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The Japanese have a huge appetite for animation, as one glance at a TV or — at this time of year — a movie schedule will confirm. Much of that appetite, of course, is fed with junk: endless recyclings of superhero fantasy or schoolyard humor.

But this large potential audience, which includes legions of junior and senior high school anime fans, has given Japanese animators a creative freedom unknown to most of their American and European counterparts. Instead of catering exclusively to the very young (and their “young-at-heart” parents), they can attempt a more sophisticated storyline and treatment without worrying about confusing — or losing — their audience.

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