Using Subject Headings in Anime/Manga Research

How does someone go about locating scholarly publications (books, book chapters, journal articles) on topics related to Japanese animation and Japanese comics? Plugging keywords into Google or Bing, the specialized Google Scholar and Bing Academic Search, or scholarly database such as Academic OneFile, Academic Search Premier, or the Film & Television Literature Index can be a good first step. So, they may be good places either to begin the research – without any intention of wading through all of the thousands of results that a simple keyword search will return, or to search for materials that fit very specific criteria such such an an article published in a peer-reviewed journal that, in its own title, uses the title of a particular anime or manga. It is also absolutely important to remember that these kinds of research tools are not always able to search the actual full texts of the publications that they cover, so just because some publications do not come up in either very broad or very specialized searches, it does not mean that these publications do not exist at all.

So, what kinds of advanced search techniques can a researcher use? One that I emphasize – and rely on myself – is to think beyond keywords, and to understand the idea of “subject headings”.

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Tools for locating publications on anime/manga: Thoughts and comments

One of the most defining features of the “genre” of academic writing is that it explicitly connects to, expands on, and engages in a conversation with previously published material. The author of an academic work on a particular topic, whether this work is a book, a journal article, or simply a paper prepared for a class assignment has to be aware of what other authors have written about this topic, their methodologies, their points and arguments, and their conclusions. So, for an easy example, Brian Ruh opens his essay Producing transnational cult media: Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell in circulation (Intensities: The Journal of Cult Media5) with the statement that “In the case of anime and manga, fan response has been a critical factor to how various texts have been adapted and received, and fan activities have been necessary to their transnational flow” – and supports it with references to two book chapters – Anne Allison’s “Can popular gulture go global?: How Japanese ‘Scouts’ and ‘Rangers’ fare in the US” (2000) and Lawrence Eng’s “Anime and Manga Fandom as Networked Culture” (2012), and Marco Pellitteri’s 2010 book The Dragon and the Dazzle: Models, Strategies and Identities of Japanese Imagination: A European Perspective.

So, how does an author find the supporting sources that are necessary for good academic writing? As I described in a previous post, there are several standard techniques and resources for research in anime/manga studies. The resources include library catalogs, and general and subject-specific academic databases, both subscription-based (such as Academic OneFile, the Bibliography of Asian Studies, and the Film & Television Literature Index), and open-access (primarily Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search). Some of the search techniques that scholars can use include “reference chaining” – directly examining the bibliographies/works cited sections of works already identified using one of the resources I just listed, and simply examining the table of contents of new issues of journals that have previously published materials on a relevant topic.

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Resource Review – Dissertation Reviews

DRIn a previous post, I asked whether graduate students write Ph.D dissertations/master’s theses on anime and manga – the answer being very much yes. In the same post, I also discussed several ways of locating and accessing these kinds of dissertations, including using Google Scholar, institutional repositories, and the subscription-only ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global database, and listed a number of recent dissertations/theses authored by graduate students in colleges/universities both in the U.S. and in other English-speaking countries.

But, just as with published scholarship, simply being able to locate and access dissertations on a particular topic does not necessarily serve to fill an end user’s information needs. Books receive reviews, whether in academic journals, in popular magazines, or on blogs. Until recently, I was not aware of any similar resource for reviews of dissertations.

As it turns out, the appropriately titled Dissertation Reviews website serves exactly this purpose – of providing “overviews of recently defended, unpublished doctoral dissertations in a wide variety of disciplines across the Humanities and Social Sciences”. Its main goal is to highlight, rather than critique/criticize, so in a way, if a title is selected to be reviewed, that in of itself can be treated as an endorsement and a positive appraisal of its value and contribution to scholarship.

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Finding and accessing dissertations and theses on anime/manga

Academic writing on anime/manga can exist in several different formats. Most of these are intuitively familiar to readers – the book written by a single author, the edited collection of essays by several, the individual chapter in a collection, the article in a scholarly journal. But, one format that many readers may not be as familiar with is the Ph.D. dissertation or master’s thesis.

In the Western academic tradition (which, granted, has largely been adopted by academic institutions all over the world), the culmination of a graduate program, whether at the doctoral or master’s level, is a major piece of original scholarly writing that can conceivably be published as a stand-alone book. Doctoral programs always or virtually always require one, in addition to coursework and an oral examination, and many master’s programs (though by no means all) do as well. In its The Doctor of Philosophy Degree: A Policy Statement, the Council of Graduate Schools states that the dissertation both “makes an original contribution to knowledge”, and serves as a significant training experience for an academic career. And, as Paul D. Isaac emphasizes, in Faculty perceptions of the doctoral dissertation, it also plays significant “cultural, informal, and historical academic roles” such as providing a common experience for all Ph.D. recipients, regardless of their specific personal backgrounds, disciplines, or schools/programs.

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Resource Review – Japanese Literature in English

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

Building an Anime and Manga Studies Bibliography – Tools and methods

It is not easy to make the process of putting together the lists of academic publications on anime/manga that are available in the Bibliographies section of this website sound particularly interesting. But, nonetheless, describing some of the steps in this process can actually be a good demonstration of research skills and techniques – and at the same time, can also highlight the particular “publication characteristics” of anime and manga studies as a discrete field or area. So, as I go about compiling and updating these lists, what do I actually do? (In recording/documenting this process, I am inspired by Robert Singerman’s “Creating the optimum bibliography: From reference chaining to bibliographic control”, in David William Foster & James R. Kelly (eds.), Bibliography in literature, folklore, language and linguistics: Essays on the status of the field (pp. 19-47), Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co – a uniquely pedantic essay, – but it its own way, invaluable.) Continue reading

Some challenges of locating and accessing books on anime

ApocalypseJapanese animation came to the U.S. in the summer of 1961, with the theatrical release of Alakazam the Great (Saiyuki), Magic Boy (Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke), and Panda and the Magic Serpent (Hakujaden). It took over 30 years for the first English-language books on anime – Helen McCarthy’s 1993 Anime!: A Beginner’s Guide to Japanese Animation and Antonia Levi’s 1996 Samurai from Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation to appear

another thirty-five years for the first English-language book on anime – Antonia Levi’s 1996 Samurai from Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation – to appear.

But over 50 more books on anime have been published since those first ones.

Obviously, these books are diverse in their styles, approaches, and purposes. Some, like Anime Classics Zettai!: 100 Must-See Japanese Animation Masterpieces, Anime Explosion: The What? Why? and Wow! of Japanese Animation, and The Rough Guide to Anime are general introductions, intended for the casual reader. Others, such as Understanding Manga and Anime are essentially tools, meant specifically to aid public and academic librarians. And of course, there are the scholarly monographs and edited essay collections – Anime from Akira to Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation; Anime’s Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan, Cinema Anime: Critical Engagements with Japanese Animation, and many more. But, almost all of these books, regardless of their differences, have one thing in common – straight-forward, descriptive titles that almost always include the word “anime”. And what that means is that a reader who is trying to access these books, whether on Amazon or in a library catalog, should be able to locate them without too much difficulty simply by searching for the word. Continue reading

Subject Encyclopedias in Anime and Manga Studies

Contemporary Japanese CultureTo most people, “encyclopedia” means one of two things. It can mean a national encyclopedia like the Encyclopedia Britannica – obsolete, a prop, a historical artifact. Or it can mean Wikipedia – criticized and controversial (and the subject of extensive research – a lot of it is summarized in Mesrage, M., et al., “The sum of all human knowledge”: A systematic review of scholarly research on the content of Wikipedia, Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, forthcoming) – but also undeniably useful, and most importantly, heavily used by students at all levels. However, in the academic context, “encyclopedia” can also refer to a particular type of information resource – the “subject encyclopedia”, an edited collection of short articles on topics related to a particular field, discipline, area or theme.

The purpose of this type of resource is not to present original research, but rather, to “provide both undergraduate students and researchers with a starting point to clarify terminology and discover further reading” – East, John W. (2010) “The Rolls Royce of the library reference collection”: The subject encyclopedia in the Age of Wikipedia, Reference & User Services Quarterly, 50(2), 162-169.

So, do subject encyclopedias cover anime/manga? What kinds of subject encyclopedia cover anime/manga? And more importantly, how useful are these subject encyclopedias for a researcher at any level who is interested in anime and manga? In my work compiling a comprehensive bibliography of anime and manga studies, I have identified at least 15 individual academic encyclopedias with entries/articles on anime, manga and related topics. These range from 1999’s The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (with a one-page entry on ‘anime’) to Boy Culture: An Encyclopedia (2010, entry on ‘Manga and anime’) and the Encyclopedia of Religion and Film (2011, entry on ‘Hayao Miyazaki’).

The full list: Continue reading

Using Google Scholar in Anime/Manga Studies

Since its launch ten years ago, in October 2004, Google Scholar, Google’s “free service [that] helps people search scholarly literature” has made a major impact on how we search for and access academic publications. Some things about Google Scholar are certain. Students at all levels from high schools to graduate departments – rely on it. Educators and professional researchers accept it. And library and information science scholars work to understand, analyze, and describe it. So, how does Google Scholar hold up as a research tool for anime and manga studies?

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Researching Anime/Manga Scholars

When conducting research on any topic, there are certain things that any researcher must keep in mind. One of these things has to do with the basic design of bibliographic access systems – library catalogs, scholarly databases, subject bibliographies. These systems are tools for locating “bibliographic units” – books, book chapters, and individual journal articles. So, they are great when a researcher is looking for, for example, journal articles on the classic anime Neon Genesis Evangelion – a search for “Neon Genesis Evangelion” in the EBSCO Academic Search Premier database retrieves records for three articles. These three are by no means all the English-language articles that have been published on Evangelion, just the ones that have appeared in the journals covered by this particular database. But, locating these three can be a start.

Often, though, a researcher is looking for information not about individual articles, but rather, their authors. What is an author’s academic background and research interests, what other work has he or she done, where is the author currently teaching – finally, how can I contact the author? Do resources exist for this kind of research? Continue reading