In her essay Confronting master narratives: History as vision in Miyazaki Hayao’s cinema of de-assurance, in Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique, 9(2), Susan Napier notes that in his films of the 1980’s and 1990’s, Miyazaki “mined with great box office success a rich vein of global fantasy, legends, and science fiction to create original stories”. Interestingly, this kind of statement is actually an exception in English-language writing on anime/manga – the much more common approach is to highlight how most anime are in fact adaptations. Thus, in her seminal Anime from Akira to Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation, Napier also states that “many, if not most, anime are based on stories that appeared first in manga” (p. 20). Gilles Poitras makes a similar statement in “Contemporary anime in Japanese pop culture” (in Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime, pp. 48-67). And Jason Yadao, in The Rough Guide to Manga, goes as far as to attach a definite figure to the general statement – “[A]bout sixty percent of anime adaptations can trace their origins directly to a successful manga series” (p. 192). Interestingly, what Yadao implies is that anime adaptations can also trace their origins to something other than manga.
And, indeed, two years ago, at New York Comic Con 2013, a senior executive from the leading Japanese publisher Kadokawa Shoten elaborated on this, noting that in 2013, 33% of all new anime released that year were based on manga, while 56% adapted “light novels” (as Motoko Tanaka notes, in Trends of fiction in 2000’s Japanese pop culture, Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, 14(2), the term refers to “entertainment novels primarily targeting teenagers and young adults, usually published as bunkobon [pocket edition paperbacks], and often illustrated by popular manga artists). Presumably, this meant that the remaining 11% were either purely original works, or adaptations from other media, such as videogames or “literary” novels, whether Japanese or Western.
Resources like the Anime News Network Encyclopedia make locating information about particular anime and manga relatively easy. But, finding out about the original sources that anime are adapted from – in particular, novels – require using other resources. One such resource is the excellent Contemporary Japanese Literature – but that site is primarily a compilation of reviews of individual titles. In this context, I would like to consider Japanese Literature in English, “a searchable database that compiles all literary works translated from japanese to english and available in the United States (with some exceptions).” Continue reading