I see people talking about a bunch of different anime in the community, from things like Naruto all the way to things like Nana. Generally, all of these are definitely Japanese Anime. There isn't a whole lot of stuff about those 'American Anime' that exist.
I just wanted to talk about these American anime for a minute, because some of them seem to be pretty popular, but do they deserve to be called 'anime'?
Originally a web show developed by Rooster Teeth, the people responsible for Red Vs Blue, RWBY has gained huge popularity since it first appeared in 2013. It focuses on four main female characters in the world of Remnant, which is filled with forces and creatures known as the "Creatures of Grimm" who can only be defeated with 'Dust'. In the present day, Dust is used to power abilities and weapons. Those who use these abilities to battle the Grimm are known as Huntsmen or Huntresses.
Each of the four girls has her own unique weapon and powers. Together, they form team RWBY at Beacon Academy where they are trained to become Huntresses alongside team CRDL ("cardinal"), team JNPR ("juniper"), team SSSN ("sun"), team CFVY ("coffee"), and various other unnamed student teams.
RWBY is arguably the closest show on this list plot-wise to an anime. It features teenaged girls with super powered weapons at a school specifically for people with super powers and weapons. It sounds a little like Soul Eater, but without the soul eating.
It's been said that fans of anime would take quickly to RWBY, and that seems true. RWBY shows up in anime forums sometimes and even here in the community. But since it is a western developer who made it, can it actually be considered anime? Even if it has clear inspirations drawn from anime?
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Inarguably one of the most popular cartoon series of the past decade, Avatar: The Last Airbender (or ATLA) captivated its audience over three incredible seasons or 'books'. The story of a world at war, under the heel of a dominating world power and the fight of a lone hero and his friends to topple the regime is a great story of civil unrest and the pursuit of freedom and justice. With a cast of entirely POC characters, the show drew heavy inspiration from various eastern cultures.
The story takes place in a world populated by different 'benders', people with the innate ability to control one of the four elements: fire, air, water, and earth. The show follows Aang, the titular Avatar who is the single person capable of wielding all four elements at once. He is awakened from a 100 year stasis and quickly embarks on a journey to defeat the evil fire nation.
The eastern influences are obvious here; each style of bending is taken straight from different martial arts, and each of the four nations is representative of a different culture. The Air Nomads are similar to Tibetan monks, as well as Sri Lankan Buddhists. The Earth kingdom draws heavily from Chinese culture and styles. The Water Tribes are modeled after Inuit and Sireniki Eskimo cultures, with elements of Pacific Island culture as well.
The showrunners have even remarked on the inspirations they took from japanese anime: "The best anime balances great action sequences with humor and emotion, something we try to do on Avatar. We love all the films of Hayao Miyazaki, especially Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. Both movies deal with spirituality and the environment in an entertaining way. Also, there's a lot of great animation."
Oh, right in the childhood. Maybe not everyone will be familiar with this cartoon, but it was a popular staple of Cartoon Network's programming in the early to mid 2000s. The show ran for five seasons and featured some of the heaviest issues tackled in a children's cartoon at the time. Feelings of depression and otherness and belonging to a team that is multi-racial and multi-species were common themes, and the critics praised the show.
The anime influences are less apparent here, and Teen Titans is a licensed DC property, so it clearly falls into the realm of western animation. Even so, some of the style of the show and the narrative arcs it follows are similar to those in anime, where the arcs span multiple episodes and there is strong character development featured.
There's also the show's opener, which featured music by Puffy AmiYumi, a Japanese Pop-rock duo. It gives a distinctly anime feeling to the show. Still, though, it is definitely an American cartoon.