Anima is, broadly speaking, the energy that animates living things, or can be stitched or infused into things to give them a semblance of life. Some consider anima to be a 'shapeable' element, but the process of its manipulation is more complex and generally inconsistent with shaping dynamics. The manipulation and binding of Anima is known as Stitching. Anima is not the same as concepts of Soul, Self, or Identity.
Anima is coalesced from various sources, and is intangible in its native state to any but those with an affinity for it. Stitchers can pull Anima into 'threads' and it is those threads of Anima that are stitched. Anima will interact with objects it is stitched to with an amount of force relative to it's strength, which is a function of both source and binding, and these are largely dependent on the Stitcher's aptitude and potency.
It is possible to animate almost anything with Anima, but the amount of effort one must put into doing so is a function of the structure of the target. Far more anima must be stitched into loose cloth to animate it than would be required to animate an articulated frame. Furthermore, the more sophisticated and precise the construction of such artifices are, the more efficient it becomes.
Anima can be stitched to a living target, entwining it into the natural anima of the target. This is most often done with prosthetic limbs. As suggested above, the finer the mechanisms of the prosthetic, the more articulate, strong, and efficient the limb. Simple jointed limbs with no mechanisms beyond a few hinges would be sufficient for cosmetic purposes and awkwardly accomplishing simple tasks. Mechanical limbs with sophisticated mechanisms can easily exceed human strength and agility. Properly stitched limbs provide tactile feedback. The better the stitch, the finer the feeling, including temperature and even subtle shifts in air.
Anima can be stitched to inanimate objects, creating anything from simple toys to elaborate automatons. Such things require a controller of some sort. Artificial controllers are anima imbued objects designed to act as an artificial brain. Simple anima controls are usually embedded in cognates of some sort. Artificial controllers have carved labyrinthine channels on their surface, carefully designed to channel the anima to react to specific stimuli in particular ways. In essence, a computer powered by intangible life-force.
On the dark side of anima stitching, actual brains, bound in anima, can be used as control devices for objects. Automatons controlled in this way usually have faster reactions and interpret imprecise directions more creatively, but they are also more likely to exhibit quirky or rebellious behavior, often going rogue, requiring they be de-animated or destroyed. Some autonomous constructs have had some semblance of the person who's brain was used to animate them exhibited, but the art and science of such bindings is so elusive and unpredictable that no deliberate attempts at doing so have met with genuine success. Efforts at this usually result in dangerous, malicious, or indifferent entities with erratic cognation.