One way to characterize any academic field is by looking at the authors who publish in it. What countries are they based in? What colleges/universities? And, more specifically, what are their academic affiliations? Scholars often ask these questions – as, for example, in Who publishes in comparative politics: Studying the world from the United States and Author characteristics for major accounting journals: Differences among similarities 1989-2009. But, at least so far, I don’t think anyone has tried to ask the question of just who are the people who produce English-language academic writing on Japanese animation and Japanese comics.
Most studies of this type that I have seen look at a single journal that is considered to be particularly representative of a field, or at a small group of journals. As I have argued (and worked to demonstrate), academic writing on anime and manga is spread out across a wide range of journals that are quite different from one another. So, limiting a study of the characteristics of anime/manga scholars only to a particular type of journal, whether one focused on animation, on comics, or on Asian/East Asian/Japanese studies, would likely produce a decidedly incomplete picture. But, publications in anime/manga studies are not limited to journal articles.
In particular, at least four major general edited collections of essays on Japanese animation and Japanese comics have been published in the last ten years – and several more with specific themes narrower than anime/manga in general. Two of them focus on anime and manga both, and one each on anime or manga. So, precisely because I think these books do represent the variety of possible academic approaches to anime and manga, they can serve as excellent sources for a study that would answer this question.
In addition, an edited essay collection will usually include short biographical profiles for each of its contributors. This makes locating and recording this kind of information very easy. So, my methodology for this study is straight-forward – I reviewed the tables of contents and the “notes on contributors” sections of each of the four collections, and noted the relevant details about the authors: their general status as faculty, other “non-teaching” academic employees (administrators, visiting fellows, researchers, etc.), independent scholars/professionals (such as librarians), or graduate students, for faculty, the departments or programs they were affiliated with, the countries where they work and/or live, if provided, and their gender. This returned a list of 59 authors. A few published essays in more than one volume – these were counted each time. Two had two contributions to the same volume (as sole author, and with co-authors) – in these two cases, I only recorded the first one. I specifically did not include any authors whose contributions were limited to forewords/introductions/conclusions.
Who are the anime/manga scholars: Author characteristics in four essay collections
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2006)
Although by no means the first edited collection with chapters on Japanese animation, and not even the first one with a significant focus on anime (the first such book was 2000’s Japan Pop: Inside the World of Japanese Popular Culture), this was the first collection of academic essays that specifically uses the term ‘anime’ in its title, and discusses “one of the most explosive forms of visual culture to emerge at the crossroads of transnational cultural production in the last twenty-five years” exclusively. Perhaps precisely because this book was was “first of its kind”, it attracted contributions from several of the most prominent English-language scholars of anime, such as Susan Napier, Thomas Lamarre, Antonia Levi and Briah Ruh.
Total Authors: 8
Asian/East Asian/Japanese Studies: 4
English, Humanities & Social Sciences, University Studies: 1 each
Graduate student: 1 (Ph.D. candidate, Communication and Culture)
Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the Worlds of Manga and Anime
(M.E. Sharpe, 2008)
This volume grew out of talks presented at the Sophia University 2003 Asian Studies Conference. Its editor argues that anime and manga deserve academic attention both because of their prominent position in “contemporary Japanese mass visual culture”, their status as a potential source for “political, ethical, or existential critical reflection”, and their global reach.
Total authors: 14
Religion/Religious Studies: 2
Asian/East Asian/Japanese Studies: 2
Art & Media Studies
Graduate student: 1 (Ph.D candidate, Comparative Culture)
Other academic: 1 (Visiting Scholar)
Independent scholar/professional: 3
Continental Europe: 1
Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives
“The hottest new comic-book art format” is how this volume’s introduction describes manga – with good reason – by 2007, manga was firmly placed on U.S. best-seller lists, with Fruits Basket vol. 16 making it to the no. 15 spot USA Today Top 150 weekly list. The growing popularity – and growing scholarly interest – in Japanese comics can certainly be an explanation for this book’s wide-ranging scope, and its emphasis on presenting manga as different from “Western-style comic books”.
Total Authors: 24 (including 5 co-authors)
Asian/East Asian Japanese Studies: 3
Germanic & Slavic Studies
Journalism, Media and Communication
Graduate student: 5
Other academic: 3
Independent scholar/professional: 3
Continental Europe: 4
Mangatopia: Essays on Manga and Anime in the Modern World
(Libraries Unlimited, 2011)
The purpose of this essay collection, as stated in its introduction, is to “showcase discussions of manga and anime…for all intelligent readers interested in the future of the book and the story” – driven by what its editors perceived as a situation where “scholarly attention, fan enthusiasm, and unparalled commercial success for manga and anime…converged to create a need for good information.” Interestingly, both of the editors were independent scholars, and perhaps, this had an effect on who they invited to contribute the book’s 12 chapters.
Total authors: 13 (including 1 co-author)
Asian/East Asian/Japanese Studies: 2
(East Asian Studies, East Asian Languages and Cultures)
Liberal Arts: 1
Graduate student: 1
Other academic: 1
Independent scholar/professional: 5
Asian/East Asian/Japanese Studies: 11
English/Literature/Comparative Literature: 4
Religion/Religious Studies: 2
(Art & Media Studies; Communication; Design; Germanic & Slavic Studies; Humanities & Social Science;; International Studies; Journalism; Media and Communication; Media Studies; Spanish; University Studies)
Graduate Students: 8
Other Academic: 5
UK: 3/4 *
Continental Europe: 6/5 *
* one author is affiliated with academic institutions in both the UK and France
One clear result of this study is that while faculty certainly represent the majority of authors writing academic essays on anime/manga, they are not an overwhelming majority – graduate students account for 14% of all authors, and non-academic authors, including independent scholars, librarians, and industry professionals, for 19%. Of course, most, if not all, of these “non-academic authors” have academic backgrounds and hold graduate degrees, but regardless, it’s clear that one does not need to be an academic to publish on anime/manga – though it certainly helps.
In terms of the subject areas and departments that the academic authors represent, although 31% belong to the general field of Asian studies (including East Asian Studies and Japanese Studies), 69% are spread across at least 15 other fields. Interestingly, none of the authors in the sample are based in a film studies department. These results are actually similar to my earlier research on journal article publication patterns in anime/manga studies from 2010-2014, where I demonstrated that Asian/East Asian/Japanese Studies journals accounted for about 20% of all articles on anime/manga published over these years.
Perhaps not surprisingly for books published in English, authors based in the U.S. dominate, but not overwhelmingly so. Having said this, the figure of 7 authors based in Japan is deceptive, since it includes several scholars who are originally from other countries (although, to be fair, the totals for the other countries also include several Japanese natives who are living and working outside Japan).
Finally, the gender break-down of the sample is essentially equal between male and female authors.
Suggestions for Further Research:
Obviously, this is (once again) a very basic, purely quantitative study, and there are some immediate ways in which it could be expanded. One would be to broaden the scope to include other recent collections on anime/manga, such as Japanese Animation: East Asian Perspectives (University Press of Mississippi, 2013) and Manga and the Representation of Japanese History (Routledge, 2013). An even more ambitious project could be to undertake a thorough study of author characteristics and publication trends/topics in the annual Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga and the Fan Arts series – especially given that this year’s volume, the 10th to be published, will be the last. The scope could also be shifted from essay collections to journal articles; the problem I outlined of the difficulty of identifying a usable sample of journals could be side-stepped if and when I complete the comprehensive bibliography of academic publications on anime/manga in various formats (books, book chapters, journal articles) and across a wide time frame. And of course, beyond simply looking at authors, a meta-study can examine the content of individual publications: what research strategies do the authors use, and, what specific research topics do they focus on. A study of this type could, for example, identify the anime or manga that has drawn the greatest share of academic attention – and either confirm or deny the claim raised by Jaqueline Berndt that “too much” of the English-language anime/manga scholarship focuses on Hayao Miyazaki and his works. Finally, identifying research trends and publication/author characteristics in a particular field is one thing – but the question always stands, how do these trends and characteristics compare to those in other fields – although one potentially challenging issue here is that so far, it seems that these kinds of trends/characteristics studies are much more common in science/technology/medicine fields than they are in the humanities.
What defines an academic field – or, in other words, what does an academic field need to have before it can be accepted as existing? There are several different factors or criteria, though at the most basic, a field should have scholars who identify themselves as participating in it, journals and other formats of scholarly communication that publish research in it, and perhaps, more structural features such as regular conferences, classes with relatively common curricula, and eventually, permanent, established research centers (these are largely inspired by the suggestions that P.J. Fensham makes in Defining an Identity: The Evolution of Science Education as a Field of Research). Anime/manga studies already meets many of these – and so, it is perhaps only appropriate that the field itself should also be a subject of research.