Highlighting New Publications – Interpreting Anime

Until recently, the options open to anyone looking for a general text on Japanese animation – one that could serve as a general explanation and summary, and an introduction to more in-depth approaches and readings – have been relatively limited. Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke, first published in 2000 and updated in 2005, certainly played this role at the time of its initial publication, but could it still do so almost twenty years later? The essay collection Cinema Anime: Critical Engagements with Japanese Animation (2006) was similarly important, but it too is now dated in many regards. Thomas Lamarre’s 2009 The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation is a major contribution to anime studies – but it is by no means an introductory text. And somewhat despite its title, even the relatively recent Anime: A Critical Introduction is a more complex book than it may at first seem – as it is in fact an introduction to the critical debates and discussions around and about Japanese animation.

This is precisely why Interpreting Anime (University of Minnesota Press, 2018), is a such a welcome addition to the body of English-language scholarly writing on Japanese animation. The author, Christopher Bolton, is a professor of comparative and Japanese literature at Williams College, with a focus on Japanese science fiction in particular, and has been studying Japanese animation since the early 2000’s. So, what exactly does Interpreting Anime add to the growing list of “books on anime”, and, turning this question around, how it is actually useful, and to whom? (more…)

‘Untold History of Japanese Comics: Prewar & LGBTQ+ Manga’ Symposium

Continuing its series of public talks on major topics in manga studies – and expanding the range of topics that scholars who work in the field present to public audiences – the Japanese Program at Baruch College (City University of New York) has announced the latest one in the series. The theme for the talk, the fifth one so far, is Untold History of Japanese Comics: Prewar and LGBTQ+ Manga. Other scholars, such as Ryan Holmberg in Manga Shonen: Kato Kenichi and the Manga Boys, and William S. Armour in Representations of the Masculine in Tagame Gengoroh Ero SM Manga have explored these topics to some degree, but the Baruch Manga Symposium is a unique opportunity for a leading scholar and an award-winning public intellectual, with extensive experience in the manga industry and a personal relationship with several leading manga creators, to share their knowledge directly with the public.

Thursday, April 18
12:40 p.m. – 2:10 p.m.
Baruch College
55 Lexington Avenue, VC12-150
New York, NY 10010

Dr. Andrea Horbinski
Norakuro and Friends: The Rise, Fall, and Triumph of Children’s Manga, 1916-1957

Dr. Horbinski received a Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently working on a book on the history of Japanese comics, tentatively to be entitled “Manga’s Global Century”. Her publications include Record of Dying Days: The Alternate History of Ooku (in Mechademia, v. 10), and Even a Monkey Can Understand Fan Activism: Political Speech, Artistic Expression, and a Public for the Japanese Dôjin Community (with Alex Leavitt, in Transformative Works and Cultures, 10). Last year, she received an Honorable Mention in the Best Graduate Student Conference Presentation category at the inaugural Comics Studies Society Prizes.

Anne Ishii
From Niche to Mainstream: The Crossover Success of Gay Manga

Ms. Ishii has extensive experience translating and adapting manga, including working on the Eisner Award-winning My Brother’s Husband, and in marketing and publicity with a U.S. manga publishing company. She is currently the executive director of the Asian Arts Initiative.

The Symposium is open to the public, but registration is REQUIRED.

Comment/Response – Found in Translation

How Japanese animation actually reaches audiences outside Japan has been a major topic in anime studies going back to the field’s earliest days, such as with Jonathan Clements’ essay “The mechanics of the US anime and manga industry”, in Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction, 64, 32-44 (1995). Interest in this topic surged in the mid-2000’s, as Western scholars were being introduced to anime – in many cases by their own students – and even by their own children, and as anime fans moved on from high schools to colleges and graduate schools, and were able to publish their own work. Some examples of the seminar research on the relationship and the conflicts between anime creators/producers, anime distributors, and anime fans that were published around this time include Anime fans, DVDs and the authentic text (Laurie Cubbison, The Velvet Light Trap, 2005), Anime fandom and the liminal spaces between fan creativity and piracy (Rayna Denison, International Journal of Cultural Studies, 2011), Dark energy: What fansubs reveal about the copyright wars (Ian Condry, Mechademia v. 5, 2010), and my own Fighting the fan sub war: Conflicts between media rights holders and unauthorized creator/distributor networks.

The structure of the relationship, and the actual technological affordances that have directed it, have changed significantly since then. And so, it is particularly interesting to see a new publication that sets out to “examine recent systems, both legal and illegal, of North American anime and manga distribution” and positions itself specifically as a follow-up to 2005’s Of otakus and fansubs: A critical look at anime online in light of current issues in copyright law and an evaluation of whether the arguments that Jordan Hatcher presented in that article can still be used to understand “the relationship between fan translator groups and licensed distributors of anime and manga” in the present.

Tremblay, Alyssa (2018). Found in translation: Rethinking the relationship between fan translation groups and licensed distributors of anime and manga. The Journal of Fandom Studies, 6(3), 319-333.

“… it is possible that fan translation groups will become obsolete, perhaps to the benefit of all parties.” (more…)

New Journal Launch – Journal of Anime and Manga Studies

One of the most well-defined features of an academic field is a journal that brings together the work of scholars who produce and publish research on a particular topic and presents it to readers. The existence of a journal means that there is enough research being published on a topic to support one, and the journal’s title is in many cases also the term used for the field itself. Asian Studies, Japanese Studies, Science Fiction StudiesAnimation Studies, and ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies are all examples of journals that give structure to particular academic fields.

The first English-language scholarly articles on anime and manga appeared in journals like Youth & Society (Contemporary Japanese youth: Mass media communication, 1977), The Journal of Popular Culture (Salaryman comics in Japan: Images of self-perception, 1979, and Female gender role patterns in Japanese comic magazines, 1987), The Journal of Japanese Studies (Panic sites: The Japanese imagination of disaster from Godzilla to Akira, 1993), and Wide Angle (Transcultural orgasm as apocalypse: Urotsukidoji: The Legend of the Overfiend, 1997). It was not until 2006 that the University of Minnesota Press began publishing what could be treated as an anime and manga studies journal – Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga, and Fan Arts, although it was presented as a “series of books”, and right away, embraced other – though definitely related – topics such as video games.

And now, four years since Mechademia went on hiatus, forty since those first articles, and a full sixty since what I have identified as the first scholarly publications in any format in English on Japanese animation or comics (the chapters “Children’s comics in Japan” and “Comparative study of comics: American and Japanese – Sazae-san and Blondie” in the 1959 essay collection Japanese Popular Culture: Studies in Mass Communication and Cultural Change), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hasJAMS announced the launch of the Journal of Anime and Manga Studies – the first “open-access journal dedicated to providing an ethical, peer-reviewed space for academics, students, and independent researchers examining the field of anime, manga, cosplay, and fandom studies to share their research with others.” JAMS is currently actively welcoming article submissions from scholars at all levels, including faculty members, graduate students, undergraduates, and independent researchers. There are also no particular limitations on potential topics, beyond the general statement that it is dedicated to “scholarly analysis”, or on article length, and submissions will be accepted on a rolling basis. The journal’s first actual issue is currently set to appear in the fall of this year.

I have known about the plans to launch this journal for some time. Needless to say, I am extremely excited to see these plans evolve into something real – another major milestone in the development of the academic field of anime and manga studies. In the coming months, I look forward to following further news about the journal’s development, and assisting the process in any way that I can.

And if you are interested in publishing your research in the Journal of Anime and Manga Studies, review the About the Journal portion of the JAMS website, follow the Submissions Checklist and Author Guidelines, register as an author – and good luck! And I will look forward to hopefully, reading your submission in the journal’s inaugural issue!

Anime and Manga at the PCA 2019 Annual Conference

PCAThe annual conference of the Popular Culture Association (PCA) brings together scholars whose research involves a very wide range of topics across many different subject areas – “adolescence”, “animation”, “fan culture & theory”, “science fiction and fantasy”, “visual culture”, and literally dozens more. The 2019 Annual Conference will be held in Washington, DC, from April 17 to April 20, and, as in many previous years, Japanese animation and comics are covered in a number of presentations, including in two dedicated sessions. Taken together, these talks can be seen as a very good survey of the current state of English-language anime and manga studies – the topics that scholars are interested in exploring, the approaches they are taking, and the specific titles they are interested in.

PCA National Conference
April 17-20, 2019
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
Washington, DC

[Full Program]

Thursday, April 18:

9-45 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Animation VI: Commercialism, Consumerism, and Fan Aspects of Animation
– Anime Fandom in Convergence Culture: Gratifications of Anime Fan Production
Erika Junhui Yi

Mythology in Contemporary Culture I: The Epic Present: Contemporary Revisionings of Homeric Myth
– From Mythological Figures to Anime’s Characters: Girls and Women in Ulysses 31 (Jean Chalopin and Nina Wolmark, 1982)
Caroline Eades (University of Maryland, College Park)

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Fan Culture & Theory Negotiating (Fandom) Identity
– Transnational FANac: Examining fan practices among anime and manga fans outside of Japan
June Madeley (University of New Brunswick)

(more…)

Defining Anime and Manga Studies

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of the essay collection Japanese Popular Culture (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Co.), which contained what I believe are  the first two English-language scholarly essays on Japanese comics. As with the other chapters in the volume, both are actually translations of articles that had already previously appeared in Japanese; nonetheless, they can be treated as marking the “origin” of anime and manga studies.

Now, sixty years later, “anime and manga studies” encompasses numerous publications (such as various recent monographs, essay collections, and the almost 30 individual book chapters and journal articles on anime/manga and related topics that have appeared so far this year), academic conferences, classes at colleges and universities around the U.S., and perhaps even the beginnings of an institutional structure, via the establishment of an Anime Studies Special Interest Group within the Society for Animation Studies.

Nonetheless, one thing that anime and manga studies does not yet have is an actual definition – and I would argue that presenting one is crucial to the further development of the concept – and its evolution into something more – into an actual academic field.

Based on trends and directions in scholarly activity involving anime/manga, I would, then, propose the following definition:

Anime and manga studies is

“the exploration of Japanese animation and comics as creative works, their historical, cultural, sociological and economic dimensions, their production, distribution, global reception, and related topics.” (more…)

Guest Response Essay: Kawaii Aesthetics from Japan to Europe

Earlier this year, I announced a Call for Contributors inviting “essay submissions responding to any other article-length scholarship on anime/manga or related topics published in English in the last five years”. These kinds of short essays would, I believe, add an important new dimension to the developing field of anime and manga studies by encouraging and facilitating conversation within and about it.

Now, I am pleased to present the first response to the Call:

Dora Vrhoci – on Kawaii Aesthetics from Japan to Europe: Theory of the Japanese “Cute” and Transcultural Adoption of Its Styles in Italian and French Comics Production and Commodified Culture Goods, Arts 7(3), article 24

Ms. Vrhoci is a student of European politics and culture at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Her main areas of interest include the politics of social movements, popular culture, and Euro-Japanese interactions. She recently co-authored a forthcoming chapter on town twinning between Eastern and Western European cities in E. Braat, & P. Corduwener (Eds.), 1989 and the West: Western Europe since the End of the Cold War, London: Routledge.

Marco Pellitteri’s article explores how Japanese kawaii culture and aesthetics are appropriated in Europe. The article centers on the question of how and whether ‘kawaii’ has found its place in contemporary Europe, with a particular focus on Italy and France. Pellitteri acquires a transcultural perspective and observes ‘the kawaii phenomenon’ as a “culture of cuteness” which (1), although originating in Japan, has become fused with European aesthetics in certain areas of youth subcultures and pop-culture products. As an example of such fusion between Japanese and European cultures, Pellitteri uses the so-called “Euromanga”—comics made by European creators, but influenced by aesthetic and/or narrative elements of  Japanese manga.

Pellitteri begins his article with a theoretical account of the ‘kawaii phenomenon’. Taking up the bulk of the text, the theoretical discussion includes an overview of the semantic and/or linguistic origins of ‘kawaii’ and highlights ‘kawaii’s’ association with an “emotional attachment to creatures”, a “girl/girlish culture” (vs. a more ‘manlier’ aesthetics), and, among other things, a nostalgic sentiment about one’s childhood. Аs another important aspect of ‘kawaii culture’, Pellitteri mentions its pattern-crossing ability, that is, the ability to move across media, industries and “juvenile tendencies” (5). The theoretical discussion closes with a note that ‘kawaii aesthetics’ are interpreted and appropriated differently in Japanese and Western contexts (i.e., West-Europe and America); while ‘kawaii’ is an integral part of contemporary Japanese culture and aesthetic, in Europe, it does not, according to Pellitteri, appear to be a dominant aesthetic trend among Japanese-inspired youth subcultures. (more…)

Highlighting Upcoming Publications: Leiji Matsumoto

GE999Among the creators who have essentially defined the course of Japanese comics and animation through the entire second half of the 20th century, and now, for two decades into the 21st, Leiji Matsumoto ranks at the very top – second only to Osamu Tezuka. But, for many reasons, audiences outside of Japan are still largely unfamiliar with much of Matsumoto’s work, have only a vague awareness of it – or are not even aware that Matsumoto was the director in the first place. And this is despite the place that Space Battleshi Yamato holds in the history of anime – and its adaptation as Star Blazers does in the history of Japanese animation in the U.S.

The same goes for scholars – while there has been some recent writing on the Yamato TV series and movies, such as When pacifist Japan fights: Historicizing desires in anime (Mechademia, 2007), Contesting traumatic war narratives: Space Battleship Yamato and Mobile Suit Gundam (in Imag(in)ing the War in Japan: Representing and responding to trauma in postwar literature and film), “Archetypal images in Japanese anime: Space Battleship Yamato (Star Blazers)” (in Jungian perspectives on rebirth and renewal: Phoenix rising), and in particular, Remaking Yamato, remaking Japan: Space Battleship Yamato and SF anime, in a special Science Fiction Anime issue of the journal Science Fiction Film and Television, there is very little else out there on Matsumoto’s other extensive (and uniquely interconnected) body of work, in particular, the Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999 projects, or, for that matter, his involvement in the unique international Interstella 5555 project. One exception here is Eldad Nakar’s work on Matsumoto’s “war stories” manga – in Memories of pilots and planes: World War II in Japanese manga, 1957-1967, and “Framing manga: On narratives of the Second World War in Japanese manga, 1957-1977” (in Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime).

Now, this may be changing. Next year, McFarland, a leading independent publisher of academic books, with a long-standing interest in books on popular culture topics, including anime/manga, will be releasing the first-ever collection of scholarly English-language essays on Leiji Matsumoto and his work. The collection will be co-edited by Helen McCarthy, author of The Anime Encyclopedia (with Jonathan Clements), 500 Essential Anime Movies, and Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation, and Prof. Darren Ashmore (Yamanashi Gakuin University). Eisner Award-winning translator Zack Davisson, who is currently working on the English translations of Matsumoto’s Queen Emeraldas and Captain Harlock manga will contribute one of the chapters. As soon as I have details available about the book’s full contents, and especially the actual publication date, I will be happy to share that!

Congratulations to everyone who has worked on this project! Thank you! I am looking forward to reading this book, and I’m sure I am by far not the only one!

 

Highlighting New Publications – Translating Cultural References in Japanese Animation Films

SpiritedAwayPORAsakura, Kaori. Translating cultural references in Japanese animation films: The case of Spirited Away. Translation Matters, 1(1), 61-81.

Looking at “dictionary definitions” of terms may not necessarily lead to conclusive results – a “dictionary definition” is only one possible use of several. Nonetheless, the way a particular term is defined – and what is emphasized in the definition – can suggest certain approaches and interpretations. Something as straightforward as, for example, the definition of “anime” in the online Oxford Dictionaries – “A style of Japanese film and television animation, typically aimed at adults as well as children” – suggests that to reach viewers outside of Japan, anime must be translated. How this translation process actually takes place, under what conditions, and subject to what kinds of influences, can be a subject for extensive research.

SpiritedAwayENGAnd in fact, there is already a significant body of scholarship on translating anime and manga. General introductions include the “Translating manga” chapter in Comics in Translation (St. Jerome Publishing, 2008), and the article “History and philosophy of manga translation in North America” (International Journal of Comic Art, 2016). An example of a more theoretical approach can be seen in Perceptions and (re)presentations of familiarity and foreignness: The cultural politics of translation in the subtitling of Japanese animation by fans. And beyond these more general ones, there are several specific case studies that examine particular translations, or compare how the same original materials are translated into English and into other languages – as in “The translation and adaptation of Miyazaki’s Spirit Princess in the West” (in Princess Mononoke: Understanding Studio Ghibli’s Monster Princess), Strategy and style in English and French translations of Japanese comic books (Edinburgh Working Papers in Applied Linguistics, 2001), “A textual analysis of Japanese and Chinese editions of manga: Translation as cultural hybridiziation” (International Journal of Comic Art, 2006), The cultural transfer in anime translation (Translation Journal, 2009), and Dubbing of silences in Spirited Away: A comparison of Japanese and English language versions (Perspectives: Studies in Translation Theory & Practice, 2016). (more…)

Call for Papers – Eyes Unclouded: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli

Ghibli2019 Contemporary Directors Symposium
Eyes Unclouded: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli
Lewes Depot Cinema, Lewes, UK
May 8, 2019

Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli will be the focus of the 2019 Contemporary Directors Symposium, organized by the University of Sussex (UK) Centre for Photography and Visual Culture. Prof. Rayna Denison, a leading scholar of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, whose recent work includes editing the essay collection Princess Mononoke: Understanding Studio Ghibli’s Monster Princess, and co-editing a Studio Ghibli special issue of the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, will present the symposium’s keynote address, and scholars are invited to submit proposals for 20-minute talks on any topic that falls under the symposium’s broad theme. Some potential areas to explore can include authorship, representation (gender, ethnicity/nationality/culture, etc.), “material culture”, such as merchandising and advertising, and how Ghibli films are distributed, received, and interpreted outside Japan. Talk proposals (title, 250-word abstract, author biography) are due by March 31, 2019, and can be sent to the attention of Dr. Luke Robinson.

The full CFP for the Symposium follows and is also available on H-Film. (more…)