Presentation: Intro to Anime and Manga Studies

This blog has been on hiatus since the spring. Since then, I successfully produced this year’s AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium, organized and presented an Introduction to Anime and Manga Studies panel at the Otakon convention, and am continuing working on a re-launch of the Online Bibliography of Anime and Manga Research as a searchable database hosted on a website with a unique, dedicated, and appropriated URL. Right now, the first thing to do is to catch up and make up for lost time. And the best way to do that is by highlighting some of my recent activities.

In particular, as I mentioned, at this year’s Otakon, held once again (as it has been since 1999, and as it will be for two more years) in Baltimore, MD, I was the organizer and lead panelist for the Introduction to Anime and Manga Studies, panel. The description that I provided to Otakon was:

“Anime and manga studies is a vibrant emerging academic field. Anime and manga studies is also how you can get away with reading Naruto for a college class or writing about gender roles in Madoka in a graduate school seminar. Join members of the Anime and Manga Research Circle for an in-depth look at what we mean by “anime and manga studies”, how we got started, what we do as anime/manga scholars – and how you can become an anime scholar too!”

I was joined on the panel by Kathryn Hemmann, Assistant Professor, Dep’t of Modern and Classical Languages, George Mason University (who is also the author of the Contemporary Japanese Literature blog, presented at the 2013 and 2014 AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium, and recently, published a review of Saiko Tamaki’s “Beautiful Fighting Girl” in the latest issue of ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies), and Lisa Lackney, a PhD student in the history department at Vanderbilt University, where she focuses on modern Japanese cultural history, such as 1920’s cinema, Visual Kei music, and Boys’ Love manga. And, for the first time since I began organizing and hosting these types of panels, I developed a formal presentation to accompany the talk.

Introduction to Anime and Manga Studies  (Otakon 2014, Baltimore, MD – August 8, 2014)

Conceptually, the presentation is meant to be an initial introduction to “anime/manga studies” for an audience that is intrigued by the idea, but has no very little familiarity with what it actually means.

The opening presents a working definition of the field, and contextualizes both “anime/manga” and “studies”, outlines some of the major approaches that anime/manga scholars can and do use, highlights both major recent trends within the field, and major shortcomings and areas of tension, and touches on the inherent difficulty of differentiating between scholarly and fan activity.

The second part gives tips on how to actually start approaching anime/manga critically, and moves into issues related to institutionalization, such as recommended majors or areas of study, and things to keep in mind when evaluating academic programs.

The final portion is a brief introduction to what do we as “anime/manga scholars” actually do in terms of concrete work product or output, and the venues available to us to present/publish our work.

If there is any overall thread or message that I try to carry throughout the entire presentation, it’s that:

  • Anime/manga studies is an established way of approaching Japanese popular culture, its products, and its audiences.
  • Anime/manga studies is an activity, not an identity; it’s not “better” or more valid than other ways of interacting with anime/manga.
  • In of itself, anime/manga studies DOES NOT PAY (enough to live on) – as anime/manga scholars, we need to have other interests, other qualifications, and other sources on income.

Obviously, this presentation is also and always a work in progress. In fact, I was already approached by the editor-in-chief of Anime News Network, inquiring whether I could rework it into a three-part article that will hopefully run on ANN sometime in the near future. More importantly, I hope that this presentation can contribute to a conversation about what anime/manga studies is, how it changes and evolves, and, perhaps most importantly, what do we – with our deep interest in anime/manga studies – actually do.

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