Anime (also known as Japanimation) is animation from Japanese studios. Unlike American animation (which is generally assumed to be for children,and dumbed down accordingly), the Japanese take their animation very seriously. The best of the genre includes works capable of standing comparison with many "live action" films without apologies.
If you're picturing Saturday morning cartoons at this point, guess again. The animation quality is frequently very high and stories often deal with adult (not to be confused with "adult-oriented") themes. And then there's the humor, which can sometimes only be described as inspired looniness. (Does a series about an android with a cat's brain sound off the wall to you? Trust me, you have to see it to believe it.)
Most (but not all) anime is derived from manga (Japanese graphic novels). These novels are serialized in weekly collections, often as thick as a large phone book, which sell in the millions in Japan. The more popular stories end up being printed as one or more paperback graphic novels, and can run to thirty volumes (and thousands of pages) or more.
In some cases the anime adaptation of a manga (such as Johji Manabe's Autoranda-zu, at one time available in English in the United States under the name Outlanders) is heavily abbreviated (in the case of Outlanders from over a thousand pages to one 45-minute video). In other cases, a popular manga may appear as a series of episodes made directly for video or even as a television series of 20 or more episodes.
The artwork in Japanese anime is often superb in its own right, especially the character designs. For some samples, take a look at our Cel Gallery.
Anime comes in one of three forms: