Anime/Manga Studies in 2016: The Year in Review

The goal of this site, as I present it, is to “highlight announcements and news, provide commentary on new trends, new issues, and new publications, and develop resources to support the emerging academic field of anime/manga studies”. What this has meant, largely, is that my focus has been on what is happening in anime/manga studies right now – new publications and presentations, new classes and programs – and what will happen in the future. On the other hand, with each year of the retrospective Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies, I also looked back at how the field looked liked years ago – all the way back to the 1970’s (when, of course, it could not even be said to be one).

One thing I have not done yet, though, is narrow my focus a bit, and survey recent developments in anime/manga studies – a Year in Review, if you will. Tor.com has an Anime Year in Review feature, so do Shelf Life and AnimeCons TV – and so many other sites and personal blogs – so, maybe it’s high time for one too!

Anime/Manga Studies in 2016: The Year in Review

As I have argued consistently, an academic field can be characterized by several different types of activities, all of which can be thought of broadly as forms of knowledge-sharing: publications, conferences/seminars/workshops, and classes. So, the easiest way to look at developments in anime/manga studies in 2016 is by focusing on each of these types:

1. Academic Publications on Anime/Manga: 2016

Manga and Anime Go to HollywoodEasily one of the highlights of the year was the publication of two different books, both from Bloomsbury, by authors who have been involved with Japanese animation and Japanese comics for quite some time now. There are plenty of differences between the two titles, but, also, a perhaps surprising number of similarities. Manga and Anime Go to Hollywood is much more casual in style than Manga in America: Transnational Book Publishing and the Domestication of Japanese Comics, with its extensive charts and tables, footnotes, and ten pages of references. But the authors of both draw quite heavily on the interview as a research method (and on their personal connections with the subjects of their interviews); more importantly, with both of these books, the emphasis is not as much on analyzing the stories or styles of anime/manga as it is on the ways that anime and manga are being presented to audiences outside Japan, and on the structures that have developed over the years to foster this presentation. Compare this to the two books on anime/manga that appeared this year – The Moral Narratives of Hayao Miyazaki – a straight-forward “analysis of the religious, philosophical and ethical implications” of Miyazaki’s films, and Imitation and Creativity in Japanese Arts: From Kishida Ryusei to Miyazaki Hayao, in which the author “demonstrates the distinct character of Japanese mimesis and its dynamic impact on global culture, showing through several twentieth-century masterpieces the generative and regenerative power of Japanese arts.”

rewriting-historyThe only essay collection specifically on anime/manga published in 2016 was Rewriting History in Manga: Stories for the Nation. As I wrote when highlighting this volume, an important feature of this book is the key question that its editors ask – “Does manga play a significant role in creating, reproducing and disseminating historical memory or is it only a reflective expression of the past in a rather passive and ‘entertaining’ manner?” This is the question that they invite the authors of the eight individual chapters to consider and work with.

Of course, in addition to these, chapters on topics related to anime/manga also appeared in at least 22 other essay collections. Son of Classics and Comics (Oxford University Press) included “Mecha in Olympus: Shirow Masamune’s Appleseed” and another chapter on “Classical allusions in Fullmetal Alchemist”. “Japanese manga and anime on the Asia-Pacific War experience” was one of the chapters in Divided Lenses: Screen Memories of War in East Asia (University of Hawaii Press). The editors of the Cambridge History of Japanese Literature felt it was important for the book to cover “The emergence of girls’ manga and girls’ culture”. And even a specialized volume where one really would not have any reason to come across mentions of anime/manga – Creativity and Community among Autism-Spectrum Youth: Creating Positive Social Updrafts through Play and Performance (Palgrave Macmillan) can be counted among the 22, since one of its chapters is The collaborative online anime community as a positive social updraft.

Finally, there were at least 80 articles on anime/manga published in 2016 in academic journals – as always, this is simply the number of articles that I have located so far, and it may increase. The 80 (including 2 in Japanese and 1 in Spanish with English-language titles and abstracts) were spread across 49 different journals; 11 journals (22%) published at least two articles, but 38 more (78%) only had a single one. In terms of the individual articles, the 11 journals – again, 22% – accounted for 42 articles – 52.5% of articles. Clearly, the standard – or maybe stereotypical 80/20 “rule” does not seem to apply to publication patterns in anime/manga studies the top 20% of journals account for significantly less than 80% of all articles. The implication here is that to get a more through idea of what is being published in English on anime/manga, scholars must be aware of – and must have access to – a wide range of sources.

So, which journals published more than one article on anime/manga in 2016?

The Phoenix Papers: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Fandom and Neomedia Studies: 10 articles
Kritika Kultura: 6 articles, in a Manga Culture and Critique special section
Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal: 4
International Journal of Comic Art: 4
International Journal of Contents Tourism: 3
Journal of Kyoto Seika University: 3
Journal of Popular Culture: 2
Mutual Images: 2
Ekphrasis: Images, Cinema, Theory, Media: 2
Japan Forum: 2
TranscUlturAl: A Journal of Translation and Cultural Studies: 2

It is particularly interesting to note that of these 11 journals, only 3 (Animation, Journal of Popular Culture, and Japan Forum) are “traditional” – that is, published by a major corporate publisher. The others are all published by independent organizations or directly by colleges/universities. 7 are based outside the U.S.

But, what about the other 38 ? Some of them – East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, Journal of Fandom Studies, Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema, The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship – are perhaps “expected” venues for scholarly writing on Japanese animation and Japanese comics. But, articles on anime/manga and related topics also appeared in journals such as the Asia Pacific Journal of Education, Communication, Culture & Critique, the Journal of Business Strategy, and Society & Animals – really, again, supporting the statement that as a field, anime and manga studies can be characterized as relatively broad, with articles appearing in a wide range of different journals rather than being concentrated in only a few.

[Ed. note: For a full list of articles published in English-language scholarly/academic journals in 2016, organized by journal/publisher, please feel free to contact me directly.]

Of course, one more question to ask here is – how d0 the 2016 figures compare to previous years? Do they fit into any kind of trend – or to the extent that there even is one, deviate from it? The 80 articles are a slight decrease from the previous year’s 90, but the caveat here is that I may simply have missed some that were in fact published in 2016, but will likely add them to the list as I do come across them. Overall, starting in 2005, the number of academic articles on anime/manga published each year has gone up or at least stayed stable – with one exception in 2012, when it decreased by about 25% – though the number rebounded the next year.

Overall, then, at least as far as publications are concerned, 2016 was clearly a strong year for the field!

(One aside here is that 2016 was the first year since 2006 without a new volume in the Mechademia series of annual essay collections on “anime, manga, and the fan arts”. Although there have been some rumors about plans for a “New Series”, I have not seen any concrete information about it.)

2. Academic Events

MechademiaScholars of anime/manga who were interested in presenting their work at conferences throughout 2016 certainly did not lack for options. The International Communication Association’s annual conference, hosted by Waseda University (Tokyo) featured a special pre-conference program entitled Communicating with Cool Japan: New International Perspectives on Japanese Popular Culture, with papers such as “Sexy Mulattas and Amelias: An Intersectional Analysis of Representations of Brazilian Women in Anime”, “Classically J-Pop: When Classical Music and J-Pop Collide in Music for Anime”, and “Moon Prism Power! Censorship as Adaptation in the Case of Sailor Moon”. The Schoolgirls and Mobilesuits event, originally held at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design, also returned to Japan, with Conflicts of Interest in Anime, Manga, and Gaming. And Anime Expo, in Los Angeles, again included an Academic Program, which I developed and managed along with Brent Allison.

3. Classes

Just some of the classes specifically on anime/manga that colleges offered in 2016 included:

“Modern Japanese Literature and Manga in Translation” – Carleton College

“Anime and War” – Chapman University

“Girls’ Manga: Gender/Sexuality in Japan through Popular Culture” – Macalester College

“Modern Japanese in Translation” – Queens College

“The Fantastical World of Japanese Anime” – University at Buffalo (SUNY)

“Ecology, Technology and Anime” – University of California, Davis

“Anime” – Ursinus College

Particularly worth noting was Introduction to Anime and Manga Studies (George Mason University) – the first class I have seen to specifically focus on the different ways to approach anime and manga critically, rather than picking a single particular way.

Conclusion: Anime and manga studies is still a very young academic field – and one that is connected inherently and unavoidably to the overall popularity of Japanese comics and animation outside Japan. But, at least so far, it is still very much expanding, and clearly offers a wide range of opportunities to scholars – and really, to anyone who is interested in academic approaches to anime and manga.

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