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Cartoon vs Anime: What’s the Difference?

If you like to watch series and films, you probably watched animated movies that did not use any “real” person on the screen. Maybe series like Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Pucca, Spider-Man animated series, and X-Men. The Animated Series was part of your childhood and teenage years.

Yet, even though they are both animated, you still have this question inside your head: “what’s the difference between cartoons and animes?”

The short answer is that cartoon is an open concept. Every and any animated series or film may be called a cartoon. However, only those that are produced in Japan – or have a Japanese style – can be called anime.

Actually, the answer is a little deeper than that because anime is a very specific style of animation. You can easily recognize what is anime. Therefore, if you want to understand more about the differences between cartoons and anime, keep on reading.

The Real Difference Between Cartoon And Anime

Cartoons are two-dimensional illustrated animated series or movies, in the audiovisual sense. But cartoons don’t need to be animated.

You probably have seen a satirical cartoon in a textbook before.

It wasn’t animated, but still was a cartoon, because the cartoon is any two-dimensional illustrated draw. This draw can be animated or not.

A cartoon does not have just a way of being used, it can serve for a thousand different things.

What is Cartoon?

Usually, cartoons are a bit far from reality in anatomic’s senses. It is rare to find a cartoon that tries to have features relative to the rest of the body.

For example, it’s common in cartoons that a person’s head is bigger than their body. Overall, cartoons are used for comical purposes. However, it has been used for more serious thematics like biographies, dramas, and even politics.

What is Anime?

An anime is a Japanese animated production. That is where its name came from, actually. Anime is the Japanese translation for “animated”. You may ask yourself: “Only Japanese can produce animes?”. Well, that is a very difficult question to answer.

Some people believe that yes, only the Japanese can do animes. Some people believe that anyone can make an anime if this person keeps its traditional characteristics. We have seen a lot of famous animes that are not produced by Japanese people, like Jackie Chan Adventures and Castlevania.

What makes an anime being an anime is its characteristics. As I have said before, is very easy to identify an anime. You can do that by just seeing its physical characteristics.

Animes have a bigger emphasis on facial expressions, especially around the eyes, and most of them are known for being a bit exaggerated when it comes to physical features.

In general, the vast majority of animes have characters with large eyes, big and colorful hair, and elongated limbs. A facial expression from an anime is nothing like a facial expression from a western cartoon, and vice-versa. These are two very different languages.

Also, one thing that makes animes very recognizable is their voice acting.

Cartoon vs Anime: Comparison Charts

  • It’s from the United States;
  • It’s a two-dimensional illustrated visual art;
  • It can be animated or not;
  • It normally has comedy purposes, but it has been used for drama and “deeper” thematics;
  • It’s from Japan;
  • It has a unique voice acting;
  • The physical features are very different;
  • It has a great emphasis on facial expressions and feelings;


Anime Cartoon
Definition Japanese animation to the world, animation to the Japanese Humorous animated picture with a caption
Visual Characteristics Various facial expressions, closer to real life human beings Disproportional physical features, not necessarily human
Subject Matter Life issues, human emotions Humorous, comical, satirical
Origin Japan The United States
Length Around 20 minutes per episode, can be movies or series, series have single or multiple seasons Can range from 5 minutes to an hour, can be movies or series, series have single or multiple seasons
Techniques Limited animation, reused frames, support three-dimensional views More attention to detail, normally intended to be two-dimensional

Some of The Most Famous Anime and Cartoon Shows of All Time

Famous Anime Shows:

  1. Pokemon: A story about a young boy who dreams about being a pokemon trainer and his adventurous experiences.
  2. Dragon Ball: A story about a young boy living alone in the woods who encounters a girl looking to complete her collection of dragon balls so that her wish for a good boyfriend is granted.
  3. Naruto: A story about a boy with a living monster inside him. The boy struggles to find a place in the world and becomes a ninja. His encounters and experiences account for the plotline.
  4. Death Note: A story about a high school student who can kill people by writing their names in a special notebook. However, even such powers have heavy consequences …
  5. Attack on Titan: A story where mankind is nearing extinction, with terrifying creatures (titans) hunt humans.

Attack on Titan is based on the Japanese novel “Attack on Titan”.

If these plots have caught your eye, check the third link in the references for more interesting anime shows.

Famous Cartoon Shows:

  1. The Simpsons (obviously!): The show follows the lives of the Simpson family with Homer Simpson, one of the funniest and most popular cartoon characters of all time, as the main character.
  2. Tom and Jerry: This highly creative and intelligent show follows the lives of Tom, a housecat, and Jerry, a mouse that keeps getting on Tom’s nerves. It is funny, smart, and quick-paced, and can amuse audiences of all ages.
  3. SpongeBob SquarePants: This humorous show is every kid’s favorite! It is about a sponge who lives underwater with a starfish and some other friends.
  4. Phineas and Ferb: The show is about two brothers who keep coming up with creative inventions and their sister who is always infuriated with them and snitches to her parents. Every time, by the time the parents come to verify the sister’s words, Phineas and Ferb would have cleaned up the whole mess and everything is back to normal.
  5. Rick and Morty: This is a late show about a scientific genius, Rick, who struggles to reconnect with his daughter but ends up connecting with her son, Morty, and going with him on interesting adventures.

Is Pokemon a Cartoon or Anime?

That all being said, there is a cruel question that torments us all: is pokemon a cartoon or an anime? Well, let me answer it fair and quick: pokemon is an anime, not a cartoon.

Pokemon TV series was almost completely produced in Japan by the Japanese, and it has some of the most important anime features, such as the emphasis on feelings and facial expressions, large eyes on characters’ faces, and a very memorable and unique voice acting.

Pokemon’s plot and narrative is a classic that has been used for many animes since it was first released in 1997. Obviously, it wasn’t Pokemon the one responsible for creating the trama about a boy that gather with his friends to go out for adventures while he is discovering himself.

However, Pokemon made that being very popular inside and outside Japan. Some incredible anime that has a similar premise to Pokemon’s are Digimon Adventure, Yu Gi Oh! Duel Monsters, Kiba, Bakugan Battle Brawlers, Bakuten Shoot Beyblade, and Zatch Bell (Konjiki no Gash Bell!!).

What is American Anime Called?

It does not have a specific name. Look, let me make this clear: every anime is an animation. Anime means animation. Not every animation is an anime, but every anime is an animation.

For an animation to be considered an anime, it has to have those typical characteristics that I explained earlier. If those characteristics are present, that animation is an anime.

There are some animes made from (or with) the United States, such as Castlevania, Avatar: The Last Airbender; She-Ra; RWBY, and the brand new The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf, which is a movie, not a series, but it is still an anime, or something really close to an anime.

Well, honestly, is what we call a “cartoonish-anime”. Star Wars: Visions is an anime series that is going to be released by Disney +, but it is produced by Japanese studios.

Why Do People Say That Anime Isn’t a Cartoon?

Anime has some typical characteristics that are hardly found in cartoons.

Cartoons themselves have a specific language and aesthetic that are not commonly found in animes. So, overall, these are two different things, but both of them are mostly animated. That’s why it is easy to mix up the terms.

Let’s look at some of the most known cartoons: Tom and Jerry; The Simpsons; SpongeBob Squarepants; Scooby-Doo; Mickey Mouse; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Popeye the Sailor; Family Guy; Rick and Morty; BoJack Horseman, and Steven Universe.

They are all very different in aesthetic, language, and thematic, but yet we all know that they are not animes because they don’t look or feel like animes. They are their own thing

Some people will say that animes are cartoons because they are both drawings. But the cartoon does not necessarily mean a draw.

Anyway, if you want to know more about cartoons and animes, watch them and try to read something about what’s happening behind the scenes.

In this case, the most important thing to do is to read and to listen to those that work with cartoons or anime. Luckily, we are living in a moment where animes and cartoons are highly praised by the whole world.

James Smith

James is a passionate explorer and the creative mind behind, a platform dedicated to unraveling captivating distinctions. With an insatiable curiosity, he uncovers hidden nuances in various aspects of life, from cultural traditions to scientific phenomena. James believes that appreciating differences fosters personal growth and societal empathy.