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Anime is an art form, specifically animation, that includes all genres found in cinema, but it can be mistakenly classified as a genre. In Japanese, the term anime refers to all forms of animation from around the world. In English, anime is more restrictively used to denote a "Japanese-style animated film or television entertainment" or as "a style of animation created in Japan".

The etymology of the word anime is disputed. The English term "animation" is written in Japanese katakana as アニメーション (animēshon, pronounced [animeːɕoɴ]) and is アニメ (anime) in its shortened form. Some sources claim that anime derives from the French term for animation dessin animé, but others believe this to be a myth derived from the French popularity of the medium in the late 1970s and 1980s. In English, anime—when used as a common noun—normally functions as a mass noun. (For example: "Do you watch anime?" or "How much anime have you collected?") Prior to the widespread use of anime, the term Japanimation was prevalent throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In the mid-1980s, the term anime began to supplant Japanimation. In general, the latter term now only appears in period works where it is used to distinguish and identify Japanese animation.

The word anime has also been criticised, e.g. in 1987, when Hayao Miyazaki stated that he despised the truncated word anime because to him it represented the desolation of the Japanese animation industry. He equated the desolation with animators lacking motivation and with mass-produced, overly expressionistic products relying upon a fixed iconography of facial expressions and protracted and exaggerated action scenes but lacking depth and sophistication in that they do not attempt to convey emotion or thought.[17]