I Want to Know More – Books on Anime/Manga: A Guided Tour, Part 1

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 Continue reading

Anime and Manga Studies @ Otakon 2016

OtakonFor 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.

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The First Years of Anime/Manga Studies: 1970’s-1980’s

Manga! Manga!Today, the idea of an article in a major academic journal that deals with some aspect of Japanese animation or Japanese comics, the global distribution networks for anime/manga, the activities and practices of anime fans, and other related topics is really nothing particularly out of the ordinary – just this year so far, I have already identified about a dozen such articles. But, “anime/manga studies”, or simply the idea of treating anime and manga as subjects of commentary and academic study, had to start somewhere. And, the latest update to the Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies covers these first years of writing on anime and manga – the period from 1977 (the first article on Japanese comics to appear in an English-language academic journal that I have been able to identify) and through the 1980’s.

Unsurprisingly, the actual list is fairly brief – seven articles (or eight, if you count one that appeared in two different journals), a book chapter, and two books (one of them not directly on anime, but with plenty of relevant discussion). From what I have been able to tell, the articles passed by largely unnoticed when they were first published – and have remained largely unnoticed since, even as anime/manga studies began to develop as an academic area. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to note right away that two of the seven articles appeared in the Journal of Popular Culture, the leading English-language academic journal on “material culture, popular music, movies, architecture, comics and all other forms of popular art and culture” – and one that has continued welcoming scholarly publications on anime/manga ever since – Nuclear disasters and the political possibilities of shojo (girls’) manga (comics): A case study of works by Yamagishi Ryoko and Hagio Moto appeared in one of last year’s issues, and this past February’s includes Origin and ownership from ballet to anime. The essays themselves, Salaryman comics in Japan: Images of self-perception and Female gender role patterns in Japanese comic magazines, are good examples of relatively straight-forward surveys of particular themes as presented in particular genres of manga.

One other article, Copyright protection of fictional characters in Japan, is also worth highlighting. At first glance, this paper does not appear to have any direct relevance to anime/manga. But, as it turns out, it presents a summary and analysis of a seminal Japanese copyright infringement case – that did, in fact, involve the unauthorized use of characters from the classic manga Sazae-san by a tour bus company. Of course, in terms of its style, format, methodology, and even “genre”, it’s very different from the kinds of more expected “anime/manga studies” papers that would appear in Asian Studies Review, Japanese Studies, the Journal of Popular Culture or the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. Nonetheless, its subject matter makes it valid for including in a list of publications that deal with anime/manga broadly defined.

Finally, it is plain-out impossible to talk about the “first days of anime/manga studies” without mentioning the work of Frederik L. Schodt. Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics, published by Kodansha International in 1983 really was the book that introduced American readers to thinking about Japanese comics critically – and, through its several dozen pages of excerpts from Osamu Tezuka’s Phoenis, Leiji Matsumoto’s Ghost Warrior, Riyodo Ikeda’s The Rose of Versailles, and Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen, to the comics themselves. Since then, Manga! Manga! has been updated and reprinted three times, and although it is now inevitably dated, surprisingly, it still serves as an essential introduction to Japanese comics overall – and as a great survey of Japanese comics in the 1980’s. In fact, one of the most surprising things about this book is that since it was published, there has been only one other attempt to present a general, wide-ranging overview of manga has a whole that would be aimed to a general, non-specialist audience – the same author’s 1996 Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga.

English-language books, book chapters, and journal articles on anime/manga – 1970’s and 1980’s

As with all updates to the Bibliographies, this list is also archived as a separate page. Any additions or corrections are always welcome – but will be reflected on that page only.

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The Early Years of Anime/Manga Studies: 1990-1995

KaboomLooking back more than twenty years, to the five years from 1991 to 1995, is actually a very good way to see how academics first began to approach Japanese animation. This period includes what is considered to be the first paper on anime in a major English-language academic journal (Susan Napier’s Panic sites: The Japanese imagination of disaster from Godzilla to Akira, published in a 1993 issue of The Journal of Japanese Studies), as well as Annelee Newitz’s Anime otaku: Japanese animation fans outside Japan (in Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life). Because this essay was immediately available in open access (though I don’t think the term had even come into use at that point), for many people, it became their introduction to academic writing on anime and anime fans – and even to the concepts of otaku, the communities, structures, and practices of anime fans, while also demonstrating how writing of this kind can be critical and harsh.

With only 22 total items on this list (one book, an essay collection with four chapters on anime, as well as profiles of several leading creators/directors, including Osamu Tezuka, Hayao Miyazaki, Katsuhiro Otomo, and Rumiko Takahashi, and interviews with several of them, 4 chapters in other edited essay collections, and 13 articles), there simply is not a lot available to analyze for the types of journals that published writing on anime/manga over these years. But, there are a couple of points that are worth making. One is that right away, major journals such as Film Quarterly, The Journal of Japanese Studies, and the Journal of Popular Culture were very much open to publishing research on anime and related topics. Another is that right away, it’s possible to trace several academic approaches to anime that would become common later on – comparisons of animated and live-action films (as in “Panic sites”), studies of particular themes in several different anime (as in “War and peace in Japanese science fiction animation”), and examinations of how anime is received outside Japan – and the different parties – creators, distributors/intermediaries, and fans – that participate in this process. It is interesting, too, to note that of the 13 articles, records and abstracts for 7 are currently available online through their publishers (and so, presumably, also in various general and specialized academic databases, potentially with access to the full texts), and one more can be accessed directly and free of charge.

English-Language Academic Writing on Anime/Manga, 1990-1995

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Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies: 1996 Ed.

Going through the history of academic publications on anime and manga, it is no particular surprise that the sheer numbers of such publications have generally increased over the years. This is consistent with the results of most recent studies of trends in academic publishing, across many different fields (although of course, occasionally, such studies do find topics where publications are stagnating or even decreasing). Or, to say it differently, the farther back I go, the fewer publications there are for me to locate and record – from dozens, to really just a few per year.

But, having said that, although only thirteen publications on anime/manga appeared in 1996, these thirteen included several that were ground-breaking then, and still continue to remain important. One is Frederik Schodt’s Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga – an update, and in the author’s own words, “a sequel, or companion volume of sorts” to his 1983 Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics – and to this date, probably the best general introduction to manga as a particular form of Japanese visual culture.

Samurai From Outer SpaceAnother, Samurai from Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation, by Antonia Levi, was the first book on anime written by an academic author with PhD-level training in Japanese history and extensive teaching experience. Although not an academic title in of itself, and primarily just a survey of major thematic elements (among them, gods and demons, heroes and villains, death, the roles of women, and depictions of relationships and gender issues) that are frequently present in Japanese animation, it nonetheless also addressed several questions that have since come up time and time again – the complex and multi-directional relationship between anime and American media, anime’s ways of both depicting and avoiding depictions of different races, and even, ultimately, the basic question of what exactly makes anime so appealing to American audiences. It introduced readers to these questions – and to the potential ways of answering them, and served as a demonstration of how an author could write a full-length book on anime. It is also no surprise that scholars have been referring to it, both for its seminal place in English-language anime/manga studies, and for many of its specific arguments, examples and points, ever since.

Beyond these two books, the 1996 list also includes several early articles on anime written by Japanese scholars, but in English, and a series of fascinating pieces on the manga markets in Europe and the U.S., as well as the history of manga criticism, that were published in issues of the Japan Foundation’s Japanese Book News newsletter.

English-language books, book chapters, and academic articles on anime/manga: 1996

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Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies – 2011 Ed.

2011 was a very strong year for new English-language academic/scholarly publications on anime and manga. These included four new monographs, a Collector’s Edition of Frederik Schodt’s seminal Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga (originally published in 1996), a new edited collection of essays on Japanese animation and comics, to add to Cinema Anime: Critical Engagements with Japanese Animation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) and Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime (M. E. Sharpe, 2008), 16 individual book chapters in other essay collections, and over 50 articles in various scholarly journals. In addition, 3 journals published special issues focused on anime/manga.

Once again, these books and journals spanned a wide range of fields and disciplines. While some were in the expected areas of animation and comics studies, film, literature, and East Asian/Japanese studies, some of the other areas that welcomed publications on anime/manga and related topics included urban studies, folklore, modern European history, and health communication. Continue reading