Who exactly are anime fans? What are their demographic profiles, their ethnic/racial/national backgrounds, their income and education levels? How do anime fans view themselves – how are anime fans viewed by non-fans, and by fans of other media or activities? How are anime fans’ personal choices and preferences correlated to their beliefs or behaviors?
Finding concrete answers to these kinds of questions is challenging. Interview-based approaches such as the one Brent Allison uses in his “Interviews with adolescent anime fans” chapter in The Japanification of Children’s Popular Culture: From Godzilla to Miyazaki present some answers, but these probably cannot be generalized in any meaningful way, while the results of any surveys that anime companies may conduct are proprietary and not open to the public. Continue reading
As an academic field or area, anime/manga studies is, of course, concerned primarily with Japanese animation and Japanese comics as art forms. But, anime is also a medium – the same goes for manga – and so, anime/manga studies is also inevitably concerned with how Japanese animation and comics are produced, distributed around the world, and experienced by viewers and readers.
Of course, studying media audiences means asking particular questions – and using approaches, methodologies, techniques and tools that are necessarily different from those used in studying art forms. Audience research is complicated, difficult logistically, time-consuming, and, in anime/manga studies, still rather infrequent, taking the form, primarily, of ethnographic studies such as Susan Napier’s The world of anime fandom in America (Mechademia, 1, 47-63) and Patrick Drazen’s “Reading right to left: The surprisingly broad appeal of manga and anime; or, ‘wait a minute'” (in Mangatopia: Essays on Manga and Anime in the Modern World). Sandra Annett’s recent book Anime Fan Communities: Transcultural Flows and Frictions (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) is definitely a welcome addition to the literature on this topic, but again, its approach is essentially descriptive, not quantitative.
Another initiative that has specifically focused on researching anime fans – their demographics, attitudes, behaviors, personal characteristics, political affiliations, and other related factors is the International Anime Research Project, a group of scholars led by Dr. Stephen Reysen (Texas A&M University-Commerce).