Faculty Position Announcement – East Asian Visual Media/Popular Culture

bu-master-logo“The Department of World Languages & Literatures at Boston University invites applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in East Asian Visual Media and Popular Culture, to begin July 1, 2017. Relevant expertise includes research in film, television, animation, graphic novels, or new media. Strong preference for transnational research reflecting the increasingly globalized sphere of popular culture across East Asia and potentially including South Asia. PhD is required at time of appointment, as is proficiency in an East Asian language.A robust research and publication agenda is essential.”

When talking about “anime/manga studies” as an actual academic field, rather than simply the idea of academic approaches to Japanese animation/comics, one point I always try to make is that while this field certainly already has some formal characteristics, it is still missing some others. Yes, authors are certainly writing books and book chapters and journal articles on anime/manga, and there are plenty of classes on anime/manga at colleges and universities around the U.S. But, at this point, it is not possible for a student to receive a degree in “anime studies” – then again, to the best of my understanding, only one university in the U.S. offers an actual undergraduate minor in comics and cartoon studies. For that matter, while plenty of college/university faculty members list anime or manga among their academic interests, there is no such thing as a “professor of anime studies” in the way that “professor of film studies” can be a title.

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Highlighting New Publications: Rewriting History in Manga

rewriting-historyPopular culture works across different languages and different media – literature, film, television, and comics – frequently draw on historical events for their subjects. In turn, how popular culture uses history is a frequent topic of scholarship in its own right – just some recent examples include American History and Contemporary Hollywood Film, Gone With the Glory: The Civil War in Cinema, and Screening the Past: Film and the Representation of History. And Japanese popular culture is not an exception here – anime and manga also often depict historical incidents and events. These depictions range from the fairly realistic to the unapologetically fanciful – and, again, present obvious “points of entry” for scholars. Jaqueline Berndt’s approach, in “Historical adventures of a post-historical medium: Japan’s wartime past as represented in manga”, is straight-forward. Wendy Hardenberg’s, in Transcending the victim’s history: Takahata Isao’s Grave of the Fireflies, focuses on how “history” is created and the different types or forms of “history”. Andrea Horbinski, in “Record of dying days: The alternate history of Ooku” (in Mechademia, vol. 10), highlights the ways that manga has explored “alternate history”. In fact, just three years ago, Routledge published a full collection of essays on “manga and the representation of Japanese history”. And now, another publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, is approaching this topic again with Rewriting History in Manga: Stories for the Nation.

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Upcoming Exhibition – Cool Japan: A Worldwide Fascination in Focus

VolkenkundeNext year, starting in April, Museum Volkenkunde / The National Museum of Ethnology (Leiden, The Netherlands) will host “Cool Japan: A Worldwide Fascination in Focus“, an exhibition which will use original artwork, physical objects (manga, figures, costumes, video games, etc.), installations, displays and screenings to “examine the popularity of the Japanese visual popculture, explore the ways in it travels the globe and trace its historical roots.” One of the exhibition’s specific goals will be to highlight the actual work/labor behind anime and manga, and to emphasize the physicality of these forms of visual culture. To this end, the exhibit’s organizers hope to include in it drawings by actual creators/directors. And, they are actively looking to reach out to anime/manga art collectors who may be interested in contributing items from their own collections to this project.

As an announcement that was recently posted to the Anime and Manga Research Circle Mailing List:

“At this moment, I am searching for collectors who have original drawings and/or cels from the great masters, like Hayao Miyazaki, Osamu Tezuka, Hideaki Anno, Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Katsuhiro Ôtomo. Do any of you know any collectors? Or do you perhaps know of museums that have original works in the collection? Our museum is used to take care of the most rare, old and fragile objects so any items that would be put on loan are in care of professionals.”

If you think you can assist with this, know anyone who may be able to, or simply have comments or questions that you would like to pass on to the organizers, please let me know!

Factsheet – Cool Japan: A Worldwide Fascination in Focus
Museum Volkenkunde (Leiden, The Netherlands)
April 13 – August 28, 2017

New Issue: Resilience – A Journal of the Ecocritical Humanities

ResilienceMore than a year and a half ago, early in 2015, the editors of Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities announced a Call for Papers for a special Media Review section in an upcoming issue of the journal, that would be dedicated to “apply[ing] ecocritical and Green cultural studies approaches to the field of Japanese animation.”

The CFP provided additional background for the section, and listed the specific titles that the editors were hoping to attract reviews of.

“2014 was a watershed year for Studio Ghibli, arguably the leading anime studio, because it marked the retirement of the founding directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. who issued their swan-songs The Wind Rises and Princess Kaguya. To honor this moment and attract more critical attention to anime, we are soliciting reviews of the following:

  • Miyazaki’s films, especially Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Ponyo.
  • Takahata’s Ken the Wolf Boy, Heidi: Girl of the Alps, Pom Poko aka “Tanuki Wars,” Grave of the Fireflies, and Princess Kaguya.
  • We are also interested in work inspired by or intertextually related to Studio Ghibli, such as Disney’s Lilo and Stitch; Irish director Tomm Moore’s The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea; and the animated version of Avatar: The Last Airbender (including its sequel, The Legend of Korra, which is a gold mine for feminist, post-colonial, eco-cosmopolitan, and queer ecocriticism, just sayin’).
  • Reviews of other anime films, TV series, and manga unrelated to Ghibli will also be considered.”

For a while after the call for papers went out, I had not heard anything about this project – and in fact, it does not appear that the journal’s website has not been updated in more than two years either. But, as it turns out, electronic versions of it are available in both JSTOR and Project Muse, and, Ecocritical Reviews to Studio Ghibli was in fact published as the Media Cluster section of Resilience‘s Fall 2015 issue (Volume 2, No. 3).

Looking at the articles that actually appeared in the section, a few things  come to mind right away. The “spread” of films that the authors who responded to the CFP addressed is definitely fairly expansive – though not quite comprehensive – with separate essays on Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Pom Poko, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, the non-Ghibli anime Mushishi, and the arguably “inspired by Studio Ghibli” The Secret of Kells, as well as two more that discuss broader topics as expressed in more than one film. And, the list of authors is fairly wide-ranging as well – although most are based at American colleges/universities, others are affiliated with institutions in Australia, Germany, and the U.K. At the same time, the question also stands – Miyazaki’s work and influence has already been the subject of literally dozens of journal articles, and at least two journal special issues. Is another one really necessary? And, does it then merely emphasize Jacqueline Berndt’s argument that Miyazaki exerts an undue influence on the shape of anime studies as a field, and that this outside influence leads to a tendency to treat Miyazaki’s films as “typical of anime as a whole”, and largely ignore anime that doesn’t neatly fit this image or stereotype?

Regardless, the actual contents of this Special Section are as follows:

Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities
Special Section – Ecocritical Approaches to Studio Ghibli

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Introduction to Anime/Manga Studies – Otakon 2016 Version

Otakon 2016My work towards developing “anime/manga studies” as an academic field takes several different forms. I run this site – of course, I continue to develop various resources to support the field – the leading one being the Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies, earlier this year, I once again organized the Academic Program track at Anime Expo, the largest anime convention in the U.S., and I am always glad to draw on my knowledge and experience to provide research/reference assistance to anyone interested in academic approaches to Japanese animation and Japanese comics. In addition, beyond those essentially “support” activities, I also actively look for opportunities to introduce anime/manga studies directly to interested audiences.

In the past, the Otakon anime convention has offered me several such opportunities. And, Otakon 2016, held once again (and for the final time) in Baltimore, did as well – on Otakon’s first day, Friday, August 12, I presented this year’s version of Introduction to Anime/Manga Studies. For it, I was joined by Lisa Lackney (Ph.D. candidate, History, Vanderbilt University) and Andrew Smith (Ph.D. candidate, English, Indiana University of Pennsylvania). Ms. Lackney also participated in this presentation when I first premiered it two years ago; Andrew Smith has been an active contributor to the AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium and has also spoken at other similar events such as the University of Florida Conference on Comics.

Introduction to Anime and Manga Studies (August 12, 2016)

“Ever wanted to talk about Attack on Titan in class? Write a paper on Naruto? Read a book on Madoka? Guess what – you’re not the only one, and you’re in luck. Join members of the Anime and Manga Research Circle to learn about the academici field of – you guessed it – anime and manga studies.”

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College Courses on Anime – Introduction to Anime and Manga Studies

https://www2.gmu.edu/sites/all/modules/features/feature_core_theme/templates/resources/images/mason-logo.pngScholarly writing on anime and manga is, of course, a major component of “anime/manga studies”, but not the only component – and classes that focus on Japanese animation and Japanese comics are an equally important part of the field. But, while the first English-language academic publications on Japanese comics appeared in the late 1970’s, and the first such paper on anime that I am aware of was published in 1993, it wasn’t until the late 1990’s/early 2000’s that colleges began offering such classes, with Susan Napier’s The World of Japanese Animation: Aesthetics, Commerce, Culture, at the University of Texas at Austin being if not the first, then certainly among the first.

Since Prof. Napier (who has since moved to Tufts University) first taught it, these kinds of classes have expanded to a wide range of schools – the Ivy League, other major research universities, both public and private, and smaller regional and liberal arts institutions. Just some recent examples include Anime as Global Popular Culture (Harvard University), Critical Analysis of Anime (Rice University), Anime in Text and Film (Stevenson University), and Explore Japanese Manga and Anime (Union College). Generally, they have taken an introductory approach, and the course description of the one at California State University, Long Beach is typical: “Students examine, analyze, and discuss selected topics in Japanese culture and modern society by analyzing Japanese animation (anime) and printed cartoons (manga)”. But, again, with anime and manga studies as a field now firmly established, clearly, it’s about time for ways of dealing with anime/manga in the post-secondary classroom setting that go beyond the introductory.

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Highlighting New Publications: Urutsokidoji and the Transcultural Reception and Regulation of Anime

Japanese animation is, of course, animation created in Japan (even if, increasingly, a significant percentage of the actual “animation” work is out-sourced to other Asian countries), by Japanese creators – and designed primarily for distribution to Japanese audiences. But, since at least the early 1960’s, Japanese animation – first feature films, then television series – has been presented to audiences around the world.

And, each of these presentations has involved taking the original film or television series, and modifying it in some way. At the very least, this modification can be a translation of the script into another language – that, as any translation, can be more or less accurate. The script can also be rewritten entirely, so the end product is only tangentially related to the original. The characters’ voices will most likely need to be provided by different actors. And, some parts of a particular film or television series can be left off entirely.

These different kinds of modification practices present an obvious opportunity for anime scholars. How exactly is a particular anime modified for distribution outside Japan? Why? And, how do these modification practices differ from each other – across both time, and across space. For example, one of the most well-known examples of this kind of “modification” is the way that Osamu Tezuka’s Kimba the While Lion series was changed for distribution in the U.S. – a process Fred Patten examines in “Simba versus Kimba: The pride of lions” (in The Illusion of Life II: More Essays on Animation). Similarly, Brian Ruh examines the changes that Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind underwent before it could be released in the U.S. as Warriors of the Wind in Transforming U.S. anime in the 1980’s: Localization and longevity (in Mechademia v. 5: Fanthropologies). These kinds of studies are not limited to releases of anime in the U.S., either – consider Cobus van Staden’s Moomin/Mumin/Moemin: Apartheid-era dubbing and Japanese animation, or Ilaria Parini’s Censorship of anime in Italian distribution.

And now, in the new issue of the Journal of British Cinema and Television, Emma Pett (University of East Anglia) expand on these, with a case study of how anime has been presented to audiences in the U.K. – and the way that British authorities responded to this presentation.

Pett, Emma. ‘Blood, guts, and Bambi eyes’: Urutsokidoji and the transcultural reception and regulation of anime. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 13(3), 390-408.

Overfiend“The regulation and reception of anime in Britain has, historically, been fraught with difficulty. In 1992, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) rejected the first instalment of Urotsukidoji, a controversial series of erotic anime, on the grounds of its sexually explicit content; this decision set a precedent for the way in which they would continue to censor anime for the following two decades. Nearly twenty years later, in 2009, Clause 62 of the Coroners and Justice Act, also colloquially known as the ‘Dangerous Cartoons Act’, made it a criminal offence to possess non-photographic pornographic images of children, including CGI, cartoons, manga images and drawings. Through an examination of the BBFC’s archival materials on Urotsukidoji – Legend of the Overfiend, supplemented by references to a small number of newspaper articles published during this period, this article offers a range of insights into the historical context in which the current series of debates surrounding the ‘Dangerous Cartoons Act’ can be situated and assessed. These are used to consider the transcultural flow of genres across national borders, and the difficulties that a regulator from one culture encounters when dealing with controversial material originating from another, such as Japan, that has a substantially different set of social values and artistic conventions. Furthermore, this case highlights the important role played by distribution companies in shaping the production and evolution of genres within the transcultural marketplace.”

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From Akira to Now: Anime/Manga Studies Article Publication Trends – Introduction

 Anime/manga studies is, as Mark MacWilliams notes in his introduction to the essay collection Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime, the process and practice of “exploring the historical, cultural, sociological and religious dimensions of Japanese animation and comics, their production, and global reception” from an academic perspective. Having this kind of definition is an important first step in establishing an academic field. But, defining an academic field is one thing – identifying its characteristics is the next.

And, for any academic field, there are some particular characteristics that we can identify. Who are the participants in the field? What disciplines or departments are they based in? What kinds of materials do they draw on in their research? What kinds of specific research methods do they use? What formats do they publish their work in, and in what kinds of publications? And, simply, how much do they publish? When we talk about “anime/manga studies”, are we talking about only a few dozen publications? Several hundred? More?

Developing the Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies, which currently covers academic publications on Japanese comics and animation going back to 1977, puts me in a unique position to begin providing some of the answers to these questions. In the process of analyzing the Bibliography, I have been able to identify some specific characteristics, patterns, and trends:

  • Between 1993 and 2015, English-language academic journals/periodicals published at least 965 articles on anime/manga – close readings of individual works, surveys of particular themes, examinations of specific directors/creators, histories, studies of fan practices and many other types of approaches.

    [Although the earliest English-language academic article on Japanese comics that I am aware of appeared in 1977, for this specific project, I only analyzed academic publications on anime/manga going back to 1993 – the publication year for the first article on anime in an English-language academic journal. In addition, I specifically excluded approximately several dozen articles that are listed in the Bibliography based on their language or length. One more thing to keep in mind is that the Bibliography that I used as the source of publications for this study is updated continuously as I identify new publications that qualify for inclusion. So, this total number is the total as of today – but may increase in the future.]

  • These articles appeared in a total of 467 different journals, from Acta Paediatrica Japonica (reports on children who “developed various neuropsychological problems, including seizures, while watching the program Pocket Monster”) to Young Adult Library Services.
  • The academic publication that carried the highest number of articles on anime/manga over this time frame is the International Journal of Comic Art, with 78. The 10 journals that have been most “welcoming” to scholarly writing on anime/manga between 1993 and 2015 are:

1. International Journal of Comic Art: 78 articles (8%)
2. Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal: 22
3. The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus: 21
4. Japan Forum: 19
5. Transformative Works & Cultures: 17
6. Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies: 15
7: Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific: 15
8: The Journal of Popular Culture: 15
9: Image [&] Narrative: 13
10: International Journal of the Humanities: 13

These ten journals accounted for approximately 24% of all the articles on anime/manga that were published in English from 1993 to 2015.

  • 273 of the articles (28%) appeared in journals published by commercial/for-profit publishers – Taylor & Francis, Sage, Wiley, Intellect, Common Ground, and 15 others. The other 692 articles are in journals published by university presses, colleges/universities or even individual academic departments, academic societies and associations, other non-profit organizations, and sometimes, even individuals.
  • The number of articles on anime/manga published in English-language academic journals from 1993 to 2015 annually, and the breakdown by the number of articles that appeared in journals published by commercial publishers and by independents/non-profits each year can be seen in this chart:

Articles ChartIn follow-up posts, I will provide some context for this project, highlight the methods I used – and the specific choices I made to exclude certain publications, discuss the results in more detail, of course, mention some of the limitations of my research – and hopefully, provide some ideas for how to expand on it. But again, at this point, I am pleased to at least be able to make one more concrete contribution to establishing anime/manga studies as a definite and defined academic field.

AX 2016 Anime and Manga Studies Symposium Program


After several months of intensive work, I am pleased to announce the final program for this year’s AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium. Running over all four days of Anime Expo, the largest anime convention in the U.S., the Symposium brings together a group of scholars who are interested in presenting their academic research on topics related to Japanese animation and Japanese comics directly to Anime Expo’s attendees. The symposium has several goals – to foster the development of a community of anime/manga studies, to give scholars an opportunity to share their work with an appreciative and understanding audience, and to introduce attendees to the practices of academic research. The Symposium does not have a particular theme – it is meant to welcome different kinds of approaches, drawing on a variety of sources and research methods. This year, it features over 20 speakers, including faculty members, graduate students, undergraduates, and independent scholars. The full program consists of a keynote address, three special guest lectures, a special roundtable discussion, and five sessions of individual presentations. The exact dates and times for all of the sessions will be confirmed in the coming days.

AX 2016 Academic Program

Friday, July 1

6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Keynote Address

Anime for Aspiring Filmmakers: Lessons from the USC School of Cinematic Arts

Ellen SeiterWhy should American film students pay attention to anime? In the AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium Keynote Address, Prof. Ellen Seiter, holder of the University of Southern California’s Stephen K. Nenno Endowed Chair in Television Studies, shares her thoughts on the distinctive visual, dramatic and narrative language of Japanese animation in film and television, and on what aspiring filmmakers can learn from anime directors such as the late Satoshi Kon, especially in the contemporary environment of digital production and distribution.

Prof. Ellen Seiter (University of Southern California)

Dr. Seiter received her BA in Anthropology from UCLA, and her MFA and PHD degrees in film from Northwestern University. Dr. Seiter specializes in audience research – anime being the most fascinating case study of all, children and youth media, semiotics, intellectual property law and media economics. Books she has authored include The Internet Playground: Children’s Access, Entertainment and Mis-Education (Peter Lang, 2005), Television and New Media Audiences (Oxford, 1999), and Sold Separately: Children and Parents in Consumer Culture (Rutgers, 1993). Her most recent work, The Creative Artist’s Legal Guide: Copyright, Trademark and Contracts in Film and Digital Media Production, which she co-authored with her attorney brother Bill Seiter was published in 2012 by Yale University Press.  She is currently writing a book on Teen TV series for Routledge.

7:45 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.
Session 1: Words, Scripts, Implications: Creating Meaning in Anime and Manga

  • Sounding Out the Pictures: Manga Sound Effects, Meanings, and Translation
    Andrew John Smith (Indiana University of Pennsylvania)

This talk looks to discuss the unique world of comic sound effects, specifically those found in manga. Although many readers may not think about them directly, sound effects affect their ability to read, enjoy, and understand graphic texts—meaning that an inability to understand them can stop understanding, and changing them can potentially cause a disastrous misreading. Sound effects can carry just as much meaning, weight, and import as the dialogue and art they accompany, and this discussion looks to introduce that concept and expand the scope of what can be studied when it comes to graphic works.

  • Can the Pop-Idol Speak?: The Role of Voice in Satoshi Kon’s Films
    John Ballarino (Bridgewater State University)

Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue is a film about identity: the conflict of the film is driven by the divide that exist between how people perceive the main character, Mima, as a commercial commodity and a woman, and in turn how Mima perceives herself. I analyze how this is portrayed symbolically throughout the film through the motif of Mima’s voice, developing being owned and sold by others to being entirely her own. This provides a useful approach to better understand the outside influences influencing her identity and development as a character, revealing a strong criticism of the expectations of women in a patriarchal society.

  • Drawing Lines between Boys and Girls: What do we Mean by “Shōnen” and “Shōjo”?
    Mia Lewis (Stanford University)

While manga combines image and text, it divides boys and girls. In bookstores in Japan manga is divided primarily by the gender of the target audience, often separated onto different floors in larger bookstores. This reflects the gendered division that begins in manga zasshi [comics magazines] and continues through the media mix chain. This talk will briefly overview how this distinction has been discussed in previous scholarship, and shifted over the years. This talk will also introduce preliminary results from my ongoing research on the divisions between these genres. One of these research projects examines how the reader’s sections in shōjo manga proscribe the ideal work to readers and aspiring artists to a far greater extent than their shōnen equivalents. The other examines formalist distinctions between contemporary shōnen and shōjo manga in order to explore what it means when we open a comic, glance at it, and declare it to be one or the other.

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Highlighting New Publications – Manga Vision

One thing I have always found a bit curious about English-language academic writing on Japanese animation and comics is that while anime has been the subject of a number of full-length books, such as Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke, The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation, Frames of Anime: Culture and Image-Building, Anime: A History, and, just last year, Anime: A Critical Introduction, the last general/comprehensive book on manga published in English has been Frederik Schodt’s 1996 Dreamland Japan – the ones that have appeared since are either introductions like the Rough Guide to Manga, or more focused titles such as A Sociology of Japanese Ladies’ Comics and Straight from the Heart: Gender, Intimacy, and the Cultural Production of Shojo Manga.

At the same time, every year, plenty of other writing on manga does appear – in the form of articles in various scholarly journals and chapters in edited collections. In fact, several collections deal with manga specifically – among them are Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives, Manga’s Cultural Crossroads, Manga and the Representation of Japanese History, and International Perspectives on Shojo and Shojo Manga: The Influence of Girl Culture. Now, one more such collection can be added to the list of English-language academic books on Japanese comics.

Manga VisionManga Vision: Cultural and Communicative Perspectives

Editors: Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou and Cathy Sell
Publisher: Monash University Publishing (Australia)
ISBN: 978-1-925377-06-4

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