I Want to Know More – Books on Anime/Manga: A Guided Tour, Part 2

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

Hayao Miyazaki

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.

Hayao MiyazakiFirst 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

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Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies – 2004 Ed.

Stray Dog - 1st Ed.2004 marked another year of steady growth in the number of academic English-language publications on anime and manga. One clear highlight was Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii, the first book-length examination of the works of an anime director other than Miyazaki. Interestingly, it grew out of work that its author, Brian Ruh, completed while he was a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, studying under Susan Napier, already the author of 2001’s Anime From Akira to Miyazaki: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation.

Pikachu's Global AdventureThe one relevant essay collection published in 2004 – Pikachu’s Global Adventure: The Rise and Fall of Pokemon – is notable immediately for its rather unfortunate title. As the years since have shown, 2004 was clearly too early to talk about a “fall of Pokemon”. Having said that, the book itself was certainly timely, and included a very wide range of approaches to the “Pokemon phenomenon” in Japan and around the world, such as an excellent case study of the process of “localizing the Pokemon TV series for the American market”. Perhaps because of its timeliness – and maybe because it was coming from a high-profile academic publisher (Duke University Press), it received favorable reviews in several different academic journals, such as Popular Communication, Social Science Japan Journal, and The Journal of Asian Studies.

The 45 articles on anime/manga that were published in 2004 in English-language academic journals were spread out over 33 different journals. The International Journal of Comic Art published 5, Femspec, another 3, and 6 journals had two articles each, with 25 others only publishing one. Some of the journals that accepted publications on anime/manga in 2004 included English Journal, M/C: A Journal of Media and Communication, Publishing Research Quarterly, Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media, and Sex Roles.

Only 6 of the articles (13%) appeared in journals published by for-profit publishers, rather than university presses, academic departments, or non-profit organizations. 20 of the articles were published in open-access journals or are now available in open access. And, two of the 45 articles are particularly worth highlighting:

Oishinbo’s adventures in eating: Food, communication and culture in Japanese comics, by Laurie Brau deserves the award – if there was ever such an award – for appearing in the most unlikely subject-specific academic journal to accept a paper on anime/manga. It was published in Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies.

In The creative commons (Montana Law Review), Lawrence Lessig, then a professor of law at Stanford University, and recently, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, specifically uses dojinshi as an example of the kind of creativity that can only flourish when it is not subject to the kind of burdensome copyright regime that is currently in place in the U.S.

English-language books, book chapters, and academic journal articles on anime/manga – 2004

This list is also permanently archived as a separate page. Any additional items will be added to the archived list only.

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“Anime in the US: The Entrepreneurial Dimensions of Globalized Culture” – What Could Have Been

In my critique of the Pacific Affairs article Anime in the U.S.: The entrepreneurial dimensions of globalized culture, I argued that one of the most frustrating things about this essay is that it actually contains the basic shape of a vastly article on the role that individual entrepreneurs played in introducing Japanese animation to American audiences. So, how would this much stronger paper actually look like?

Astro BoyThe most logical way to open it would be with a discussion of how Japanese animated television programs were first brought into the U.S. Much of this story is already described in Astro Boy and Anime Come to the Americas: An Insider’s View of a Pop Culture Phenomenon (McFarland, 2008). Brian Ruh provides additional details in “Early Japanese animation in the United States: Changing Tetsuwan Atomu to Astro Boy“, in The Japanification of Children’s Popular Culture: From Godzilla to Miyazaki (pp. 209-226). This process could then be traced forward to the present. Aspects of it, in particular, the kinds of changes that anime films and TV episodes were subjected to as they were prepared for theatrical releases, television broadcasts, and distribution on VHS/DVD in the West are discussed in Rieko Okuhara’s “The censorship of Japanese anime in America: Do American children need to be protected from Dragon Ball” (in the same book, pp. 199-208), Rayna Denison’s “The global markets for anime: Miyazaki Hayao’s Spirited Away (2001)” (in Japanese Cinema: Texts and Contexts, pp. 308-321), Ruh’s Transforming U.S. anime in the 1980’s: Localization and longevity (Mechademia, v. 5: Fanthropologies, pp. 31-49), and especially, in his Ph.D. dissertation, Adapting Anime: Transnational Media Between Japan and the United States.

It could then be contrasted with how “anime entrepreneurs” approached Japanese animation. Perhaps precisely because they were not coming from the entertainment industry, and perhaps because they also operated at much smaller scales, with much more modest goals in mind, these entrepreneurs – people like John Ledford, Gen Fukunaga, and Gene Field – did not feel any particular need to subject the anime that they were presenting to American audiences to any major changes; in fact, its non-American nature was a selling point. Academic writing on these entrepreneurial activities is still fairly limited, though two examples are Jonathan Clements’ “The mechanics of the US anime and manga industry”, in Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction, 64, 32-44 (1995), and Laurie Cubbison’s Anime fans, DVDs, and the authentic text (The Velvet Light Trap56, 45-57), but there are plenty of articles in various general-interest publications – such as:

A great way to conclude the piece would be with a case study of Crunchyroll. Launched originally as a Youtube-like website focused on streaming Japanese anime episodes and films, many of them subtitled by fans without authorization – but also without seeking any profit for themselves (the site itself would, of course, receive income from ads), it has since reoriented itself entirely and now works directly with Japanese production companies to license anime series for online distribution to Western audiences. In 2013, The Chernin Group, a media investment company, acquired majority control in a deal valued close to US$100 million; Hollywood Reporter recently ranked it as the 8th-largest video streaming app (by revenue), and according to a Japan Times article, earlier this year, it had “the fifth largest streaming subscription base in the United States“.

This article could still reach the same conclusion as the original paper – that entrepreneurs and their activities are key to the “transnational penetration, distribution, reproduction and consumption of cultural commodities” – but the examples it would draw on would actually support the conclusion vastly more effectively than what Anime in the U.S. is able to present.

Who are the anime/manga scholars?

One way to characterize any academic field is by looking at the authors who publish in it. What countries are they based in? What colleges/universities? And, more specifically, what are their academic affiliations? Scholars often ask these questions – as, for example, in Who publishes in comparative politics: Studying the world from the United States and Author characteristics for major accounting journals: Differences among similarities 1989-2009. But, at least so far, I don’t think anyone has tried to ask the question of just who are the people who produce English-language academic writing on Japanese animation and Japanese comics.

Most studies of this type that I have seen look at a single journal that is considered to be particularly representative of a field, or at a small group of journals. As I have argued (and worked to demonstrate), academic writing on anime and manga is spread out across a wide range of journals that are quite different from one another. So, limiting a study of the characteristics of anime/manga scholars only to a particular type of journal, whether one focused on animation, on comics, or on Asian/East Asian/Japanese studies, would likely produce a decidedly incomplete picture. But, publications in anime/manga studies are not limited to journal articles.

In particular, at least four major general edited collections of essays on Japanese animation and Japanese comics have been published in the last ten years – and several more with specific themes narrower than anime/manga in general. Two of them focus on anime and manga both, and one each on anime or manga. So, precisely because I think these books do represent the variety of possible academic approaches to anime and manga, they can serve as excellent sources for a study that would answer this question.

In addition, an edited essay collection will usually include short biographical profiles for each of its contributors. This makes locating and recording this kind of information very easy. So, my methodology for this study is straight-forward – I reviewed the tables of contents and the “notes on contributors” sections of each of the four collections, and noted the relevant details about the authors: their general status as faculty, other “non-teaching” academic employees (administrators, visiting fellows, researchers, etc.), independent scholars/professionals (such as librarians), or graduate students, for faculty, the departments or programs they were affiliated with, the countries where they work and/or live, if provided, and their gender. This returned a list of 59 authors. A few published essays in more than one volume – these were counted each time. Two had two contributions to the same volume (as sole author, and with co-authors) – in these two cases, I only recorded the first one. I specifically did not include any authors whose contributions were limited to forewords/introductions/conclusions.

Who are the anime/manga scholars: Author characteristics in four essay collections

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Anime Director Bibliographies: Mamoru Oshii

In almost any discussion about Japanese animation, the names of certain directors are bound to come up. Hayao Miyazki is easily the most obvious, but there are several others who have also received significant attention in English-language anime scholarship. Continuing my work in documenting the literature of anime/manga studies, I am pleased to present a new bibliographic project – bibliographies of scholarship on major anime directors and their works.

The first item in this project addresses the a director one of whose films was, for many Western viewers, their introduction to Japanese animation as a genre, rather than simply as animation that was produced in Japan – Mamoru Oshii. Oshii’s prominence as a director is hard to understate – he is commonly mentioned in standard scholarly and popular introductions to Japanese cinema, is the only anime director profiled in Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction (Abingdon, UK: Routledge), and the only Japanese animator on in the worldwide list of “Great Directors” compiled by the influential film studies journal Senses of Cinema. And, while his list of credits as a director is relatively modest, the sheer amount of attention he has received in the scholarship, including monographs, chapters in edited collections, and individual journal articles, has been significant. Continue reading

Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies – 2014 Ed.

In my work documenting anime and manga studies as a discreet academic area by compiling an enumerative bibliography of scholarship on Japanese comics and animation – a project I started (I think) in the spring of my freshman year of college (2000) – my actual practices have changed very little over the years. Locate a new “item”, add it to an ever-growing list, next. For a long time, the “list” was literally just that, a plaint-text file. For several years, I also maintained a basic database using DabbleDB, and when that application was shut down, worked with a developer to create a custom one. That is also currently on hiatus as I prepare for re-launching it on a dedicated website, However, at the end of every year, I would also create an “annual” list of books, book chapters, and journal articles on anime and manga that were published throughout that year, and distribute it on the Anime and Manga Research Circle Mailing List, and to anyone else who was interested.

Now, however, I realize that there is really no need for me to wait until the end of a year to have this kind of list. Accordingly, I am now able to present the 2014 Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies. Note that this is (and will continue to be) a work in progress. Today, it is a record of scholarship and commentary on Japanese comics/animation that has been published this year so far as of today; as I locate new items to add, or as new items are published, this list will continue to grow. But, right now, it is probably the most complete and comprehensive record of the publishing activities of anime and manga scholars around the world this year to date. Continue reading

Familiar names, familiar titles – but new books!

Just as anime in the U.S. is not nearly as “hot” or popular as it was in, say, 2006, the “size” or breadth of anime studies as a field has diminished significantly from a few years ago. For example, in 2010, there were at least 215 new scholarly publications on anime, manga and related topics – compared to 90 last year. But nonetheless, authors are still writing about anime – and in fact, two authors whose names should be instantly recognizable to anyone who has followed how anime studies has developed in the U.S. are both about to publish a pair of full-length books!

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