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Submitted on
June 17, 2012
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When I first discovered Anime, my mind was blown. Here were Japanese animations being made which told adult stories with sex, violence, and all sorts of things I'd never seen before done in American films. As a teenager the constant pandering to children and the reluctance to accept more mature themes and ideas in American animated films pissed me off. Why can't american cartoons be taken more seriously and have stuff for adults too outside of South Park and The Simpsons?

In 1998 Stephen Spielberg tried to change that. After having a successful run of kids cartoons (Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, Pink and the Brain, etc), he took it a step further by giving us a PRIME TIME cartoon series aimed at adults. It was called "Invasion America." It was a sci-fi epic, featured a slew of big name actors including Leonard Nimoy, and featured more adult oriented themes such as sex, violence, and swearing!

It sucked and was a resounding failure.

The epic plot they were trying to weave would never be complete and the series was re-edited for Kids WB instead. Since then there have been a number of other shows which pushed american animation conventions further, but none of them really resonated with audiences or made enough of an impact. Still to this day the general perception of animation in America is that it's for kids and that if you're an adult you're too mature to enjoy them.

Looking back I think I understand why these things failed. Like the video games industry, animation was trying to "grow up" by imitating what it thought being mature is (the aforementioned sex, drugs, violence, and swearing) rather than by tackling real mature subject maters in a compelling way. Enter, Avatar the Last Airbender.

The series was aimed at kids, but throughout production it got DARK. VERY dark. Even though the show was still held through the same rigorous censorship restrictions that have prevented showing more "adult" themes, the show was able to deal with very real issues through the narrative of a kids fantasy adventure series.

And right now, I can't tell you how psyched I am that Korra has been doing so well. There's so much to like about that show, and it's wonderful that they've advanced the characters to be teens and are focusing on mature themes like relationships, racial identity, revolution, terrorist attacks and the fear it creates. Sure the series is about a group of magical people who can "bend" elements and fight martial arts, but underneath it there is a lot going on.

THIS is the type of animated series I wish were being made more prominent in mainstream america. You don't have to have characters having sex, swearing, and having copious amounts of blood to be "mature." If you do your job right and tell a compelling story with likable characters, people will watch! And what's great is that kids watching Korra can enjoy the fun action scenes while adults watching Korra can enjoy it on entirely different levels. This is what the best type of animations are, not just American. It's just good stories with good characters/characterizations.

Projects like Invasion America were honest attempts to make animation more accepting in America to adults, but at their core they were misguided. I think if we had more shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra just in production, it would be soooo much more helpful to dispelling the negative perception animation has in America. Everywhere else in the world respects Animation as a legitimate storytelling art form, it's high time we fixed that here. Keep up the good work guys!

And now for myself
Things I like about Korra and Avatar? I like the fact the religious center of this world is not christianity. It's SO rare to see other philosophies and religions being represented in American productions. I also seriously hope that Bolin ends up with Korra. I really don't like Mako and I think he's wrong for Korra.
  • Listening to: Escapist Podcast
  • Reading: Paper Towns
  • Watching: Avatar: The Legend of Korra
  • Playing: Minecraft: Multiplayer
  • Eating: Jaffa Cakes
  • Drinking: English Breakfast Tea
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lexxisterling Dec 18, 2012  Student Artist
can i use some of this for a school project??
Dieter-Dieter Aug 2, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
Do you know anything about animation history

At all

Holy shit
DTJB Jul 13, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I see the DC animation has already been mentioned, so I'm also going to recommend the early 90s Batman series, that stuff is top notch.

An example of not doing it right in my mind would be Bebe's Kids. Whole movie is based on a skit from late comedian Robin Harris. Plenty of mature images like alcohol and tobacco usage right at the beginning, but the characters are all done in caricature style and there's plenty of squash and stretch for a Warner Bros. short. It's like the animators were trying to be edgy but couldn't get away (or probably didn't know how to get away) from the children's animation style that everyone was used to. My favorite part of the film is the last minute, that's how much of a critic I am about it. I'd say the only good parts are one of the kids looks like Dr. Dre and Tone Loc plays the voice of the baby.

One of my fave mature animated shows is Duckman. Edgy, a little profane, but really smart sometimes as well. Show's about a private detective (or private duck in this case) who's a pervert, short tempered and extremely dimwitted. He's also a horrible detective (his partner is far more competent than he could ever be). When he's not failing that, he struggles (barely tries) to raise his 3 sons (2 if you don't count the fact that one of them is conjoined) and is forced to put up with his extremely feminist sister-in-law. Highly recommended.
DTJB Jul 16, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Not going to be as lengthy, unless you want to hear why, but Bevis and Butthead, The Critic and King of the Hill are also good choices.
dragonpixies Jul 12, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I still need to watch through Legend of Korra. I'm ashamed that I haven't.
I totally agree - Bolin and Korra for the win! (Mako is too selfish and self-righteous...)
i'm reading a comic at DA that has real issues but doesn't have sex, drugs, and swearing!!! it's about a war veteran. its told with anthros, but its totally serious and good. i like it as much as your comics!
you should check it out if you like adult themes with no explicit stuff: [link]
Someonewhoexists Jun 27, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
My only other tab right now is playing Ledgend of Korra. Perfect timing for me to see this. I totally agree with your points. :)
ArtisinmyHeart Jun 27, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
This is exactly my feelings. I am just starting producing a cartoon that will be aired mainly for girls ages 8 to twelve. But it is not going to be mind numbing in any way. It will have a serious tone to it(not quite as much as korra) I hope all ages will enjoy it. I think it has alot to do with the plotline as well. Other cartoon' plot don't progress through the season, just through the episode. other that I totally agree with you and hope my cartoon falls in your catagory.
Lazzuu Jun 25, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I can relate to this. A lot of people have and still praise anime for being much more mature than western animation. This is partly true, but it seems that for every legitimately mature anime there are at least a dozen that try to pass gorefests and oversexualizing as mature elements.

(Just started watching Legend of Korra thanks to this post. Seems like I won't be doing much else today. Thanks!)
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