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I read the following question on WorldBuilding.SE last week: What early middle ages weapons would suit an extremely strong child? I thought the premise was interesting, but I noticed a comment that stated:

First of all, this is the most anime thing I’ve ever read. (source)

And then, scrolling through answer and comments, I noticed a few more references to how "anime" this was:

Your anime tier seven year old still has short arms, so [...] (source)

For real anime action she would take a 2 step runup, jump into the air, throw, and then be thrown backwards and land on her feet where she started. (source)

I understand that they're saying that this situation reminds them of something that would be in an anime, but what traits define that?

What traits of a story/scene/character make it "anime"?

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    "Corresponding to tropes typical for anime." In particular children and teens in adult roles, over-the-top combat choreography, wielding unrealistic (often ludicrously oversized) weapons. Allow me to refer you to a fairly comprehensive list of tropes that make something 'anime'. – SF. Feb 25 at 16:38
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I would say when people use the word 'anime' as an adjective they're specifically referring to the extremity that anime and its tropes are associated with.

For example, in a traditional medieval fantasy setting it would probably be fair to settle for a bunch of younger men with exceptional sword fighting skills compared to regular humans with the same level of experience. Anime would stereotypically ramp such a concept up to eleven and make it a story about a bunch of teenagers with beyond exceptional agility, speed, and skill compared to anyone alive despite these kids being ostensibly unexceptional by the world's standards.

Similarly, huge weaponry, extreme hair colours, ornate outfits that don't hamper agility, huge fauxlosophical diatribes by either side, idealised looks/body types for everyone, and the stakes of the story at some point or another ascending to planetary/multiversal significance all fit into the aesthetic/extreme feeling that most anime and manga tries to evoke.

So I think their remarks regarding your character is just that the concept of a very young person being extremely strong and capable of wielding a massive, usually impractical weapon is evocative of the anime aesthetic.

Edit: It should be noted that yes, anime aesthetic and superhero/comic book aesthetic are very similar. I would argue the core difference between anime and superhero/comic book style is that while anime's extremity and aesthetic appear to be a core part of the world the characters inhabit (the world is simply this over the top), with superheroes, they are an extreme, over-the-top facet of an otherwise grounded, mundane reality. Anime style is about relishing in the extremity itself, superheroism is about relishing in the juxtaposition of the extraordinary against the ordinary.

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  • While I agree with most of this answer, I can't help but notice that your second to last paragraph almost perfectly describes the Marvel Cinematic Universe of "The Avengers." However, I don't believe I've heard Endgame called "anime." Can you maybe expand upon under what circumstances those tropes evoke an "anime" feeling? – scohe001 Feb 26 at 17:32
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    @scohe001 tbh the superhero and anime aesthetic regularly overlap, but I think the biggest difference is anime usually plays off the insane, over the top elements as just regular parts of a vibrant, extreme world, whereas superheroes instead utilise the juxtaposition between extreme heroes and a relatively grounded world. – Matthew Dave Feb 26 at 19:36
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We need to define what counts as Anime. I am going to discard the literal definition of "animated motion picture from Japan" in favor of a cultural one.

Some scholars suggest defining anime as specifically or quintessentially Japanese may be related to a new form of Orientalism. [...]

Anime is a diverse art form with distinctive production methods and techniques that have been adapted over time in response to emergent technologies. It combines graphic art, characterization, cinematography, and other forms of imaginative and individualistic techniques. [ref]

Therefore, as an art style and cultural manifestation with dozens of sub-genres, we have the following points that can be considered as "anime" in the context of the references you supplied:

  • Larger-than-life combat prowess (from shonen): The weapons, combatants, and techniques used are over-the-top and disregard physics. This keys with the oriental mysticism surrounding martial arts (as seen in the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Example: DragonBall Goku's Kamehameha or the Genki-Dama.

It fits perfectly with the premise of the linked question:

[...]what dark age weapon would suit best for a 7 year old girl, which has the strength of a dozen strong men?

The imagery in the question also ties in with another popular anime trope, the badass little girl. [ref 1]- [ref 2].

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Extremely strong child characters is a common anime trope.

For example Dragonball Z.

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