Looking for – and finding – new writing on anime

Looking at anime and manga studies as a field requires paying attention to several things and asking several specific questions. Who are the some of the people writing on anime/manga. Are they mostly tenured/tenure-track professors, adjuncts, graduate students, “independent scholars”? What kinds of programs are they affiliated with? What kinds of degrees do they hold? For that matter, where does “anime and manga studies” actually live – or rather, what form do the end products of anime/manga studies actually take?

If much of what is written on anime/manga takes the form of journal articles, how do I – as a scholar and a bibliographer – actually find those articles? That kind of question is easy enough to answer – library science and academic librarianship has over the years developed an extensive structure to facilitate searching for, locating, and accessing journal articles. The problem is that as with many other interdisciplinary fields, much of the “new” writing in anime/manga studies is published not as monographs or as articles, but rather, as chapters in edited collections.

And, as Brian Erb notes in a recent Charleston Advisor paper on Accessing scholarly output in books and edited monographs, “the proliferation of often interdisciplinary monographs edited with contributions from a variety of authors may contain important research that is difficult to access through electronically searching a traditional book catalog using book-level access points”.

Using a concrete example, take the essay collection How to Watch Television, published last year by NYU Press . It “brings together forty original essays from today’s leading scholars on television culture, writing about the programs they care (and think) the most about”, and “[t]he essays model how to practice media criticism in accessible language, providing critical insights through analysis – suggesting a way of looking at TV that students and interested viewers might emulate.” Can this kind of book include one or more essays on anime – possibly, and certainly why not. Does it? Well, if you are searching library catalogs for books on the anime series Samurai Champloo, its record will come up – one of the chapters is Keene State College film studies professor Jiwon Ahn’s essay on it. But finding this book requires deciding that you are looking around specifically for books that mention Samurai Champloo, not “anime” in general, not its director, and not any of the elements that this series is know for.

So, as an anime scholar and anime bibliographer, how do I find chapters in edited collections? As Erb notes, subject-specific databases are increasingly expanding beyond coverage of journals and journal articles to also cover book chapters. Vendors are also beginning to roll out platforms that allow full-text searching in their books. And of course, Google’s Google Books and Google Scholar – for all of these two systems’ faults and flaws – are there, easy to access, relatively intuitive, and most importantly, free.

But, no matter how good a database or platform or search engine can be, there is something that is much more effective for finding out about new titles. Until yesterday, I had no idea that there were any English-language papers on Tekkonkinkreet out there. I had no way of knowing, and no real way to know. Yesterday, I got a helpful e-mail from Giorgio Hadi Curti, an adjunct professor of geography at San Diego State University, informing me that he just recently published a chapter on ‘Exploring the affective life of urban transformation and change via Taiyo Matsumoto’s and Michael Arias’ Tekkonkinkreet’ in an essay collection entitled The Fight to Stay Put: Social Lessons Through Media Imagining of Urban Transformation and Change (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2013).

And this is how a bibliography of anime and manga studies is built.

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