American Anime Fans – An Initial Research Guide

An easy way to approach the presence of anime and manga in the U.S. is to think about “firsts” – the first Japanese animated film to be screened in American movie theaters, the first Japanese cartoon aired on American television, the first anime released on home video, the first published manga, the first anime convention, and so on. And there is certainly a lot of value to identifying these kinds of firsts and establishing the history of anime/manga in the U.S. For anime in particular, for example, Brian Ruh has done excellent work in this area with “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) and Transforming U.S. anime in the 1980s: Localization and longevity (Mechademia, v. 5: Fanthropologies, pp. 31-49).

But, what kind of research is out there on the “present” state of anime in the U.S., and in particular, on the audience for anime in the U.S.? In fact, a few days ago, I came across just such a request for recommended articles or other scholarship specifically on American anime fans. I immediately realized that there are actually very few out there – compared to commentary on particular fan activities and practices, such as anime music videos, cosplay, fan fiction, and fan subs. So, I think it will be useful to list several that I am aware of and can readily recommend.

To begin, for any understanding of American anime fans, a key source are a pair of essays by Lawrence Eng:

Strategies of engagement: Discovering, defining, and describing otaku culture in the United States. (pp. 85-104). Continue reading

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Subject Encyclopedias in Anime and Manga Studies

Contemporary Japanese CultureTo most people, “encyclopedia” means one of two things. It can mean a national encyclopedia like the Encyclopedia Britannica – obsolete, a prop, a historical artifact. Or it can mean Wikipedia – criticized and controversial (and the subject of extensive research – a lot of it is summarized in Mesrage, M., et al., “The sum of all human knowledge”: A systematic review of scholarly research on the content of Wikipedia, Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, forthcoming) – but also undeniably useful, and most importantly, heavily used by students at all levels. However, in the academic context, “encyclopedia” can also refer to a particular type of information resource – the “subject encyclopedia”, an edited collection of short articles on topics related to a particular field, discipline, area or theme.

The purpose of this type of resource is not to present original research, but rather, to “provide both undergraduate students and researchers with a starting point to clarify terminology and discover further reading” – East, John W. (2010) “The Rolls Royce of the library reference collection”: The subject encyclopedia in the Age of Wikipedia, Reference & User Services Quarterly, 50(2), 162-169.

So, do subject encyclopedias cover anime/manga? What kinds of subject encyclopedia cover anime/manga? And more importantly, how useful are these subject encyclopedias for a researcher at any level who is interested in anime and manga? In my work compiling a comprehensive bibliography of anime and manga studies, I have identified at least 15 individual academic encyclopedias with entries/articles on anime, manga and related topics. These range from 1999’s The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (with a one-page entry on ‘anime’) to Boy Culture: An Encyclopedia (2010, entry on ‘Manga and anime’) and the Encyclopedia of Religion and Film (2011, entry on ‘Hayao Miyazaki’).

The full list: Continue reading