Defining Anime and Manga Studies

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of the essay collection Japanese Popular Culture (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Co.), which contained what I believe are  the first two English-language scholarly essays on Japanese comics. As with the other chapters in the volume, both are actually translations of articles that had already previously appeared in Japanese; nonetheless, they can be treated as marking the “origin” of anime and manga studies.

Now, sixty years later, “anime and manga studies” encompasses numerous publications (such as various recent monographs, essay collections, and the almost 30 individual book chapters and journal articles on anime/manga and related topics that have appeared so far this year), academic conferences, classes at colleges and universities around the U.S., and perhaps even the beginnings of an institutional structure, via the establishment of an Anime Studies Special Interest Group within the Society for Animation Studies.

Nonetheless, one thing that anime and manga studies does not yet have is an actual definition – and I would argue that presenting one is crucial to the further development of the concept – and its evolution into something more – into an actual academic field.

Based on trends and directions in scholarly activity involving anime/manga, I would, then, propose the following definition:

Anime and manga studies is

“the exploration of Japanese animation and comics as creative works, their historical, cultural, sociological and economic dimensions, their production, distribution, global reception, and related topics.” Continue reading

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Guest Response Essay: Kawaii Aesthetics from Japan to Europe

Earlier this year, I announced a Call for Contributors inviting “essay submissions responding to any other article-length scholarship on anime/manga or related topics published in English in the last five years”. These kinds of short essays would, I believe, add an important new dimension to the developing field of anime and manga studies by encouraging and facilitating conversation within and about it.

Now, I am pleased to present the first response to the Call:

Dora Vrhoci – on Kawaii Aesthetics from Japan to Europe: Theory of the Japanese “Cute” and Transcultural Adoption of Its Styles in Italian and French Comics Production and Commodified Culture Goods, Arts 7(3), article 24

Ms. Vrhoci is a student of European politics and culture at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Her main areas of interest include the politics of social movements, popular culture, and Euro-Japanese interactions. She recently co-authored a forthcoming chapter on town twinning between Eastern and Western European cities in E. Braat, & P. Corduwener (Eds.), 1989 and the West: Western Europe since the End of the Cold War, London: Routledge.

Marco Pellitteri’s article explores how Japanese kawaii culture and aesthetics are appropriated in Europe. The article centers on the question of how and whether ‘kawaii’ has found its place in contemporary Europe, with a particular focus on Italy and France. Pellitteri acquires a transcultural perspective and observes ‘the kawaii phenomenon’ as a “culture of cuteness” which (1), although originating in Japan, has become fused with European aesthetics in certain areas of youth subcultures and pop-culture products. As an example of such fusion between Japanese and European cultures, Pellitteri uses the so-called “Euromanga”—comics made by European creators, but influenced by aesthetic and/or narrative elements of  Japanese manga.

Pellitteri begins his article with a theoretical account of the ‘kawaii phenomenon’. Taking up the bulk of the text, the theoretical discussion includes an overview of the semantic and/or linguistic origins of ‘kawaii’ and highlights ‘kawaii’s’ association with an “emotional attachment to creatures”, a “girl/girlish culture” (vs. a more ‘manlier’ aesthetics), and, among other things, a nostalgic sentiment about one’s childhood. Аs another important aspect of ‘kawaii culture’, Pellitteri mentions its pattern-crossing ability, that is, the ability to move across media, industries and “juvenile tendencies” (5). The theoretical discussion closes with a note that ‘kawaii aesthetics’ are interpreted and appropriated differently in Japanese and Western contexts (i.e., West-Europe and America); while ‘kawaii’ is an integral part of contemporary Japanese culture and aesthetic, in Europe, it does not, according to Pellitteri, appear to be a dominant aesthetic trend among Japanese-inspired youth subcultures. Continue reading

Highlighting Upcoming Publications: Leiji Matsumoto

GE999Among the creators who have essentially defined the course of Japanese comics and animation through the entire second half of the 20th century, and now, for two decades into the 21st, Leiji Matsumoto ranks at the very top – second only to Osamu Tezuka. But, for many reasons, audiences outside of Japan are still largely unfamiliar with much of Matsumoto’s work, have only a vague awareness of it – or are not even aware that Matsumoto was the director in the first place. And this is despite the place that Space Battleshi Yamato holds in the history of anime – and its adaptation as Star Blazers does in the history of Japanese animation in the U.S.

The same goes for scholars – while there has been some recent writing on the Yamato TV series and movies, such as When pacifist Japan fights: Historicizing desires in anime (Mechademia, 2007), Contesting traumatic war narratives: Space Battleship Yamato and Mobile Suit Gundam (in Imag(in)ing the War in Japan: Representing and responding to trauma in postwar literature and film), “Archetypal images in Japanese anime: Space Battleship Yamato (Star Blazers)” (in Jungian perspectives on rebirth and renewal: Phoenix rising), and in particular, Remaking Yamato, remaking Japan: Space Battleship Yamato and SF anime, in a special Science Fiction Anime issue of the journal Science Fiction Film and Television, there is very little else out there on Matsumoto’s other extensive (and uniquely interconnected) body of work, in particular, the Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999 projects, or, for that matter, his involvement in the unique international Interstella 5555 project. One exception here is Eldad Nakar’s work on Matsumoto’s “war stories” manga – in Memories of pilots and planes: World War II in Japanese manga, 1957-1967, and “Framing manga: On narratives of the Second World War in Japanese manga, 1957-1977” (in Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime).

Now, this may be changing. Next year, McFarland, a leading independent publisher of academic books, with a long-standing interest in books on popular culture topics, including anime/manga, will be releasing the first-ever collection of scholarly English-language essays on Leiji Matsumoto and his work. The collection will be co-edited by Helen McCarthy, author of The Anime Encyclopedia (with Jonathan Clements), 500 Essential Anime Movies, and Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation, and Prof. Darren Ashmore (Yamanashi Gakuin University). Eisner Award-winning translator Zack Davisson, who is currently working on the English translations of Matsumoto’s Queen Emeraldas and Captain Harlock manga will contribute one of the chapters. As soon as I have details available about the book’s full contents, and especially the actual publication date, I will be happy to share that!

Congratulations to everyone who has worked on this project! Thank you! I am looking forward to reading this book, and I’m sure I am by far not the only one!

 

Highlighting New Publications – Translating Cultural References in Japanese Animation Films

SpiritedAwayPORAsakura, Kaori. Translating cultural references in Japanese animation films: The case of Spirited Away. Translation Matters, 1(1), 61-81.

Looking at “dictionary definitions” of terms may not necessarily lead to conclusive results – a “dictionary definition” is only one possible use of several. Nonetheless, the way a particular term is defined – and what is emphasized in the definition – can suggest certain approaches and interpretations. Something as straightforward as, for example, the definition of “anime” in the online Oxford Dictionaries – “A style of Japanese film and television animation, typically aimed at adults as well as children” – suggests that to reach viewers outside of Japan, anime must be translated. How this translation process actually takes place, under what conditions, and subject to what kinds of influences, can be a subject for extensive research.

SpiritedAwayENGAnd in fact, there is already a significant body of scholarship on translating anime and manga. General introductions include the “Translating manga” chapter in Comics in Translation (St. Jerome Publishing, 2008), and the article “History and philosophy of manga translation in North America” (International Journal of Comic Art, 2016). An example of a more theoretical approach can be seen in Perceptions and (re)presentations of familiarity and foreignness: The cultural politics of translation in the subtitling of Japanese animation by fans. And beyond these more general ones, there are several specific case studies that examine particular translations, or compare how the same original materials are translated into English and into other languages – as in “The translation and adaptation of Miyazaki’s Spirit Princess in the West” (in Princess Mononoke: Understanding Studio Ghibli’s Monster Princess), Strategy and style in English and French translations of Japanese comic books (Edinburgh Working Papers in Applied Linguistics, 2001), “A textual analysis of Japanese and Chinese editions of manga: Translation as cultural hybridiziation” (International Journal of Comic Art, 2006), The cultural transfer in anime translation (Translation Journal, 2009), and Dubbing of silences in Spirited Away: A comparison of Japanese and English language versions (Perspectives: Studies in Translation Theory & Practice, 2016). Continue reading

Call for Papers – Eyes Unclouded: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli

Ghibli2019 Contemporary Directors Symposium
Eyes Unclouded: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli
Lewes Depot Cinema, Lewes, UK
May 8, 2019

Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli will be the focus of the 2019 Contemporary Directors Symposium, organized by the University of Sussex (UK) Centre for Photography and Visual Culture. Prof. Rayna Denison, a leading scholar of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, whose recent work includes editing the essay collection Princess Mononoke: Understanding Studio Ghibli’s Monster Princess, and co-editing a Studio Ghibli special issue of the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, will present the symposium’s keynote address, and scholars are invited to submit proposals for 20-minute talks on any topic that falls under the symposium’s broad theme. Some potential areas to explore can include authorship, representation (gender, ethnicity/nationality/culture, etc.), “material culture”, such as merchandising and advertising, and how Ghibli films are distributed, received, and interpreted outside Japan. Talk proposals (title, 250-word abstract, author biography) are due by March 31, 2019, and can be sent to the attention of Dr. Luke Robinson.

The full CFP for the Symposium follows and is also available on H-Film. Continue reading

Call for Papers – AX 2019 Academic Symposium: Anime Chronotopes

AX 2019After a one-year hiatus, Anime Expo®, the largest anime convention in the U.S., will once again feature a dedicated track of academic panel programming, including lectures, presentations, and roundtable discussions. The goal of the Anime Expo Academic Symposium (AXAS) is to give scholars working in the field of anime and manga studies to to share their work with a diverse popular audience, to offer fans and scholars an opportunity to share their enthusiasm with one another, and to provide a site for for all involved to delve deeper into the world of Japanese pop culture. The theme for the 2019 Symposium is “Anime Chronotopes: Nostalgia in Japanese Animation and Comics”, and the Call for Papers for it is now open, with a deadline of May 5.

For consideration, please send the title of your paper or proposed panel, and an abstract of 250-400 words to animeexpo.academic@gmail.com. The full Call for Papers for AXAS 2019 is available below, and as a stand-alone page on H-Announce.

]Note: I organized/produced the Anime Expo Academic Program from 2011 to 2017. However, I am not directly involved in this year’s event.]

Call for Papers
Anime Expo Academic Symposium
“Anime Chronotopes: Nostalgia in Japanese Animation and Comics”
Anime Expo 2019
July 4-7 | Los Angeles, CA

www.anime-expo.org
www.anime-expo.org/academic-program

Recent anime and manga evince a pronounced fascination with both the history of Japanese animation and comics and the specific resonances of past texts in the present, a consideration marked not only by genre-savviness and the contemporary tendency towards citation across all media, but also a profound sense of nostalgia for its predecessors. This extends beyond the common association of the term with rose-tinted sentimentality towards the past, reflecting not only this intimacy but also its origins as a medical diagnosis, characterized by an intense sense of dislocation in the experience of the present. Both senses of nostalgia have produced opportunities to establish a ‘leaping chronology’ of the medium, charging the past with a radical sense of contemporaneity. The rediscovery of the radical promises of previous works of anime and manga, and in the process ‘repeating’ their animating concerns and questions, testifies to the possibility of reinventing and reestablishing the unfulfilled potentials of their projects. At a moment when the future itself seems to be foreclosed, such repetitions become one of the few mechanisms by which the glimmer of the radically new may become discernible. Continue reading

Comics Studies Society 2018 Prizes – Nominations Open

CSSJust about a year ago, the Comics Studies Society, itself just founded in 2014, announced the launch of one of its major projects – four annual prizes to recognize “outstanding contributions to the study of comic art” in the form of monographs, journal articles and chapters in edited collections, “public scholarship” (i.e., contributions to non-academic publications), and conference presentations by graduate students. Nominations for the prizes were accepted from both peers/readers, and from authors themselves, and I for my part certainly welcomed the opportunity to nominate several papers on manga published in 2017 that I felt would deserve the recognition.

The 2018 winners were announced in May. Neither the Charles Hatfield Book Prize nor the Comics Studies Society Article Prize went to publications on Japanese comics, but the award committee announced that in addition to the main Award for Best Graduate Student Conference Presentation, it would also recognize three authors with honorable mentions – one of the three being leading manga scholar Andrea Horbinski, for the paper “Something Postmodern Going On: The Queering of the Manga Sphere in the 1970s”, presented at On Belonging: Gender, Sexuality, and Identity in Japan.

And now, the nomination period for this year’s prizes – for materials published in 2018 – is officially open – to run until March 1. Each award winner will receive a $300 cash award, a plaque, and an invitation to present on their work at the Society’s annual conference.

The basic guidelines for the nominated works is that they must be:

“historical, biographical, critical, analytical, pedagogical, and/or bibliographical in focus…and draw on original research, acknowledge and advance existing scholarship where relevant, and include appropriate documentation.”

The full rules, and the instructions for submitting nominations are available on the CSS website. As per the instructions for the Article Prize, it is meant to recognize publications that “greatly add to our understanding of comic art and/or its historical, cultural, critical, or theoretical contexts”, and once again, I can easily think of at least 3 articles on manga published in 2018 that I think should be considered. So, I will be submitting these nominations – and if you know of one or more that you think is worthy of this kind of award, I urge to you nominate it too! What’s the worst thing that can happen – you will send through your nomination, and never hear anything about it ever again? And the best – the author will receive recognition for their work, and $300. Everybody wins!

Call for Contributors – Anime and Manga Studies Response Essays

“Japanese popular culture studies is a field in formation”, note Alisa Freedman and Toby Slade in the opening chapter of Introducing Japanese Popular Culture, the first volume on the topic that is specifically designed as a textbook. The same statement can be extended to anime and manga studies as well. And as the field of anime and manga studies is forming – through new directions in scholarship and teaching, the development of particular research patterns and trends, the emergence of foundational and highly cited publications, and even formal institutionalization, participants in the field can pursue some unique opportunities.

One specific area in anime and manga studies that I think could benefit from more attention is conversation within the field – that is, commentary on and discussion of not just the films and TV series and comics themselves, but the critical responses to them that already exist. Book reviews are one familiar type of this kind of commentary, and plenty of books on anime/manga do receive reviews – though primarily, in academic journals. One exception are the reviews of books on anime/manga and other aspects and products of Japanese popular culture that the All the Anime blog frequently publishes.

However, it is often difficult for a review of a single book to specifically talk about the place that book holds in the ongoing conversation on its topic. Reviews that do more than discuss single books – that go over several – are significantly less common; among the few examples are Historicizing Anime and Manga: From Japan to the World and Anime: Comparing Macro and Micro Analyses, in respectively the first and second volumes of Mechademia. And critical responses to individual journal articles are almost nonexistent – probably the only example that comes to mind is 2005’s Fans, copyright, and subcultural change: A review of Sean Leonard’s “Progress against the law”. Continue reading

Anime/Manga Studies in 2018: The Year in Review

For various reasons, I missed a Year in Review post for 2017. But, with 2018 now several weeks behind us, it is definitely appropriate to review the highlights of the year for anime and manga studies in the broad categories of new and notable publications, conferences and other events, and classes.

Books:

interpreting animeAfter a relatively quiet year in terms of major new English-language books on anime, this past one was anything but, with some of the most well-known authors in anime and manga studies publishing new titles.

Christopher Bolton, who teaches comparative and Japanese literature at Williams College, led the way with Interpreting Anime, the first book on anime I am aware of that is designed specifically for classroom use – and so, aimed at both instructors and students – and priced accordingly, at just $24.00. It has already received excellent reviews, including in Choice and in the Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, where the reviewer praises Bolton for “a meaningful contribution to the scholarship of reading, one able to transcend its subject matter – anime – and speak to readers everywhere, those who seek as full, as complete an engagement with their texts as possible.” To promote the book further, Prof. Bolton has also created a dedicated web page for it, and a YouTube trailer.

[And, in what may be a personal first, alongside the books, chapters, and journal articles that Interpreting Anime’s bibliography lists, there is also a citation to a post in this blog.]

For many years, the introductory title in anime studies – more or less by default, was Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation, first published in 2001. And even though it saw an 2005 update (as Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle, now, in 2018, it is still inevitably dated. So, something like Interpreting Anime, along with Anime: A Critical Introduction, published in 2015, is absolutely invaluable. Probably the only caveat when considering this title is that it is based almost entirely on essays that Bolton published previously, although all of them have been revised and expanded to fit into an overarching structure. Continue reading

The Shortcomings and “Blind Spots” of Anime and Manga Studies – a survey of the critical commentary

Recently, a colleague passed around a call for “more good scholarship on shonen as a genre” and voiced frustration with how little such scholarship currently exists – essentially the only one that addresses the genre as a whole, rather than specific works, is Angela Drummond-Matthews’ “What Boys Will Be: A Study of Shonen Manga” (in the 2010 essay collection Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives, pp. 62-76). One recent article that I recommended – and that he found useful – is Straddling the Line: How Female Authors are Pushing the Boundaries of Gender Representation in Japanese Shonen Manga (New Voices in Japanese Studies, 10, 76-97) – as I noted, “pushing the boundaries” first requires establishing just what these boundaries are, and in fact, the paper does include an extensive discussion of “the framework” of shonen manga. But the original question, and the frustration at not there not being more material available, led me to some thinking of my own.

The first English-language academic article on anime was published more than twenty-five years ago. It’s now been about twenty years since the first full class on Japanese animation at an American college. Anime is an accepted and acceptable area of scholarly interest, and anime and manga studies is as established academic field. And, as the field continues to define its its shape, it becomes particularly important to highlight not just what it is about, but the internal discussions that are taking place within it – the debates and the critiques. So, since that first article – Susan Napier’s Panic sites: The Japanese imagination of disaster from Godzilla to Akira appeared back in 1993, what kinds of comments have scholars made identifying particular shortcomings in anime/manga studies?

Thomas Lamarre’s The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation can, at this point, be considered one of the foundational texts of anime/manga studies – it is the most cited English-language book across all 10 volumes of Mechademia. And, right on the first page of the book’s preface, Lamarre states – although without providing any concrete examples:

“The bulk of anime commentary ignores that its ‘object’ consists of moving images, as if animations were but another text. Such a treatment of anime as textual object has tended in two directions. On the one hand, even when anime is treated largely as text, some commentators will call on the novelty and popularity of anime to bypass the tough questions that usually arise around the analysis of texts. Anime is, in effect, treated as a textual object that does not or cannot pose any difficult textual questions. Analysis is relegated to re-presenting anime narratives, almost in the manner of book reports or movie reviews. [emphasis mine]. On the other some commentators treat anime as text in order to pose “high textual” speculative questions  (such as the nature of reality, or the relationship of mind and body), again ignoring the moving image altogether but for different reasons. In this kind of textual treatment, the anime stories serve as the point of departure for philosophical speculation, without any consideration of the materiality of animation.”

Lamarre, “The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation”, ix-x.

Continue reading