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

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Highlighting New Publications – Origin and Ownership from Ballet to Anime

One of the inevitable challenges of attempting an academic approach to anime/manga is the simple question of selecting particular works to examine – out of hundreds. In a way, it is this challenge that leads many scholars to limit their discussion of anime to discussions of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films – if nothing else, this kind of limitation allows them to easily connect such new to the significant amount of scholarship on these films that exist already. Similarly, as Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano points out, scholars who write on anime all too frequently limit their studies to straight-forward textual analysis – this leads to a “marginalization” of anime series that air on television – and, maybe, are just not that interesting from a pure textual analysis point of view.

This is precisely why examples of new contributions to anime studies that do go beyond Miyazaki and a handful of other directors are always worth paying attention to. And one such example appears in the February 2016 issue of the Journal of Popular Culture . The full issue is currently available in open access on its publisher’s website.

Kennell, Amanda. Origin and ownership from ballet to anime. Journal of Popular Culture, 49(1), 10-28.

Princess Tutu“‘Long ago and far away…’ begins each episode of Princess Tutu. An anime steeped in century-old ballets – themselves steeped in older folklore, opera, history, and fairytales – Princess Tutu does not quite fit into an easily recognizable mold. It features a magical girl, or mahō shōjo, but she seems to take a back seat to other characters, and the reward waiting for her at the end of the series is a quiet life as a single duck, rather than as the partner of a handsome prince. The story revolves around a battle between a beloved prince and an evil raven, but the prince first lacks interest in battle and then eventually allies himself with the raven. A young man trying to become a valiant knight plays an important role, yet he becomes most important when he throws away his sword and absents himself from the climactic fight, allowing a wimpy bookworm to defend him valiantly against attack. Finally, a young woman falls in love with the prince, but she is dating him before the series begins and they ride off into the sunset at the end with little change in their relationship. Not a mahō shōjo-type coming-of-age story; not a love story; not, really, the story of a battle between good and evil, Princess Tutu emerges from a frothy ocean of stories without really belonging to any of them. Yet, an in-depth examination of the relationship between Princess Tutu and one of its sources, the ballet Swan Lake, reveals that Princess Tutu is representative of a process of creation common to classic ballets.”

Continue reading