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Disclaimer: I don't like a vast majority of anime popular in the West, especially among the younger population. Some of it, I'd go as far as to say I loathe.

That said,

the one thing anime certainly does better than most mainstream (I'm excluding real animation artists, some of whom are known to have inspired the best work in anime) animation or live action movies in the west, is, indeed, the artwork.

No other cinematic genre captures the feeling of reality as well as anime. I grew up watching all sorts of anime, silly series, realistic series, battle series... I also watched a lot of Western cartoons at the same time. But while, say, New York is in my mind just a random jumble of anonymous skyscrapers, the image of Japan, and other locations used in anime (Ghibli, for example, famously always uses real-life towns from all over the world as inspiration) has become so etched in my mind that when I first went to Japan, it felt I knew it better than my own home town. Everything was immediately familiar, from the tangled electric wires against the blue sky, to vending machines blinking in the night.

Consider these stills from last year's quiet hit, "The Garden of Words":


This is not some arthouse flick that nobody saw. This was a movie that earned 30 million yen in its first three days on limited release, and won the iTunes Best Animation 2013 award.
Now, that may be an extreme example from a director known for his obsessive hyper-realism, but it shows best what I'm talking about. You can't get that kind of effect even with live action - the camera simply never has the time to linger on all details with the same focus and attention that the animator's eye can.

Browse photography at Denver.Gallery.