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.
“Any [academic] discipline is first and foremost about the people who practice it” – write Gerardo L. Munck and Richard Snyder in Who publishes in comparative politics?: Studying the world from the United States. There are plenty of examples of studies in different areas/disciplines/fields that examine the characteristics of the authors who are actually working in them – some other typical recent examples are International differences in nursing research, 2005-2009, Quantity and authorship of GIS articles in library and information science literature, 1990-2005, and Taking stock of management education: A comparison of three management journals. And, while these kinds of studies often find that the authors of the articles that they examine differ quite widely in terms of their gender, academic rank, university affiliation, and other similar factors, they also generally demonstrate that the authors who publish in a particular field are overwhelmingly affiliated with academic programs in that field. This makes sense – a history professor or graduate student would publish in a history journal; likewise, the most likely author of an article in the Journal of Japanese Studies or a similar publication would be affiliated with an Asian, East Asian, or Japanese Studies program. But, there simply are no academic departments in the U.S. that specifically focus on anime/manga, and scholars who do publish work on Japanese animation or Japanese comics can be based in many different academic departments. A related issue, of course, is whether a person who wants to publish their academic writing has to even be an academic (i.e., employed as a faculty member) to begin with! Here too, the studies find many differences by discipline: 11% of the authors studied in Who publishes in comparative politics are graduate students, as are approximately 9% of those studied in An examination of author characteristics in national and regional criminology journals, 2009-2010, and 5% in Who publishes in top-tier library science journals?
But, even here, a valid question is whether someone who is interested in anime/manga academically and wants to share their work in a formal setting such as a peer-reviewed journal – but is just an undergraduate – is able to do so. 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
In describing any academic field, one important factor to consider is where the scholars who participate in that field actually publish their work. Are there only a few journals that account for the majority of published scholarship? Or do articles appear in many different ones? For that matter, is it possible to define a list of “core” journals for a given field/area?
With regards to anime/manga studies, this “where do we publish” question can be approached both subjectively – as I have done by highlighting a number of journals that, in my opinion/experience, have been particularly welcoming to articles on Japanese animation and Japanese comics, and objectively, by identifying nearly 1,000 individual articles on anime/manga that were published in various English-language journals between 1993 and 2015 and recording the specific journals that these articles appeared in. As I found, these articles appeared in more than 450 individual journals; with approximately 8% of the total in the International Journal of Comic Art, and a total of approximately 25% in the top ten journals.
The academic/scholarly journal with the next-highest number of articles on Japanese animation is Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Probably the most high-profile academic journal on animation and related topics, over its 11 years of publication, it has already published 24 individual articles on anime. And, two much appear in its latest November 2016 issue. I would argue that these articles – because of the journal that they appear in, and the backgrounds and institutional affiliations of their authors – can be presented as the epitome of how scholars writing in English currently approach Japanese animation.
Roquet, Paul. From animation to augmentation: Denno Coil and the authentic self. Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 11(3), 228-245.
More than a year and a half ago, early in 2015, the editors of Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities announced a Call for Papers for a special Media Review section in an upcoming issue of the journal, that would be dedicated to “apply[ing] ecocritical and Green cultural studies approaches to the field of Japanese animation.”
The CFP provided additional background for the section, and listed the specific titles that the editors were hoping to attract reviews of.
“2014 was a watershed year for Studio Ghibli, arguably the leading anime studio, because it marked the retirement of the founding directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. who issued their swan-songs The Wind Rises and Princess Kaguya. To honor this moment and attract more critical attention to anime, we are soliciting reviews of the following:
- Miyazaki’s films, especially Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Ponyo.
- Takahata’s Ken the Wolf Boy, Heidi: Girl of the Alps, Pom Poko aka “Tanuki Wars,” Grave of the Fireflies, and Princess Kaguya.
- We are also interested in work inspired by or intertextually related to Studio Ghibli, such as Disney’s Lilo and Stitch; Irish director Tomm Moore’s The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea; and the animated version of Avatar: The Last Airbender (including its sequel, The Legend of Korra, which is a gold mine for feminist, post-colonial, eco-cosmopolitan, and queer ecocriticism, just sayin’).
- Reviews of other anime films, TV series, and manga unrelated to Ghibli will also be considered.”
For a while after the call for papers went out, I had not heard anything about this project – and in fact, it does not appear that the journal’s website has not been updated in more than two years either. But, as it turns out, electronic versions of it are available in both JSTOR and Project Muse, and, Ecocritical Reviews to Studio Ghibli was in fact published as the Media Cluster section of Resilience‘s Fall 2015 issue (Volume 2, No. 3).
Looking at the articles that actually appeared in the section, a few things come to mind right away. The “spread” of films that the authors who responded to the CFP addressed is definitely fairly expansive – though not quite comprehensive – with separate essays on Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Pom Poko, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, the non-Ghibli anime Mushishi, and the arguably “inspired by Studio Ghibli” The Secret of Kells, as well as two more that discuss broader topics as expressed in more than one film. And, the list of authors is fairly wide-ranging as well – although most are based at American colleges/universities, others are affiliated with institutions in Australia, Germany, and the U.K. At the same time, the question also stands – Miyazaki’s work and influence has already been the subject of literally dozens of journal articles, and at least two journal special issues. Is another one really necessary? And, does it then merely emphasize Jacqueline Berndt’s argument that Miyazaki exerts an undue influence on the shape of anime studies as a field, and that this outside influence leads to a tendency to treat Miyazaki’s films as “typical of anime as a whole”, and largely ignore anime that doesn’t neatly fit this image or stereotype?
Regardless, the actual contents of this Special Section are as follows:
Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities
Special Section – Ecocritical Approaches to Studio Ghibli
- Lioi, Anthony. Introduction to Studio Ghibli (pp. 111-112)
- Abbey, Kristen L. “See with eyes unclouded”: Mononoke-Hime as the tragedy of modernity (pp. 113-119).
For many people in the U.S, their first experience with Japanese animation took place in 1999, when Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke played in some 130 theaters around the country. Since then, it has become one of the most recognizable examples of anime, and film programs and classes on Japanese cinema in general and on anime in particular include it pretty much as a matter of course. Scholars have also been paying attention to it pretty much from right after its release – with Susan Napier’s 2001 Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation, and more than a dozen essays in various journals and edited collections – some of these include Between the worlds: Liminality and self-sacrifice in Princess Mononoke (Journal of Religion and Film), Animating child activism: Environmentalism and class politics in Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke (1997) and Fox’s Fern Gully (1992) (Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies) and National identity (re)construction in Japanese and American animated film: Self and other representation in Pocahontas and Princess Mononoke (Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies). A full list of these is available in the Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli Bibliography that I also maintain/edit.
On October 29, 1999, Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke opened in 8 theaters around the U.S. It was, of course, not the first Japanese animated feature film to receive an American theatrical release, but it was certainly more prominent than any that was released before. It ultimately expanded to some 130 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, and grossed at least $2.3 million during its theatrical run through the first months of 2000. And so, it was definitely not a coincidence that 1999 also saw the publication of the first English-language book on Miyazaki, authored by British anime journalist Helen McCarthy. Aimed at a general, non-academic audience, it nonetheless performed an excellent job of introducing commentary on Miyazaki’s works to a wide range of readers.
1999 also saw the launch of two different journals that both made an impact on the emerging field of anime/manga studies. From its very first issue, the International Journal of Comic Art, founded by the incredibly prolific comics scholar John A. Lent (he also edited both of the essay collections published in 1999 that contained chapters on manga – and authored one of the chapters), welcomed essays on Japanese comics – defined as broadly as possible. Since then, under Dr. Lent’s editorial guidance, it has published more than 60 such papers, as well as several special issues/special sections on manga, and has featured contributions from many of the most well-known scholars of manga who write in English, including many who are based in Japan and in other Asian countries, as well as in Europe.
The Japanese Journal of Animation Studies, the official publication of the Japan Society for Animation Studies, is a publication that most Western anime/manga scholars are still largely not familiar with. Interestingly, while most of its contents are in Japanese, the very first issue did include one essay on anime written in English, and the issues that appeared in subsequent years have largely followed this pattern. This journal is, of course, a lot more difficult for Western readers to access, but nonetheless, a comprehensive history and bibliography of academic writing on anime and manga cannot be complete without it.
This list is also permanently archived as a separate page. Any updates will be reflected on that page only.
McCarthy, Helen. Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese animation: Films, themes, artistry. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press.
1998 saw a slight increase in the number of chapters on anime/manga published in edited essay collections – 7 compared to the previous year’s 5. Three of the seven appeared in the first English-language books on Japanese popular culture in general, alongside other chapters on topics such as sumo, karaoke, women’s magazines, live-action television series. The 11 articles on anime/manga that were published in 1998 issues of academic journals were a decrease from the 20 that appeared the year before, but once again, it was clear that major journals such as the Journal of Japanese Studies and the Journal of Popular Culture had accepted the idea that anime and manga were valid subjects of in-depth academic study.
As always, the following list will be permanently archived in the Bibliographies section of this site. If I identify any new publications, they will be added to the permanent list only, not to this post.
English-Language Academic Writing on Anime/Manga, 1998
Once again, for the next annual list of academic publications on anime/manga, covering 2006, I am breaking it down into two sections. This first one covers articles published in academic/scholarly journals, as well as “journals of opinion”, commentary magazines, and publications sponsored by Japanese government agencies and non-profit organizations. The second will include books and essay collections.
Particularly notable journal articles on anime/manga published in 2006 included Susan Napier’s Matter out of place: Carnival, containment and cultural recovery in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, in the Journal of Japanese Studies, one of the leading English-language journals in this area, two papers in the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy – one introducing manga to teachers and the other, arguing that anime can have a distinct benefit for students of Japanese as a foreign language, in-depth studies of Full Metal Alchemist, Haibane Renmei, Memories, Perfect Blue, and Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning Spirited Away, and several essays, in different publications, on the appeal of “boys’ love” manga and anime to audiences both in Japan and in other countries.
Structurally, 2006 also saw the launch of both Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, the first peer-reviewed journal on animation published by a major for-profit publisher (with Platonic sex: Perversion and shojo anime (Part one), by McGill University’s Thomas Lamarre, in the inaugural issue), and the online-only, open access Animation Studies. In the years since, both of these journals have actively welcomed academic articles on Japanese animation, with almost 30 such articles between the two of them.
In terms of major new contributions to anime/manga studies, the highlight of 2007 was easily Susan Napier’s monograph From impressionism to anime: Japan as fantasy and fan cult in the mind of the West. Napier, the author of 2001’s Anime From Akira to Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation, the first book-length academic study of Japanese animation to be published in English had more right than anyone to be called “the anime professor”, and with this volume she built up on her reputation and added to it. One reviewer called it “theoretically sophisticated, but eminently readable and respectful of fan culture”; another’s appraisal is “a wide-ranging but very accessible book [that is] a good introduction to a variety of historical Japan fads, and a helpful call to see them in relation to one another.”
2007’s list of of new chapters on anime/manga in edited essay collections consists of a total of 21 individual titles, including five in a collection specifically on animation, two in a book on “superhero” characters in literary and visual traditions around the world, and a particularly interesting study of Hayao Miyazaki’s work as not only a director, but as a master of adapting works from other media into the medium of animation.