Highlighting New Publications – Undergraduate Scholarship on Anime/Manga

“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

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AX 2016 Anime and Manga Studies Symposium Program

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After several months of intensive work, I am pleased to announce the final program for this year’s AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium. Running over all four days of Anime Expo, the largest anime convention in the U.S., the Symposium brings together a group of scholars who are interested in presenting their academic research on topics related to Japanese animation and Japanese comics directly to Anime Expo’s attendees. The symposium has several goals – to foster the development of a community of anime/manga studies, to give scholars an opportunity to share their work with an appreciative and understanding audience, and to introduce attendees to the practices of academic research. The Symposium does not have a particular theme – it is meant to welcome different kinds of approaches, drawing on a variety of sources and research methods. This year, it features over 20 speakers, including faculty members, graduate students, undergraduates, and independent scholars. The full program consists of a keynote address, three special guest lectures, a special roundtable discussion, and five sessions of individual presentations. The exact dates and times for all of the sessions will be confirmed in the coming days.

AX 2016 Academic Program

Friday, July 1

6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Keynote Address

Anime for Aspiring Filmmakers: Lessons from the USC School of Cinematic Arts

Ellen SeiterWhy should American film students pay attention to anime? In the AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium Keynote Address, Prof. Ellen Seiter, holder of the University of Southern California’s Stephen K. Nenno Endowed Chair in Television Studies, shares her thoughts on the distinctive visual, dramatic and narrative language of Japanese animation in film and television, and on what aspiring filmmakers can learn from anime directors such as the late Satoshi Kon, especially in the contemporary environment of digital production and distribution.

Prof. Ellen Seiter (University of Southern California)

Dr. Seiter received her BA in Anthropology from UCLA, and her MFA and PHD degrees in film from Northwestern University. Dr. Seiter specializes in audience research – anime being the most fascinating case study of all, children and youth media, semiotics, intellectual property law and media economics. Books she has authored include The Internet Playground: Children’s Access, Entertainment and Mis-Education (Peter Lang, 2005), Television and New Media Audiences (Oxford, 1999), and Sold Separately: Children and Parents in Consumer Culture (Rutgers, 1993). Her most recent work, The Creative Artist’s Legal Guide: Copyright, Trademark and Contracts in Film and Digital Media Production, which she co-authored with her attorney brother Bill Seiter was published in 2012 by Yale University Press.  She is currently writing a book on Teen TV series for Routledge.

7:45 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.
Session 1: Words, Scripts, Implications: Creating Meaning in Anime and Manga

  • Sounding Out the Pictures: Manga Sound Effects, Meanings, and Translation
    Andrew John Smith (Indiana University of Pennsylvania)

This talk looks to discuss the unique world of comic sound effects, specifically those found in manga. Although many readers may not think about them directly, sound effects affect their ability to read, enjoy, and understand graphic texts—meaning that an inability to understand them can stop understanding, and changing them can potentially cause a disastrous misreading. Sound effects can carry just as much meaning, weight, and import as the dialogue and art they accompany, and this discussion looks to introduce that concept and expand the scope of what can be studied when it comes to graphic works.

  • Can the Pop-Idol Speak?: The Role of Voice in Satoshi Kon’s Films
    John Ballarino (Bridgewater State University)

Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue is a film about identity: the conflict of the film is driven by the divide that exist between how people perceive the main character, Mima, as a commercial commodity and a woman, and in turn how Mima perceives herself. I analyze how this is portrayed symbolically throughout the film through the motif of Mima’s voice, developing being owned and sold by others to being entirely her own. This provides a useful approach to better understand the outside influences influencing her identity and development as a character, revealing a strong criticism of the expectations of women in a patriarchal society.

  • Drawing Lines between Boys and Girls: What do we Mean by “Shōnen” and “Shōjo”?
    Mia Lewis (Stanford University)

While manga combines image and text, it divides boys and girls. In bookstores in Japan manga is divided primarily by the gender of the target audience, often separated onto different floors in larger bookstores. This reflects the gendered division that begins in manga zasshi [comics magazines] and continues through the media mix chain. This talk will briefly overview how this distinction has been discussed in previous scholarship, and shifted over the years. This talk will also introduce preliminary results from my ongoing research on the divisions between these genres. One of these research projects examines how the reader’s sections in shōjo manga proscribe the ideal work to readers and aspiring artists to a far greater extent than their shōnen equivalents. The other examines formalist distinctions between contemporary shōnen and shōjo manga in order to explore what it means when we open a comic, glance at it, and declare it to be one or the other.

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New Issue: Scandinavian Journal of Comic Art

One of the most interesting trends in the development of the academic field of comics studies over the last two or so decades has been the emergence of several academic journals focused specifically on comics – broadly defined, and including manga. This trend started with the launch of the International Journal of Comic Art; since then, it has been joined by the online-only (and so, open access/free-to-read) Image [&] Narrative and ImageTexT, as well as the more traditional (i.e., distributed primarily to libraries that pay a subscription price for electronic access and/or print issues) Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics and Studies in Comics. Another, The Comics Grid, was first launched as a WordPress-driven blog, but has since converted to a more traditional format, with all pieces published in a given year assigned to a unique volume and given an individual article number – so, The relationship between personalities and faces of manga characters can be identified – and cited to – as being published in Volume 5, and as Art. 3. Its editor provided an in-depth explanation for the reasons behind this change.

SJoCA-CoverOne more such journal – and one that I was not previously aware of – is the Scandinavian Journal of Comic Art. The journal’s first two issues were published in 2012, none in the next two and a half years, but a new one is now available. As per its profile, it is “global in scope and aims to publish high quality research regardless of national or regional boundaries” – the “Scandinavian” in the title refers primarily to where its editors are originally from and/or are currently based. The theme of the issue is “Nordic history and cultural memory in comics” – and one of its three articles deals specifically with manga.

Yamazaki, Asuka. The body, despair, and hero worship: A comparative study of the influence of Norse mythology in Attack on Titan (pp. 25-49).

“The Japanese comic Attack on Titan has become greatly popular, currently with a circulation of more than forty million. Its worldwide popularity crosses national and generational boundaries, and it has been translated into numerous European and Asian languages. Attack on Titan presents a more than a century long battle between the human race and the Titans, whose ruthless hunting and devouring of human beings has forced the last of humanity into a fortress surrounded by three enormous, concentric walls. This article studies the influence of Norse mythology on Attack on Titan from an aesthetic and philosophical perspective. It focuses in part on the Titan legend, including Attack on Titan’s unique figure Ymir, who is compared with an important creature in Norse mythology, the giant Ymir. It also focuses on similarities between the motif of the wall in this comic and of the Miðgarðr in Norse myth. Finally, the paper analyzes the structure of hero worship in Attack on Titan in relation to mythological concepts, especially the metaphorical ritual of extracting a warrior’s heart and the image of the damaged body of the warrior.”

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