Comics Studies Society 2019 Prizes – Nominations Open

The Comics Studies Society, has announced the launch of the Comics Studies Society Prizes 2020, its program to formally recognize academic research and other scholarly activities on and related to comics – broadly defined – that took place in the previous year. This will be the third time the Society will award the prizes, and awards will be presented in five categories, a new one. The categories are the Charles Hatfield Book Prize (for a full-length scholarly monograph), the CSS Article Prize (for a journal article or a chapter in an edited essay collection), the Hilary Chute Award for Best Graduate Student Paper Presentation, the Gilbert Seldes Prize for Public Scholarship (for non-academic writing), and the new CSS Edited Book Prize (for an essay collection as a whole).

Nominations for the awards are accepted both from peers and from authors directly. Eligibility for this year’s awards is established by the copyright or presentation date of the original presentation – i.e., only those books or articles that were published or presentations at conferences that were held last year. All winners will receive a cash award of $300 and a plaque. The e-mail address for submitting nominations is awards@comicssociety.org, and the CSS Awards Coordinator, Biz Nidjdam, can be contacted with any questions at the same address. The deadline for submitting nominations is March 15, 2020.

Although none of the awards that have been awarded so far have honored work on a Japanese comics/manga, last year’s awards also included three Best Graduate Student Conference Presentation honorable mentions – one of them to Andrea Horbinski, for “Something Postmodern Going On: The Queering of the Manga Sphere in the 1970s”. But, with the sheer number and variety of books, book chapters, and journal articles on manga that were published last year, I hope to see the CSS recognize one or more of them! Just some possible candidates could include:

For the CSS Book Prize:

Women’s manga in Asia and beyond: Uniting different cultures and identities. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lessons drawn: Essays on the pedagogy of comics and graphic novels. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Representing acts of violence in comics. New York: Routledge.

For the CSS Article Prize:

Atkinson, Rosalind. A Japanese Blake: Embodied visions in William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790) and Tezuka Osamu’s Phoenix (1967-88).
Cohn, Neil, et al. The cultural pages of comics: Cross-cultural variation in page layouts.
Denison, Rayna. Adaptation in Japanese media mix franchising: Usagi Drop from page to screens.
Junid, Iman, & Yamato, Eriko. Manga influences and local narratives: Ambiguous identification in comics production.
Kakihara, Satoko. Priestess of sake: Woman as producer in Natsuko’s Sake.
Lo, Bradley, et al. Librarians’ perceptions of educational values of comic books: A comparative study between Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Schroff, Simone. An alternative universe? Authors as copyright holders – the case of the Japanese manga industry

So, if you read any of these, or any other book or book chapter or journal article on manga that was published last year, or attended a conference presentation – or wrote one – or presented one – and think it deserves to be recognized with a Comics Studies Society Prize – I very strongly urge you to nominate it for one!

And, to all the nominees, good luck!

Call for Papers: “Anime and Manga Fandom Before 2000”

Japanese animation came to the U.S. in the early 1960’s, with the first television broadcasts of Astro Boy. But it took several dozen years for anime fandom to develop outside Japan, and actual descriptions of how anime/manga fandom around the world developed between the 1960’s and the 1990’s are still few and far between. How did non-Japanese viewers actually perceive Japanese animation during these years? How did fan communities form? At the most basic level, what did anime fans actually do – where were anime clubs formed, when did anime conventions start, how were they organized? What technological or social affordances did fans benefit from? How did anime fans interact with broader fan circles, and engage with broader social structures. How difficult were these interactions or engagements? Answering these kinds of questions is crucial for learning about how anime fandom actually came to take the form that it it has now, as well as for establishing a historical record.

An early, and immediately controversial attempt is Annalee Newitz’s Anime otaku: Japanese animation fans outside Japan (archived version), published in a 1994 issue of Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life, and since then, cited widely in scholarly writing on fandom and on other, more general topics. Another, much more recent, is From vulnerable lives to cosmpolitan affects: Child fans of anime in the 1960s-1980s (Sandra Annett, Mechademia: Second Arc, 11). But one of the challenges of writing on early anime and manga fans and fandom is that so much of the sources to use in writing about this topic is ephemeral, such as pieces in local, and college newspapers and high school newspapers, and documents that in library science are referred to as “grey literature” – convention programs, enthusiast magazines and fan club newsletters – the kinds of materials that are often hard to locate and access, and generally, not likely to be preserved in library collections.

It is with these challenges in mind, as well as with the inevitable challenge presented by the aging of many of the “creators” of anime fandom outside Japan – in their thirties and forties (if not already older) 30 and 40 years ago, so approaching or past retirement age now, that a group of scholars, including several who themselves have been leaders in the field of anime and manga studies around the world, have issued a call for papers for an essay collection on “archival research in anime and manga fandom before the year 2000”. One of the collection’s co-editor will be Helen McCarthy, whose own writing, such as The anime! movie guide: Movie-by-movie guide to Japanese animation (1997) and Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation: Films, Themes, Artistry (1999), as well as numerous magazine articles, have been instrumental to the formation of the English language anime fan community.

Raiders of the Lost Archives: Anime and Manga Fandom Before the Year 2000 (more…)

Publication Trends in Anime and Manga Studies – 2019

Let’s say, you are someone who wants to take the next step, beyond just thinking about anime, and beyond writing about anime for a personal blog or a fan website, and would like to actually publish your writing about anime (or manga, or a related topic) an academic journal, the kind that college professors would read and would assign to their students to read, the kind that would be included in journal databases, the kind that could potentially be referred to in other scholarly articles and even in books! So, where do you go with your writing? Is there such a thing as a “Journal of Anime Studies” – or something similar? 

As it turns out, “sort of”: the first issue of a Journal of Anime and Manga Studies is set to be published this spring. But, another way to approach this same topic is by thinking about the “publication trends” of anime and manga studies more broadly. In general, what journals does scholarly writing on Japanese animation and Japanese comics actually appear in? It is also useful to consider whether are there any particular titles that dominate the field. The actual usefulness of asking these questions is not hard to understand. The answers to them are useful for anyone who is interested in learning about opportunities to publish their research on anime/manga, as well as to scholars who would like to identify specific journals to be aware of to learn about new trends and directions in research. And in a more abstract sense, it is also possible to use the journals that support anime and manga studies as an academic field to get a sense of the field’s overall identity.

Previously, I examined “publication trends in anime/manga studies” for the years from 1993 to 2015 (identifying a total of at least 965 articles), and from 2015 to 2018 (369 articles). For both periods, I also listed the ten journals that carried the largest number of articles. And now, with the list of English-language journal articles and other scholarly publications on anime/manga that appeared in 2019 largely complete, I can extend the analysis to one more year.

Publication Trends in Anime and Manga Studies – 2019 (more…)

New Special Issue – Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance

A key feature of Japanese visual popular culture, and especially anime and manga, is the extent to which creative works exist in different forms or formats. A work can – and frequently does – first appear as a manga, and may then serve as the basis of an anime series, a novel, video games, and the driver behind a wide range of merchandise and consumer goods. And even manga and anime are often based on other sources, such as non-Japanese novels. This process has already attracted significant scholarly attention, such as Anime’s Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan (Marc Steinberg, University of Minnesota Press, 2012), as well as more specific studies (“Animating the fantastic: Hayao Miyazaki’s adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle“, “Manga, anime, adaptation: Economic strategies, aesthetic specificities, social issues”, The essence of 2.5-dimensional musicals? Sakura Wars and theater adaptations of anime).

Now, the Journal of Adaptation in Film & Performance has published a full special issue with the theme of “Adaptation in/and Japan“, based on papers originally presented at the Adaptation, or How Media Relate in Contemporary Japan symposium that was held at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Culture in June of 2018. The issue’s editor, Prof. Amanda Kennell (University at Buffalo, The State University of New York), who also organized the original symposium, has herself studied the process and practice of adaptation extensively, with a particular focus on how Alice in Wonderland has been adapted in different contexts in Japan. The majority of the articles in the issue deal with anime/manga – although each of them approaches what exactly can be meant by “adaptation” in a different way.

Nobuko Anan, in Theatrical realism in manga: Performativity of gender in Minako Narita’s Alien Street, highlights “different conceptions of realism in theatre and manga” through a close reading of a classic manga about a “male actor who plays female roles”. Adaptation in Japanese media mix franchising: Usagi Drop from page to screens is Rayna Denison’s effort to shift the focus in studies of Japanese popular culture studies away from centering on anime films and major franchises, and to consider how the adaptation and media mix process plays out with regard to lesser known – but far more common – works. With this, Prof. Denison is able to address directly Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano’s call for scholarship on the kind of “domestic and mass-produced anime TV series” that actually constitute the overwhelming majority of what is meant by “anime”. This article also expands the approaches to the concept of the “media mix” to consider a full range of “media texts”, including manga and live-action films. Kouno Fumiyo’s Hi no Tori (‘Bird of the Sun’) series as documentary manga: Memory and 3.11 analyzes another aspect of adaptation – the way that elements such as “drawings, prose, poetry, statistical data, maps and commentary by the artist” can be integrated into a fictional text and into the medium of comics/manga. Interpretive negotiation with gender norms in shojo manga: Adaptations of The Changelings is a comparative study, addressing the ways in which adaptations of the same source text – even into the same format, but made in different years differ from each other. And closing the issue, Prof. Kennell draws on her major research interests for a study of adaptations of Alice in Wonderland in the work of Japanese “avant-garde sculptor, painter and novelist” Yayoi Kusama.

Taken together, as Kennell notes in the editorial that opens the issue, the five articles stand as a “superb introduction to the diverse media ecology of contemporary Japan and the implications of contemporary Japanese media production for the wider world.” And, beyond that, they really can also easily be seen as cutting edge of anime and manga studies, and a great example of the diversity and wide scope of this emerging field. 

“What do we study?”: A content analysis of recent anime and manga studies

In “Global and Local Materialiaties of Anime”, her contribution to the essay collection Television, Japan, and Globalization (Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan, 2010), Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano presented what I still think is one of the sharpest criticisms of “anime studies” as it comes together as an academic field:

With anime studies as a forming discipline, discussions often center on the visually more complex anime “films”, but not on the domestic and mass-produced anime TV series. Big budget anime films such as MetropolisPrincess MononokeGhost in the Shell, and Akira are frequently discussed, along with their contemporary critical themes of technological alienatation, environmental issues, cyborg feminism, and postmodernity, while the majority of TV anime series have been neglected, since an analysis would require an examination of anime’s connections with local audiences and the complex popular culture of Japan.”

Global and Local Materialities of Anime, p. 245

But, does this statement – made in 2010 – still hold today, in 2019? That is, as scholars are making their contributions to anime (and manga) studies right now, what films and TV series and comics are they actually discussing? The same ones over and over again, or new and different titles?

A comprehensive list of English-language scholarly publications on anime/manga that have appeared this year so far would be able to provide at least some of the answers to these kinds of questions. And the Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies, 2019 is just such a list! (more…)

Highlighting New Publications – Mechademia: Second Arc

One of the most powerful steps in the development process of a new academic field is the launch of a journal to collect and present new scholarly writing in the field. If nothing else, a journal means that enough scholars are interested in a particular topic area or on a particular subject to support the existence of one – and thus, can signal that the area or subject is supported by an actual community. In this way, publications such as Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, International Journal of Comic Art, and Journal of Fandom Studies help support the idea that animation studies, comics studies – and, recently, fandom studies do, in fact, exist as actual academic fields.

In 2006, the idea of approaching Japanese animation as a subject of academic study was certainly not unheard of. Susan Napier first introduced it in 2001’s Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation – followed by titles such as Roland Kelts’ Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S. and Brian Ruh’s Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii. There were at least several classes on Japanese animation and Japanese comics at various colleges/universities around the U.S., and a small but active and growing community of scholars interested in the topic. So, when the University of Minnesota Press announced plans to launch an full-scale ongoing scholarly publication on anime, manga, and related topics, the announcement was seen as exciting and welcome – but not unexpected.

The first volume of Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga, and the Fan Arts set the tone for the publication with several unique features. Its contents were structured around a common theme – in that case, “Emerging World of Anime and Manga”, and included both original articles with titles such as The Japan Fad in Global Youth Culture and Millennial Capitalism, The Werewolf in the Crested Kimono: The Wolf-Human Dynamic in Anime and Manga, and Assessing Interactivity in Video Game Design, translations of materials that had already previously been published in Japanese, shorter commentary pieces, reviews, interviews, and artwork. Nine more followed, with subtitles such as Limits of the Human (2008), User Enhanced (2011), and Origins (2014). Mechademia consistently attracted submissions from leading academics, but also welcomed work from graduate students and independent scholars, the volumes were easy to access electronically via JSTOR and Project Muse and widely available in academic libraries, and many of the individual essays received frequent citations in subsequent scholarship.

However, following 2015’s Volume 10, World Renewal, Mechademia‘s editorial team made a decision to expand its scope to encompass more broadly “scholarship on media cultures and texts from across Asia”, and thematically, “topics of current interest to scholars of Asian art, animation, literature, film, comics-manga-manwah, video games, merchandise, digital storytelling, and other ever-emerging media”. To underline this change, the journal would be formally retitled Mechademia: Second Arc, and, going forward, would be published twice a year. The call for papers for the initial volume – “Childhood” – was distributed in the summer of 2016. An “extraordinary series of delays on the publication side” followed, but Mechademia: Second Arc – “Childhood”, numbered as Volume 11, Number 1, and with a Fall 2018 cover date, is finally now available, though at this point, only online, through JSTOR and Project Muse (according to a notice on the University of the Minnesota Press website, the issue “is not in stock and the estimated shipping date is not available at this time”). (more…)

“Where do I start?”: Anime/Manga Studies in Major Multidisciplinary Databases – A Preliminary Study

A few days ago, I received an e-mail from a graduate student asking for suggestions about “an area in the field of anime & manga that deserves more exploration or doesn’t have enough research at the moment”. Not an uncommon question by any means, especially in the middle of a fall semester – and one I would be glad to answer. But once I started actually considering the question and the possible answers to it, I realized that these answers themselves lead to a whole set of further questions. (more…)

Call for Papers: “Against Translation”

It’s difficult, and probably outright impossible, to put together any real numbers, but intuitively, I am confident in saying that the manga titles that are licensed for translation into English and commercial publication outside Japan represent only a small percentage of all manga that is actually published in Japan. In turn, this means that unless Western manga scholars are fluent in Japanese, they will be limited to only studying a relatively small portion of all manga that is potentially available for analysis. Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, comics scholars – and the “comics studies” community, still largely do not interact with manga, or, for that matter, other comics that are not immediately available in English.

Comics scholars Dr Harriet Earle (Sheffield Hallam University) and Dr Martin Lund (Linnaeus University) are both acutely aware of this issue. And to approach it, they are proposing a focused edited essay collection in the new Routledge Global Perspectives in Comics Studies series – “Against Translation: Global Comics History and Memory” – “to bring together original scholarship on comics that are potentially not receiving the scholarly attention they deserve due to their lack of English translation or that have been studied in scholarship unavailable to an Anglophone audience.” Although the Call for Papers that they have prepared does not specifically mention manga, Dr Earle has invited me to share it on Anime and Manga Studies. The deadline for submitting a 300-word abstract is December 20, 2019, with full chapter manuscripts of up to 8,000 words due on May 15, 2020, and final submissions after all revisions and corrections on July 17, 2020.

The full Call for Papers is reproduced below, and available for download. All additional questions can be directed to the editors at translation.autographics@gmail.com. (more…)

Call for Interest – Anime and Manga Studies Database

How do you search for academic journal articles about anime? About the work of Hayao Miyazaki? About Sailor Moon, and about magical girls in Japanese comics in general? About the history of anime fansubbing?

Type a couple of words into Google and hope for the best? Type a few words into Google Scholar and hope for the best? Remember what you were taught in whatever “introduction to research” lectures you had? Ask a teacher? Schedule an appointment with a subject librarian?

As it turns out, one of the biggest challenges facing anyone who is interested in approaching anime and manga as the subjects of academic research is actually how to best go about locating the scholarly publications that are at the heart of the research process. Because of the many different ways to refer to Japanese animation and Japanese comics, and the wide range of potential topics and approaches that can fall under the “anime and manga studies” label, neither general interdisciplinary academic databases such as EBSCO Academic Search Premier and Gale Academic OneFile nor more specialized ones (Bibliography of Asian Studies Online, Film & Television Literature Index, Performing Arts Periodicals Database) can offer comprehensive indexing and full-text coverage for the field of anime and manga studies. So while it is certainly possible to use these databases, and other similar ones, to find many scholarly publications on anime/manga, a scholar working with one of these databases, or even with several of them, can never be sure the their search is comprehensive – how many of the available publications they have located, and how many they’ve missed.

This basic issue (of search tool scope and of search recall) is common across all academic fields. And one of the most direct ways it has been addressed is through the development of highly curated research tools such as subject bibliographies, where the items that are actually selected for inclusion are evaluated individually by a specialist, rather than simply returned as the results of a computer search. For as long as I have been interested in the idea of academic approaches to anime and manga, I have also been interested in developing this kind of research tool. The Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies, which currently includes which I believe to be over 99% of all scholarly writing on Japanese animation and comics that has been published in English to date , and which I consistently work to maintain and update, is this tool in its present form. But this present form of simple chronological lists is not sufficient to meet the needs of researchers, teachers, students, and anyone else who is interested in this topic.

Accordingly, Animemangastudies.com is issuing a Call for Interest for a developer to cooperate on a project to create a searchable database-driven Anime and Manga Studies Bibliography that would use the entries in the Annual Bibliography for its content. As I envision it, a major feature of the Bibliography would be the use of 3 distinct types of records: “publication”, “author”, and “source”, and the possibility to search across all types, or by type. This is similar to the titles, names, companies, etc. search functionality on imdb.com and the various search options in the Anime News Network Encyclopedia. The actual results would be formatted differently depending on whether the result was a publication (book, book chapter or individual article), an author, or a source (essay collection or journal with many individual articles). This is different from searches in most academic databases, where all results are formatted in only one way.

In this way, searching for “Attack on Titan” would return a list of all English-language academic publications on this manga/anime (i.e., with Attack on Titan specifically mentioned in the title or keywords – such as Colossal bodies: Re-imagining the human anatomy in Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan), and a record for each one, with more information (author, source, date of publication, online availability, etc.). Searching for “Susan Napier” would return a record for Prof. Napier, with basic information about her, such as her current academic position, and a listing of all publications on anime/manga that she has authored, linked to the record for each, and a search for ImageTexT would return a record for this publication, and records for all the articles that have appeared in it.

Once the technical infrastructure for the Bibliography is in place, I can begin work to actually populate the database. But right now, developing the infrastructure is my priority. So, if this is a project you are interested in working on, or know someone who is, please contact me at mik@animemangastudies.com with your ideas, any questions you may have, and/or, if you are interested in working on this project, your proposal!

Looking forward to hearing from some of you, and to seeing where this goes!

Int’l Anime Research Project – 2019 Anime Survey

The primary focus of anime and manga studies as an academic area is on the texts/works of Japanese animation and Japanese comics themselves – their meanings, their interpretations, and how they are perceived by audiences. So a “typical” study in this field is something like The altered shall inherit the Earth: Biopower and the disabled body in Tehxnolyze or  The utopia of suburbia: the unchanging past and limitless future in Doraemon. Another strand of scholarship examines how fans actually interact with anime/manga, and fans’ motivations, activities, and practices – just some examples here include A portrait of Japanese popular culture fans who study Japanese at an Australian university: Motivations and activities beyond the classroom and Fannish masculinities in transition in anime music video fandom. But this type of research, valuable as it may be, is generally based on in-depth interviews with very small numbers of individuals. It does not, and really, by design cannot be extended to broader groups, and to presenting a more comprehensive picture of anime fans – not just who they are in terms of demographics, but how they think, perceive the world, behave, and act.

However, one effort to do precisely this is the International Anime Research Project – “a multidisciplinary team of scientists studying the anime/manga fandom (as well as other fandoms)”. Specifically, the project uses an annual survey to explore “various aspects of how anime fans perceive the fandom, interact with other fans, how the fandom influences the self, along with a variety of other research questions aimed at understanding the connection to anime.” The survey has been conducted since 2014, and the Project’s members have used its results in over 20 publications, primarily in the online journal The Phoenix Papers, reporting on topics such as “motivations of cosplayers to participate in the anime fandom“, “anime genre preferences and paranormal beliefs“, and “prevailing stereotypes of anime fans“.

Now, the Project is inviting participants for the 2019 Anime Survey. This year’s goal will be to “understand your experience of being an anime fan, fantasy, identity formation, education, identity, wellbeing, assessments of other fan groups, and LGBTQ inclusion in fandoms.” The survey will take approximately 30 minutes to complete, and all participants will be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card.

Additional information about the survey process, including its ethics clearance status, is available on the International Anime Research Project website.