real humans so that you can perfect your anime style. Anime is a stylization of reality, so learning the fundamentals (“realism”) will only make your anime drawing skills stronger! Some may argue that with the growing popularity of anime culture today, anime artists may actually find more success than artists who work in a realistic style!

Is Anime Still Drawn by Hand?

From the beginning of anime in Japan, the art form has always been hand drawn frame by frame. Still today, anime is a combination of hand drawings and computer generated imagery (CGI). CGI is only used in areas where there are large crowds, for backgrounds, or even dramatic elements. So why is the majority of anime still hand drawn? Anime is a deep rooted part of Japanese culture, so the hand drawing process has been preserved for decades. Still, digital art is on the rise and a lot of the youth that are interested in anime practice drawing digitally!

Why is Drawing Anime So Hard?

Anime is based on realism, even if we don’t notice when we look at it. Having a base knowledge of art fundamentals such as perspective, proportions and human anatomy is the first step in becoming a better anime artist. With that base knowledge, you’ll be able to take what you know and stylize it with anime features and exaggeration, exploring styles that you’re interested in! Anime drawings might seem difficult at first, but the steps to mastering it are similar to drawing anything—practice!

What is Manga? [ Manga vs. Anime ]

Although Manga and Anime are sometimes used interchangeably, they are fundamentally different in use. Both originated in Japan, but while anime consists of animated TV and movies, manga are comic books and graphic novels drawn in a similar style to anime, but focused on storytelling in 2D form. For example, think of Batman the comic versus Batman the animated series (manga is the comic and anime is the animated series). Both have exaggerated features and the style of the drawings in both are referred to as “anime” style. If you’re looking to learn more about the differences and enhance your art skills, take a look at our Comics & Manga Intensive and Digital Illustration & Comics Mentorship.

Anime Art in the Classroom

Student self-portraits from a Winged Canvas elementary school workshop

Incorporating anime into art classes can be a magical experience. Students that might be bored light up and start conversations when anime culture is brought in. They are given a chance to tell stories and willingly draw fan art. It’s a great learning tool to get students involved and excited about art class! At Winged Canvas, we offer elementary and high school workshops for schools that feature anime art lessons!

Famous Anime Artist to Note

Miyazaki is one of the most influential filmmakers (animator, director, producer, screenwriter, and manga artist) in the history of animation. Many people consider him to be the ‘Japanese Walt Disney’. He is a co-founder of Studio Ghibli and has won an Academy Award with his film Spirited Away. His work often focuses on humanity and its connection to nature, art, and peace with strong female leads. Although he is now retired, he is one of the most influential filmmakers of the century.

Are you looking to improve your anime drawing skills?

Here are our live virtual classes designed for different stages in your learning progress.

You can also learn at your own pace with our Cartooning & Anime Course

Teacher Resources:

If you’re a teacher that’s looking for classroom content centered around anime, browse our selection of Video Art Projects on Teachers Pay Teachers!

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