An odd question no doubt about it. RWBY, the animated series by Roosterteeth and created by the late Monty Oum, is currently in its third season and its freaking awesome — this should more or less tell you of how I feel on it. A bit clumsy here and there in terms of animation and characterisation, but for the most part it is categorized as an anime. However, RWBY it is not like traditional anime in that it uses 3D animation and it’s produced in America, as opposed to 2D and produced in Japan. There has been some argument about this, but it breaks it down into the question of what makes an anime.
Stylistically, you could consider RWBY an anime. It is designed and animated like any other traditional anime, the characters fight like in anime. There are tropes associated with it which are anime like. For example, we count Cowboy Bebop and Soul Eater as anime, one of the reasons being its style, story and art direction. The Simpson’s however, we don’t because it lacks the art style often associated with anime and its story is lacking for hardcore anime fans to get into it and judge it as an anime.
But if you are counting on the geography for the definition of an anime, that the animation must be made in Japan. Most people outside of Japan define anime as animation made in Japan, and RWBY, being made in Texas, is not an anime by any means. It’s a cartoon or a web series, not an anime. If we start counting RWBY as an anime when it was not made in Japan, then was is stopping us from counting The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy as an anime for us? Do we just equate the geography to how we rate whether somethings an anime, or do we take more than just that to make us think of something as an anime?
What stops this from happening is The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy does not rank up there with an anime stylistically, not just because it was made in the west. It has no tropes, no story often associated with anime and its art style is much different than what we have come to expect from an anime.
In Japan every animation no matter of its country of origin is an anime. So RWBY, despite being made in the West, would be an anime. Any animation by Disney is technically an anime. The Simpsons is an anime. If you were to ask a person on the street in Tokyo if RWBY was an anime, they would reply that it was, because it’s an animation, not because it wasn’t made in Japan.
So now we go even deeper, how can anime be actually defined if the people who created the word think that everything animated is an anime? Outside of Japan you can either define it by geography, it has to be from Japan, or art style, how it is animated. Take your pick.
Personally, I think RWBY is an anime, as to me an anime is the art style and story often associated with an anime, and the geography of where an anime is made is irrelevant. The Simpson’s, while counted an anime in Japan, does not count as an anime to me. The art style is thicker and goofier and generally ‘un-anime’. RWBY however fits stylistically into the category of anime for me, and my friends, to consider it an anime in its own right.
And finally, I feel this quote from Cowboy Bebop is representative as to what RWBY is trying to do:
2071: In the far flung-future, the universe is still expanding. Bounty hunters, gathering in the spaceship “BEBOP”, will play their own game freely without fear of risk. They must create new dreams by breaking traditional styles. We must create new films by doing the same. The work, which becomes a new genre unto itself, will be called “COWBOY BEBOP”.
RWBY will create its own style. And it will be glorious.
Originally published at valiantghost.com on the 1st of December, 2015.