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

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New Special Issue – TranscUlturAl: A J. of Translation and Cultural Studies

As I’ve noted a number of times, some academic journals certainly seem to be “more welcoming” to publications on anime/manga than others. 78 articles on anime/manga that have been published since 1993 appeared in the International Journal of Comic Art, 22 in Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 19 in Japan Forum, 15 in the Journal of Popular Culture, and so on. But, overall, more than 460 individual journals have now published an article on anime/manga – and a majority of them only published one or two. This means that as I track publication trends in anime/manga studies, I am constantly discovering not just new articles, but new journals that I have never come across before.

One such journal is open-access TranscUlturAl: A Journal of Translation and Cultural Studies, which publishes “essays, translations and creative pieces that explore interrelationships between translations and cultures, past and present, in global and local contexts.” Its latest issue focuses specifically on “translation and comics”, and contains two articles on manga – as follows, with my thoughts/comments.

Fabbretti, Matteo. The use of translation notes in manga scanlation. TranscUlturAl: A Journal of Translation and Cultural Studies, 8(2), 86-104.

Abstract:

“This article investigates the use of translation notes to deal with translation problems. In Translation Studies, the presence of translation notes in a translation is considered particularly significant because they clearly indicate what features of the source text the translator considered important for the comprehension of the text and therefore necessary to retain or explain. In the field of comics in translation, the use of T/N is rather uncommon, and can be considered the main translation strategy that distinguishes scanlation from other types of translations.

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Book Review – Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices

Manga - IntroductionEditor: Melinda Beasi
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukee, OR)
ISBN: 1616552786 / 9781616552787

U.S. comics companies first began publishing translated versions of Japanese comics (manga) in the late 1980’s. Since then, the manga market has evolved, reached amazing heights (in the spring of 2007, a volume of Fruits Basket rose to the no. 15 spot on the weekly USA Today list of the nation’s top 150 best-selling books), contracted – and, for the last several years, has been on an upswing again. Manga volumes hold five places in the latest ranking of the top twenty graphic novels of all types sold in the U.S., as compiled by Nielsen BookScan and reported by ICv2.com. When, earlier this year, the Young Adult Library Services Association announced its annual Great Graphic Novels for Teens list, manga – Japanese comics –  accounted for 15 titles on the list, out of a total of 112. And, as Danielle Rich demonstrates in The institutionalization of Japanese comics in US public libraries (2000-2010), and Glenn Masuchika and Gail Boldt do in Japanese manga in translation and American graphic novels: A preliminary examination of the collections in 44 academic libraries, both public and academic libraries have very much embraced manga.

Of course, while many librarians are already familiar with manga, many are still not. So, what kinds of sources can they draw on to get a basic understanding of what exactly the term encompasses, what are some of its particular features, and how manga differ from American comics. At the height of the “manga boom” – ten years ago now, the specialized publisher Libraries Unlimited met this information need with Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More and Understanding Manga and Anime, a pair of fairly comprehensive reference volumes designed specifically for librarians. But, while certainly useful, both are now rather dated. Plus of course, both of them may simply cover more ground than a librarian interested only in manga would need. Another option is to consider any one of the edited essay collections on manga that have appeared in recent years, such as Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime, Mangatopia: Essays on Manga and Anme in the Modern World, and Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives. Again, though, an academic essay that is a close reading of the work of a particular manga artist or a study of particular themes across several manga may not really be of any use to a reference librarian or to one working in collection development. Finally, librarians who work with manga have published quite a few case studies in professional magazines, but as with any case study, these focus on activities that took place in particular, specific environments, and may not necessarily yield themselves to replication in other settings.

So, what may be useful for librarians – in addition to all of these kinds of materials – is a relatively concise introduction to Japanese comics that would also be written specifically for a librarian audience. And, as it turns out, Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices, published by Dark Horse Comics, itself a leading English-language publisher of Japanese comics, with financial support provided by the Comics Book Legal Defense Fund, “a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the First Amendment rights of the comics medium”, and drawing on the expertise of a group of journalists, librarians, and manga industry professionals, is exactly this kind of book.

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Highlighting New Publications – Rewriting History in Manga

rewriting-historyPopular culture works across different languages and different media – literature, film, television, and comics – frequently draw on historical events for their subjects. In turn, how popular culture uses history is a frequent topic of scholarship in its own right – just some recent examples include American History and Contemporary Hollywood Film, Gone With the Glory: The Civil War in Cinema, and Screening the Past: Film and the Representation of History. And Japanese popular culture is not an exception here – anime and manga also often depict historical incidents and events. These depictions range from the fairly realistic to the unapologetically fanciful – and, again, present obvious “points of entry” for scholars. Jaqueline Berndt’s approach, in “Historical adventures of a post-historical medium: Japan’s wartime past as represented in manga”, is straight-forward. Wendy Hardenberg’s, in Transcending the victim’s history: Takahata Isao’s Grave of the Fireflies, focuses on how “history” is created and the different types or forms of “history”. Andrea Horbinski, in “Record of dying days: The alternate history of Ooku” (in Mechademia, vol. 10), highlights the ways that manga has explored “alternate history”. In fact, just three years ago, Routledge published a full collection of essays on “manga and the representation of Japanese history”. And now, another major publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, is exploring this topic again with Rewriting History in Manga: Stories for the Nation.

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Highlighting New Publications – Manga Vision

One thing I have always found a bit curious about English-language academic writing on Japanese animation and comics is that while anime has been the subject of a number of full-length books, such as Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke, The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation, Frames of Anime: Culture and Image-Building, Anime: A History, and, just last year, Anime: A Critical Introduction, the last general/comprehensive book on manga published in English has been Frederik Schodt’s 1996 Dreamland Japan – the ones that have appeared since are either introductions like the Rough Guide to Manga, or more focused titles such as A Sociology of Japanese Ladies’ Comics and Straight from the Heart: Gender, Intimacy, and the Cultural Production of Shojo Manga.

At the same time, every year, plenty of other writing on manga does appear – in the form of articles in various scholarly journals and chapters in edited collections. In fact, several collections deal with manga specifically – among them are Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives, Manga’s Cultural Crossroads, Manga and the Representation of Japanese History, and International Perspectives on Shojo and Shojo Manga: The Influence of Girl Culture. Now, one more such collection can be added to the list of English-language academic books on Japanese comics.

Manga VisionManga Vision: Cultural and Communicative Perspectives

Editors: Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou and Cathy Sell
Publisher: Monash University Publishing (Australia)
ISBN: 978-1-925377-06-4

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‘Alternative Manga’ Symposium

Alt-Manga SymposiumOn April 7, Baruch College (City University of New York) will host Alt-Manga: Alternative Manga Symposium. The full program is still in development, but it will include presentations by Shige Suzuki (Baruch College), George Tsouris (LaGuardia Community College), in conversation with manga artist Akino Kondoh, and blogger/manga industry professional Erica Friedman. The Symposium is receiving support from the Japan Foundation New York, and is open to the all interested attendees, but registration is required.

“The ‘Alt-Manga Symposium’ invites scholars, professionals, and artists in and around the city of New York to give lectures and conversations about Japanese comics (manga). One of the primary objectives of the symposium is to show the rich and diverse world of Japanese comics with a focus on Japanese alternative and non-mainstream manga, and their development in both domestic and transnational contexts.”

This is the second such event at Baruch, building on the success of last year’s Globalized Manga Culture and Fandom Shoujo Manga Symposium and the World of Shojo Manga: Mirrors of Girls’ Desires art exhibition.

Alt-Manga: Alternative Manga Symposium
Thursday, April 7 | 12:40 p.m. – 2:20 p.m.
Baruch College Vertical Campus
55 Lexington Avenue, 5th Floor, Room 165
Free – REGISTRATION FORM