To Western audiences, Japanese animation still largely means the feature films produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. And Western animation scholars also focus on Miyazaki and Ghibli extensively – just some recent examples include two of the four volumes published so far in Bloomsbury’s Animation: Key Films/Filmmakers series, the articles in the April 2018 “Introducing Studio Ghibli” issue of the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, and a chapter on “excess and abnegation in Spirited Away” in the essay collection Devouring Japan: Global perspectives on Japanese culinary identity. And now, one of the world’s most prominent English-language academic publishers is adding to this list.
As I’ve mentioned several times already, one of the inevitable challenges that faces anyone who is seeking to publish their research on anime/manga in a peer-reviewed academic journal is simply selecting a journal to submit to – especially given that there is nothing out there, at least right now, like a “Journal of Anime/Manga Studies”. One simple approach is to focus on the obvious and submit to one of the journals that focus on animation and comics, another is to emphasize the “Japan” angle and submit to a Japanese or Asian Studies journal. Of course, it is also possible to approach the content of the anime/manga in question first and foremost – with this approach, that the work itself happens to be a Japanese cartoon or comic is essentially irrelevant; an example of this kind of approach is Algorithmic tyranny: Psycho-Pass, science fiction and the criminological imagination, to be published in an forthcoming issue of Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal.
Nonetheless, all of these approaches call for a familiarity with the ever-growing universe of English-language academic journals. And one journal that I think will be particularly relevant to anyone who is interested in the developing field of anime/manga studies is New Voices in Japanese Studies (originally, New Voices) – “the only journal dedicated to publishing academic research by outstanding graduate-level scholars with a specific focus on Japan.” Continue reading
“Any [academic] discipline is first and foremost about the people who practice it” – write Gerardo L. Munck and Richard Snyder in Who publishes in comparative politics?: Studying the world from the United States. There are plenty of examples of studies in different areas/disciplines/fields that examine the characteristics of the authors who are actually working in them – some other typical recent examples are International differences in nursing research, 2005-2009, Quantity and authorship of GIS articles in library and information science literature, 1990-2005, and Taking stock of management education: A comparison of three management journals. And, while these kinds of studies often find that the authors of the articles that they examine differ quite widely in terms of their gender, academic rank, university affiliation, and other similar factors, they also generally demonstrate that the authors who publish in a particular field are overwhelmingly affiliated with academic programs in that field. This makes sense – a history professor or graduate student would publish in a history journal; likewise, the most likely author of an article in the Journal of Japanese Studies or a similar publication would be affiliated with an Asian, East Asian, or Japanese Studies program. But, there simply are no academic departments in the U.S. that specifically focus on anime/manga, and scholars who do publish work on Japanese animation or Japanese comics can be based in many different academic departments. A related issue, of course, is whether a person who wants to publish their academic writing has to even be an academic (i.e., employed as a faculty member) to begin with! Here too, the studies find many differences by discipline: 11% of the authors studied in Who publishes in comparative politics are graduate students, as are approximately 9% of those studied in An examination of author characteristics in national and regional criminology journals, 2009-2010, and 5% in Who publishes in top-tier library science journals?
But, even here, a valid question is whether someone who is interested in anime/manga academically and wants to share their work in a formal setting such as a peer-reviewed journal – but is just an undergraduate – is able to do so. Continue reading
Over the last several years, the international academic publisher Bloomsbury has actively embraced the emerging academic field of comics studies, with books such as The Visual Language of Comics, Transnational Perspectives on Graphic Narratives (with chapters on “manga versions of Spider-Man” and “the cultural crossovers” of the manga-inspired Scott Pilgrim series), Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation (containing a chapter on “the global manga of Felipe Smith, and winner of the 2014 Best Scholarly/Academic Work Eisner Award) , and with specific relevance to manga studies, last year’s Manga in America: Transnational Book Publishing and the Domestication of Japanese Comics and Manga and Anime Go to Hollywood.
Bloomsbury has now announced the launch of Comics Studies – a new series of “reference guides…to the many worlds of comics and graphic novels.” Each guide will contain a general overview of a particular genre or style of comics/graphic novels, the works of a particular creator, or major themes, and a summary of major texts, their contexts, and the critical discussions that have occurred around them.
The first two volumes in the series, due out in the fall, will be Superhero Comics and Autobiographical Comics (with a specific discussion of Kenji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen as a “key text”). And, a volume on manga is already in development, although no further details are available at this time. But, when such a volume does appear, presumably next year, it may very well end up serving as the go-to “introduction” to manga for readers who are not familiar with the ideas and practices of critical commentary. It could then serve as a necessary update to Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga (now more than twenty years old), The Rough Guide to Manga (2009, and out of print), and Understanding Manga and Anime and Mostly Manga: A Genre Guide to Popular Manga, Manhwa, Manhua and Anime – both useful books, but also now rather dated, and both designed primarily for librarians who need to make decisions whether a particular manga title is worth adding to a public library’s collection – and could very well become a standard college text on manga as well, or at least a relatively accessible source for class readings!
Almost three years ago, when I first began writing about the mechanics of anime/manga studies as an an area of academic activity, one of the questions I posed was whether “it possible for an author to self-publish a book of criticism/commentary on Japanese animation or Japanese comics”? The short answer was yes, as with Patrick Drazen’s A Gathering of Spirits: Japan’s Ghost Story Tradition from Folklore and Kabuki to Anime and Manga, and Derek Padula’s multi-volume series of books on Dragon Ball.
These books, along with Otaku Journalism: A Guide to Geek Reporting in the Digital Age, by “Otaku Journalist” Lauren Orsini, follow what is the standard or traditional model of self-publishing – use of print-on-demand for producing actual physical books, and a heavy reliance on Amazon for the e-book versions. But, is it the only possible model for self-publishing on anime/manga? Turns out, it’s not. Anime companies have recently made several attempts at using Kickstarter to fund new releases of anime series in the U.S. – and just last month, a creator successfully ran a Kickstarter campaign, with a goal of $1,000, to fund the publication of Animated Discussions: Collected Writings on Anime – a set of “collected essays on anime, from Akira to Erased, revolutionary girls and EVA pilots to Puella Magi and alchemists, and beyond!”
As I’ve noted a number of times, some academic journals certainly seem to be “more welcoming” to publications on anime/manga than others. 78 articles on anime/manga that have been published since 1993 appeared in the International Journal of Comic Art, 22 in Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 19 in Japan Forum, 15 in the Journal of Popular Culture, and so on. But, overall, more than 460 individual journals have now published an article on anime/manga – and a majority of them only published one or two. This means that as I track publication trends in anime/manga studies, I am constantly discovering not just new articles, but new journals that I have never come across before.
One such journal is open-access TranscUlturAl: A Journal of Translation and Cultural Studies, which publishes “essays, translations and creative pieces that explore interrelationships between translations and cultures, past and present, in global and local contexts.” Its latest issue focuses specifically on “translation and comics”, and contains two articles on manga – as follows, with my thoughts/comments.
Fabbretti, Matteo. The use of translation notes in manga scanlation. TranscUlturAl: A Journal of Translation and Cultural Studies, 8(2), 86-104.
“This article investigates the use of translation notes to deal with translation problems. In Translation Studies, the presence of translation notes in a translation is considered particularly significant because they clearly indicate what features of the source text the translator considered important for the comprehension of the text and therefore necessary to retain or explain. In the field of comics in translation, the use of T/N is rather uncommon, and can be considered the main translation strategy that distinguishes scanlation from other types of translations.
Fred Schodt’s 1983 Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics is rightly recognized as the first in-depth English-language survey of its subject. But, already, Western scholars were also paying attention to Japanese comics – first, in 1977, with “Contemporary Japanese youth: Mass media communication” (in Youth & Society, 8:4), and then, two years later, with Salaryman comics in Japan: Images of self-perception, in the Journal of Popular Culture. And, in the more than thirty years now that have passed since that article appeared – and as anime and manga studies has developed into a defined academic field, this journal has continued welcoming articles on Japanese animation and Japanese comics. At least 14 more have appeared in it through the end of last year, with one more (which I already discussed) in February. And now, the journal’s latest issue has a specific focus on “Asian popular culture” – which, as the issue’s editors note, is “an umbrella term for the study of various facets of culture (such as film, television, literature, music, animation, social media, digital media, advertising) across Asia using a range of methodologies and approaches”.
[Ed. note: Here, it would be interesting to also consider how other editors have presented the same term. The editors of Asian Popular Culture: New, Hybrid, and Alternate Media (Lexington Books, 2013) do not see any need to it to be any more complicated than simply referring to “popular culture practices in Asia”. On the other hand, in the introduction to Asian Popular Culture: The Global (Dis)continutity (Routledge, 2013), Anthony Y.H. Fung states that “this book does not present a definition of Asian popular culture – which may practically be unfeasible owing to the diversity of Asian cultural products – but presents the readers cases of highly popular Asian pop imaginaries that can be connected to the discourse of globalization and under the theme of the global (dis)continuity of the political economy.]
Anime/manga and Chinese cinema are certainly the two components of it that are the most prominent in “popular and critical imagination”, but, again, studying Asian popular culture needs to consider not only particular types/modes/facets of popular culture, but also factors and features such as adaptations from one to another – and the ways popular culture moves both within Asian, and from Asia to the rest of the world. Two of the essays in the issue deal with aspects of these issues specifically with regard to anime/manga.
Karatsu, Rie. Female voice and Occidentalism in Mika Nakagawa’s Helter Skelter (2012): Adapting Kyoko Akazaki to the screen. The Journal of Popular Culture, 49(5), 967-983.
In describing any academic field, one important factor to consider is where the scholars who participate in that field actually publish their work. Are there only a few journals that account for the majority of published scholarship? Or do articles appear in many different ones? For that matter, is it possible to define a list of “core” journals for a given field/area?
With regards to anime/manga studies, this “where do we publish” question can be approached both subjectively – as I have done by highlighting a number of journals that, in my opinion/experience, have been particularly welcoming to articles on Japanese animation and Japanese comics, and objectively, by identifying nearly 1,000 individual articles on anime/manga that were published in various English-language journals between 1993 and 2015 and recording the specific journals that these articles appeared in. As I found, these articles appeared in more than 450 individual journals; with approximately 8% of the total in the International Journal of Comic Art, and a total of approximately 25% in the top ten journals.
The academic/scholarly journal with the next-highest number of articles on Japanese animation is Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Probably the most high-profile academic journal on animation and related topics, over its 11 years of publication, it has already published 24 individual articles on anime. And, two much appear in its latest November 2016 issue. I would argue that these articles – because of the journal that they appear in, and the backgrounds and institutional affiliations of their authors – can be presented as the epitome of how scholars writing in English currently approach Japanese animation.
Roquet, Paul. From animation to augmentation: Denno Coil and the authentic self. Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 11(3), 228-245.
Popular culture works across different languages and different media – literature, film, television, and comics – frequently draw on historical events for their subjects. In turn, how popular culture uses history is a frequent topic of scholarship in its own right – just some recent examples include American History and Contemporary Hollywood Film, Gone With the Glory: The Civil War in Cinema, and Screening the Past: Film and the Representation of History. And Japanese popular culture is not an exception here – anime and manga also often depict historical incidents and events. These depictions range from the fairly realistic to the unapologetically fanciful – and, again, present obvious “points of entry” for scholars. Jaqueline Berndt’s approach, in “Historical adventures of a post-historical medium: Japan’s wartime past as represented in manga”, is straight-forward. Wendy Hardenberg’s, in Transcending the victim’s history: Takahata Isao’s Grave of the Fireflies, focuses on how “history” is created and the different types or forms of “history”. Andrea Horbinski, in “Record of dying days: The alternate history of Ooku” (in Mechademia, vol. 10), highlights the ways that manga has explored “alternate history”. In fact, just three years ago, Routledge published a full collection of essays on “manga and the representation of Japanese history”. And now, another major publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, is exploring this topic again with Rewriting History in Manga: Stories for the Nation.
More than a year and a half ago, early in 2015, the editors of Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities announced a Call for Papers for a special Media Review section in an upcoming issue of the journal, that would be dedicated to “apply[ing] ecocritical and Green cultural studies approaches to the field of Japanese animation.”
The CFP provided additional background for the section, and listed the specific titles that the editors were hoping to attract reviews of.
“2014 was a watershed year for Studio Ghibli, arguably the leading anime studio, because it marked the retirement of the founding directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. who issued their swan-songs The Wind Rises and Princess Kaguya. To honor this moment and attract more critical attention to anime, we are soliciting reviews of the following:
- Miyazaki’s films, especially Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Ponyo.
- Takahata’s Ken the Wolf Boy, Heidi: Girl of the Alps, Pom Poko aka “Tanuki Wars,” Grave of the Fireflies, and Princess Kaguya.
- We are also interested in work inspired by or intertextually related to Studio Ghibli, such as Disney’s Lilo and Stitch; Irish director Tomm Moore’s The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea; and the animated version of Avatar: The Last Airbender (including its sequel, The Legend of Korra, which is a gold mine for feminist, post-colonial, eco-cosmopolitan, and queer ecocriticism, just sayin’).
- Reviews of other anime films, TV series, and manga unrelated to Ghibli will also be considered.”
For a while after the call for papers went out, I had not heard anything about this project – and in fact, it does not appear that the journal’s website has not been updated in more than two years either. But, as it turns out, electronic versions of it are available in both JSTOR and Project Muse, and, Ecocritical Reviews to Studio Ghibli was in fact published as the Media Cluster section of Resilience‘s Fall 2015 issue (Volume 2, No. 3).
Looking at the articles that actually appeared in the section, a few things come to mind right away. The “spread” of films that the authors who responded to the CFP addressed is definitely fairly expansive – though not quite comprehensive – with separate essays on Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Pom Poko, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, the non-Ghibli anime Mushishi, and the arguably “inspired by Studio Ghibli” The Secret of Kells, as well as two more that discuss broader topics as expressed in more than one film. And, the list of authors is fairly wide-ranging as well – although most are based at American colleges/universities, others are affiliated with institutions in Australia, Germany, and the U.K. At the same time, the question also stands – Miyazaki’s work and influence has already been the subject of literally dozens of journal articles, and at least two journal special issues. Is another one really necessary? And, does it then merely emphasize Jacqueline Berndt’s argument that Miyazaki exerts an undue influence on the shape of anime studies as a field, and that this outside influence leads to a tendency to treat Miyazaki’s films as “typical of anime as a whole”, and largely ignore anime that doesn’t neatly fit this image or stereotype?
Regardless, the actual contents of this Special Section are as follows:
Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities
Special Section – Ecocritical Approaches to Studio Ghibli
- Lioi, Anthony. Introduction to Studio Ghibli (pp. 111-112)
- Abbey, Kristen L. “See with eyes unclouded”: Mononoke-Hime as the tragedy of modernity (pp. 113-119).