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  • Writer's pictureHarry Briggs

An Idiot's Anime Adventures!

My dad used to tell a story about when he was a young man working in construction as a laborer. He wanted to rise up the ladder and impress his bosses. One day they were short a heavy equipment operator so the boss got all the crew together and asked if anybody could run a tractor. My dad's hand shot up. He ran to the tractor with absolutely no knowledge of how to drive the thing. He said he figured it out quick, but it still must have been a long day for all involved.

In the late 1990's I was creating art for Dynamic Graphics. My contact asked if I knew anyone who knew anything about the illustrative art that was coming out of Japan and starting to appear on the radar of American buyers. Believe it or not but there was a scarcity of manga/anime type art in the stock marketplace at the time. Well, much like my father I raised my hand up and said "Hell, I can do that." Like the American idiot I am I thought all you have to do is put big eyes on basic comic book bodies and KaBoom!... You got anime!

Oh, how wrong I was.

As I researched I found it was a puddle deeper than any well. There was not a small contingent of "anime styles". The term "anime" was being poorly used as a term to off-handedly describe a multifaceted, stylistically dynamic, wide range of illustrations and animations. This is common knowledge through out the world now, but then, not so much.

So I set to my task.

It was humbling as professional commercial artist to create so many pieces of awful art trying to get to anything that could even stand in the shadows of what a manga hobbiest could produce. I would post my art on fan websites and say "critique pls"

and get savaged by someone with a screen name like gothangel361. I pictured them as a 13 year old girl in Orange county sitting on their bed under a Nine Inch Nails poster.

And the crits were like "It makes my eyes bleed!". So "eyes bleeding"? I'm guessing that's bad...Right?

Right about that time I was kinda wishing that I was trying to figure out how to drive a tractor, and not master an artistic style.

But the more I worked at it the better the art got. So I started working on assignments as "That Guy We Have Who Does The Anime Stuff."

I was getting feedback that the style was great, just what clients wanted... BUT (as usual, there is a "but")... Could you make it somehow a little more American feeling? Not so... Exotic? Kind of the "Do just like what you are doing, only completely different." feedback. And I am guessing that at the same time other artist were getting the same advice because as my "Amerime", as I came to call it, was hitting the market I saw similar styles of art showing up in comic books and other commercial applications.

It's interesting how quickly this "style" of illustration has embedded itself into our culture and the world's general culture. If you go out on Deviant Art it seems 90% of all the art created by it's online community is based on asian popular art... and it is fantastic stuff!

A piece I did for the Washington Post

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