Anime refers to Japanese animated cartoons. The word is written in three katakana characters A, Ni, Me (アニメ). It should be pronounced "Ah-Nee-Meh" (the "e" sound is not long, it is like a truncated pronunciation of "men"). Ironically, the word is an English transliteration of a Japanese term, which in turn is a Japanese transliteration of the English word "animation".
(Some sources state that the Japanese word comes from the french "Anime" with an accent aigue on the e, which also means animation.)
Anime is a medium, not a genre. It consists of various genres. Anime is known for its variety of genres and unique artistic style. Anime, unlike most American cartoons, are not strictly for children (although there is a lot of children's anime). Anime is also for both genders, with there being well defined shonen (boys) and shoujo (girls) genres. In the US, most translated anime tends to belong to the shonen genre, including titles like Tenchi Muyo, Gundam, Trigun, etc.
There is a wide range of quality in Anime. Unlike Disney's animation which tends to have very smooth and full body movement in their characters, the characters in anime tend to move only limited parts of the body, and often motion is achived by moving a fixed picture across the screen. The minimal movement reduces cost in production because one cel drawing can produce multiple frames by simply panning the camera. Such production techniques are also use in American TV cartoons such as The Simpsons.
Hayao Miyazaki is a well respected director/producer of one genre of anime. His works are characterized by elaborate and beautiful background drawings. If one take a snapshot of the frame of his anime, one can see that each frame looks like an artistic painting. His work include:
Akira is a landmark anime released in 1988. Its attention to details in the cel drawings received worldwide recognitions. (Note: this movie evokes very strong reactions in its viewers, due to its violence and extreme images.)
Examples of anime include: