Guest Post – The ‘So Far’ of Anime and Manga

From the editor: One of the major activities that Anime and Manga Studies Projects undertakes is promoting the emerging field of anime and manga studies by highlighting new academic writing on Japanese animation and Japanese comics. The ongoing Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies is one aspect of this activity, and pieces I post highlighting new books, book chapters, and journal articles are another. Throughout my work, though, I have always wanted to ask the question of how do authors of new scholarship on anime/manga actually view their own research. How did it come about? What are its connections to other scholarship? Where do the authors draw their inspirations from? What do they hope to accomplish?

And, I am now excited to present a new and unique type of article on anime/manga studies – an emerging anime/manga scholar reflecting on their work.

The ‘So Far’ of Anime and Manga: A Visual Theoretical Depiction of Possibilities

Kathy Nguyen is the author of Wired:: Ghosts in the s[hell] (Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies) and Body upload 2.0: Downloadable cosmetic [re]birth (Ekphrasis: Images, Cinema, Theory, Media). She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in multicultural women’s and gender studies at Texas Woman’s University.

Living in an increasingly rapid digital era, where scrolling, tapping, being wired and plugged in may be the few solitary sources for connectivity – that is, if connectivity will eventually become technologized – problematizes several issues once the world becomes updated. I am especially interested in studying about the philosophies of technology; I continuously go back to Wendy Hui Kyong Chun’s book, Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media. Chun writes: “New [technology] live and die by the update: the end of the update, the end of the object” (2). These updates are interesting because if human bodies, animals, objects, and such are constantly being updated and/or upgraded, what does death look like in the digital age, especially when there are apparatuses such as the E-Tomb, where information of the deceased continues to live on? Perhaps eternally – or at least, if the network maintains its connectivity signals. Continue reading

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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Some challenges of locating and accessing books on anime

ApocalypseJapanese animation came to the U.S. in the summer of 1961, with the theatrical release of Alakazam the Great (Saiyuki), Magic Boy (Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke), and Panda and the Magic Serpent (Hakujaden). It took over 30 years for the first English-language books on anime – Helen McCarthy’s 1993 Anime!: A Beginner’s Guide to Japanese Animation and Antonia Levi’s 1996 Samurai from Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation to appear

another thirty-five years for the first English-language book on anime – Antonia Levi’s 1996 Samurai from Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation – to appear.

But over 50 more books on anime have been published since those first ones.

Obviously, these books are diverse in their styles, approaches, and purposes. Some, like Anime Classics Zettai!: 100 Must-See Japanese Animation Masterpieces, Anime Explosion: The What? Why? and Wow! of Japanese Animation, and The Rough Guide to Anime are general introductions, intended for the casual reader. Others, such as Understanding Manga and Anime are essentially tools, meant specifically to aid public and academic librarians. And of course, there are the scholarly monographs and edited essay collections – Anime from Akira to Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation; Anime’s Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan, Cinema Anime: Critical Engagements with Japanese Animation, and many more. But, almost all of these books, regardless of their differences, have one thing in common – straight-forward, descriptive titles that almost always include the word “anime”. And what that means is that a reader who is trying to access these books, whether on Amazon or in a library catalog, should be able to locate them without too much difficulty simply by searching for the word. Continue reading