The Animation Journal – 25 Years of Contribution to Animation Studies

The establishment of one or more focused academic journals is commonly considered to be one of the major features of academic fields – rather than merely “areas of interest”. In this way, the Journal of Asian Studies “has played a defining role in the field of Asian studies for nearly 70 years”, and Japan Forum, Japanese Studies, and the Journal of Japanese Studies have done for that field.

By the time the Animation Journal was founded in 1991, an extensive body of academic writing on animation had existed already. But that journal’s formal launch in the fall of 1992 can be seen as a major point in the development of animation studies as a field – that is now supported by several other journals, a Society for Animation Studies, an Animation subject area at the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association’s annual conference, and classes on animation commonly offered by film studies departments/programs. Since that first Fall 1992 issue, it has published over 150 articles on animation – including several on Japanese animation specifically.

But, as per an announcement on the AnimationJournal.com website, the 2017 “Special Issue on Italian Animation” is the journal’s final one – “It will be possible to purchase back issues, but no additional essays will be accepted for publication.”

Of course, academic journals are not eternal, and plenty stop publication every year, without providing any reasons or explanation, but I can think of a couple that would make sense in this case.

At the very least, the animation studies field is now served by Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal and Animation Process, Practice & Production, both of them backed by the resources of major for-profit publishing companies (respectively, Sage and Intellect), as well as the open-access Animation Studies. Moreover, academic articles on animation are now welcome in many different other journals – just some that come to mind right away include the Journal of Popular Culture, Post Script: Essays in Film and the Humanities, Science Fiction Film and Television, and The Velvet Light Trap. And, a publication like the Animation Journal that is largely a personal project simply cannot compete with them. Evidence of this can be seen immediately by comparing the journals’ online presence. If nothing else, the others are indexed in the major academic databases such as EBSCO Academic Search Premier, Gale Academic OneFile, and the ProQuest Research Library. The amount of information and content that is available on the journals’ public websites also differs quite a lot. This, in turn, most likely meant that as new scholars entered the field, and were looking for journals to submit their work to, they were likely to consider these other titles long before they even became aware of the Animation Journal. So, ultimately, when it came down to metrics like circulation/readership figures, and definitely citation counts/scholarly impact, the Animation Journal simply did not matter any more.

Nonetheless, in the 25 years that the Animation Journal has been published, it has welcomed a number of major, influential English-language scholarly articles specifically on anime/Japanese animation – including some of the earliest ones. The full list of them consists of:

Fall 1995
– Vernal, David. War and peace in Japanese science fiction animation: An examination of Mobile Suit Gundam and The Mobile Police Patlabor.

Spring 2000
– Routt, William D. Stillness and style in ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’.

2001
– Ng, Benjamin Wai-ming. Japanese animation in Singapore: An historical and comparative study.

2002
– Cavalleri, Monica. Animeshon no mugen no sekai: Kuri Yoji’s infinite world of animation.

2009
– Johnson, Henry. Animating and educating Japan: Nitaboh, music, and cultural nationalism.

2010
– Bellano, Marco. The parts and the whole: Audiovisual strategies in the cinema of Hayao Miyazaki.
[Note: in 2012, this paper was honored by the Society for Animation Studies with its Norman McLaren/Evelyn Lambart Award for Best Scholarly Article in Animation]

2015
– Kerner, Aaron Michael. Anno-mation: Hideaki Anno from animation to live-action, and back again

As with the journal itself, to the best of my understanding, none of these articles are easily available online, though making them available digitally could make for an interesting and useful conservation/preservation project.

In any case, at this point, all that I can say is to thank everyone who has been involved with the Animation Journal over these past twenty-five years – the authors, the editorial board, and especially the journal’s founder and editor, Prof. Maureen Furniss. Animation studies – and anime studies – would not be where it is now without your contribution!

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