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.
One of the paradoxes of scholarship in the humanities is that often, some questions that seem straightforward do not actually have simple answers. In fact, even coming up with an answer to some questions may be difficult, if not impossible. For example, it is relatively easy to demonstrate that a particular book or comic or movie is popular – the sales figures and box office numbers may not be immediately accessible, but the numbers do exist. But it is much harder to claim that a particular author – or a particular film – is “the most studied of all time” or something similar. Claims of this kind, applied to many different authors and many different films, are not uncommon – but the casual statements I have often seen, such as that “among the most studied films of the last few decades are those that descend from the mid-century fiction of Philip Dick and his contemporaries“, tend not to be supported in any way. Comparing authors or works based on the amount of critical attention they have received is equally challenging, though not unheard of – see, for example, Powrie, Phil, Thirty years of doctoral theses on French cinema, Studies in French Cinema, 3(3), 199-203, noting, among other things, “the most popular directors studied”. And, of course, studying the relative importance or prominence of actual scholarship is a well-established practice – and identifying the “most frequently cited works” and the “most frequently cited scholars” in particular fields is at the core of formal citation analysis.
Nonetheless, again, while providing an answer to the question of what is the most frequently studied anime ever – or the most frequently studied anime director ever – is impossible, narrowing the scope of the question can lead to interesting, and potentially insightful, results. The role that Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have played in introducing Japanese animation to audiences and critics outside Japan, and in legitimizing academic approaches to anime, is easy to acknowledge. And, as it turns out, now that we are looking at something more narrow in scope than “all anime that has ever been written about critically”, we can, in fact, survey and quantify English-language scholarly writing on Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. The end result, then, can be an actual illustration to the general discussion on how non-Japanese scholars have approached Miyazaki and his films.
English-Language Scholarship on Studio Ghibli Films: Examining the Numbers
Purpose: To compile and present specific figures on English-language research on the anime feature films of Studio Ghibli.
Scope: These figures are based on materials included in the Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies – books, chapters in edited essay collections, and articles in peer-reviewed journals and professional magazines. Articles in newspapers and general-interest magazines/websites, as well as blog posts and personal essays are not included, nor are dissertations/theses/papers written for class, or conference presentations, unless specifically published in Proceedings. The materials were identified using keyword searches in library catalogs, major and subject-specific academic databases, and Google Scholar, direct review of the bibliographies/works cited sections of many previously identified works, and in many cases, direct submissions by authors. All of the entries are listed separately in Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli: A Bibliography.
As several sources have reported, Isao Takahata, the co-founder of Studio Ghibli and the director of five Ghibli feature films films, passed away earlier today. Takahata’s output as a creator has always been second to Miyazaki’s. Nonetheless, his work, and in particular, Grave of the Fireflies, also received a significant amount of English-language scholarly attention. And, of course, Takahata’s work has been addressed extensively throughout the more general academic writing on the work of Hayao Miyazaki on on Studio Ghibli.
Isao Takahata (1935-2018): A Bibliography of English-Language Scholarship
Colin Odell & Michelle Le Blanc.
Studio Ghibli: The films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.
Harpenden, UK: Kamera Books (1st ed.: 2009; Revised & Updated Ed.: 2015)
Book Chapters and Journal Articles
A simple and straight-forward question to ask when conducting any kind of academic research is – where do I start looking for materials on my topic? And, a key concept to understand when thinking about the research process is that there is no such thing as single resource that would be an equally effective starting point for any kind of research. Subject encyclopedias and specialized subject bibliographies, introductory essay collections (these often carry the specific term “Companion” or “Handbook” in the title – as with the examples of the Cambridge Companion to the Graphic Novel and the Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society) and of course, various general and subject-specific research databases , to say nothing of Google Scholar, may all be useful.
In the past, I have profiled/evaluated one such resource – the Bonn Online Bibliography for Comics Research. And recently, I became aware of another one that – at least initially, looks like it would be perfect for anyone who is looking to begin researching topics related to anime/Japanese animation.
What does this Database cover? How is it organized? And, most importantly, is it actually useful?
(Note: All of my comments apply to the English version of the Database only)
“Launched in 2013, Database for Animation Studies is a part of the project called Mapping Project for Animation Studies held by Japanese Association of Animation Studies. It collects the information of the books and the articles on Animation Studies and share it. By doing it, this website aims to show the map of the landscape of Animation Studies.” Continue reading
In a previous post, I highlighted several books that I think are the best to recommend for someone who really knows almost nothing about Japanese animation/Japanese comics, and wants an introduction that is both accessible and reasonably comprehensive. The titles that I profiled – among them Anime: A Critical Introduction, Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga, and Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices – all strive to be just. But, what kinds of books could I recommend to a reader who is interested not in anime/manga “broadly defined”, but in the work of a particular anime director or manga artist/writer?
Books on Anime/Manga, Part 2 – Specific Directors/Creators
- Helen McCarthy, Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation – Films, Themes, Artistry (1999)
- Susan Napier, Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke (2001)
Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle (2005)
- Colin O’Dell & Michelle Le Blanc, Studio Ghibli: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata (2009, 2015)
- Andrew Osmond, BFI Film Classics: Spirited Away (2008)
For many people, Hayao Miyazaki is anime/Japanese animation – and this is not unreasonable. Sales figures, critical recognition, awards – and scholarship – all contribute to this, to the point where, as Jaqueline Bernd notes (in her essay “Considering manga discourse: Location, ambiguity, historicity”, in Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the Worlds of Manga and Anime): “Non-Japanese scholars tend to assume that his movies are typical as a whole because of their mere presence in Japan; they frequently treat these animated movies are mirrors of Japanese culture, assuming the existence of a homogenous audience, and often implicitly comparing them to Disney products, but they rarely locate them within the history and present variety of animation in Japan.” But, again, just as Miyazaki and his films often serve as points of entry into the “worlds of manga anime”, writing on Miyazaki and his films can serve as point of entry to anime scholarship.
First published in 1999, Hayao Miyazaki: Masster of Japanese Animation – Films, Themes, Artistry is likely the first one on Miyazaki that a reader will come across. It is widely available and easy to read, with a straight-forward organizational scheme that consists of an overview of Miyazaki’s “life and work”, chapters on seven of his movies, from Castle of Cagliostro to Princess Mononoke, each divided into identical sections (“Origins”, “Art and technique”, “The characters”, “The story”, “Commentary”), and a concluding one on “The Miyazaki Machine”. Of course, one thing to keep in mind is that it is almost twenty years old now, and so, simply does not cover either the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, Miyazaki’s other subsequent projects, or his role as the conscience – or vocal critic – of the animation industry in Japan. 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!
One of the most basic questions that can come up in anime/manga studies is simply – where and how can someone begin learning about anime and manga. Where can a person start if their goal is to find out more about the origins and history of anime, identify the major themes that Japanese animation and Japanese comics feature, evaluate the work of major leading creators and directors, and explore the range of critical responses to anime/manga?
“Look at books on anime/manga” is an easy answer to this question – but, given that there are current more than 100 such books, from Fred Schodt’s 1983 Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics to the brand-new essay collection The End of Cool Japan: Ethical, Legal and Cultural Challenges to Japanese Popular Culture, it’s a too-easy answer. These books, published over more than 30 years now, and serve different goals (or, in other words, meet different information needs). So, a much more effective approach to the question about resources for learning about anime/manga is to break it down into several parts. What kinds of books are there on Japanese animation and Japanese comics? And what are the best books to consider for particular questions about anime/manga?
I Want to Know More: Books on Anime/Manga, Part 1 – Introductions and Overviews
The work that I do to promote anime and manga studies as an academic field and facilitate its growth and development includes several different projects – this site, the Anime and Manga Research Circle Mailing List, convention panels, of course, the Academic Program at Anime Expo. But, the one project that I focus on the most is a comprehensive bibliography of English-language academic publications on anime/manga – the Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies. Currently, it exists in the form of a set of lists covering such publications going back to 1977 – the year the first article on Japanese comics that I am aware of appeared in an English-language academic journal. My eventual goal is to use these lists to develop a searchable database that would be similar, at least conceptually, to the Bibliography of Asian Studies and the Bonn Online Bibliography for Comics Research – even if significantly more narrow in its scope. But for now, as every new year starts, I begin the process of compiling that year’s annual list.
The tools and techniques that I use remain fairly consistent over the years. On a regular basis, I search general academic databases – Academic One File (Gale), Academic Search Premier (EBSCO), and the ProQuest Research Library, and more specialized ones (some of these include: Bibliography of Asian Studies – already mentioned above, FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals, Film & Television Literature Index, MLA International Bibliography, Performing Arts Periodicals Database, Screen Studies Collection), as well as Google Scholar/Microsoft Academic. I also review the tables of contents of new issues of journals that are likely to publish academic papers on anime/manga, and, not infrequently, have authors alert me to new work that they have published. And, just a few weeks into 2017, I am already able to present this year’s edition of the Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies – certainly a work in progress, but a start!
English-language books, book chapters, academic journal articles on anime/manga – 2017
[As I mentioned, the entries in this list are limited to academic publications – books, book chapters and journal articles, on anime/manga and related topics. I specifically do not include blog posts or newspaper/magazine pieces. And of course, the decision whether or not a particular publication qualifies for inclusion is subjective. Finally, the date that “counts” for inclusion is the copyright date that actually appears in a book or the cover date of a particular journal issue, not the actual date when the book or issue became available.
This list will be permanently archived in the Bibliographies section of this site, and I will continue to add new items to it as become aware of them.]
Freedman, Alisa, & Slade, Toby (Eds.), Introducing Japanese popular culture. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
McLelland, Mark (Ed.). The end of Cool Japan: Ethical, legal, and cultural challenges to Japanese popular culture. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
Buljan, Katharine. Spirituality-struck: Anime and religiou-spiritual devotional practices.
In Carole M. Cusack & Pavol Kosnac, Fiction, invention and hyper-reality: From popular culture to religion (pp. 101-118). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
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!”
For what it’s worth, for someone like me, the idea of an academic approach to Japanese animation and Japanese comics – and of an actual academic field of anime/manga studies – is something that I have long now taken for granted. But, for many people who are interested in anime and manga, it is still a curiosity or novelty. With this in mind, I do not limit my own work in promoting anime/manga studies to maintaining this site. And in particular, I take every opportunity I can get to introduce anime/manga studies directly to people such as anime convention attendees.
Otakon, the largest anime convention on the East Coast will – for the last time – return to the Baltimore Convention Center on Friday, August 12 (running until Sunday, Aug. 14). As always, its full schedule will not be unveiled for several more weeks, but the Otakon programming department has already contacted all potential speakers who submitted panel proposals, and informed them of the status of their applications.
I am pleased to announce that at Otakon 2016, I will be presenting 3 separate panels: one that I have hosted many times before, although it will be updated, one that I have only tried once in the past, and one more that will be a premiere.