‘What is Manga’ British Library Symposium

One of this year’s major cultural events related to Japan has been the Manga exhibition hosted by the British Museum – “the largest exhibition of manga ever to take place outside of Japan.” It opened on May 23, and immediately received significant critical attention. The Economist praised it as a “dynamic, exuberant and ambitious celebration of Japan’s comic-art narrative form”, as did the Financial Times, while responses in The Guardian (“asking us to compare today’s graphic artists with greats of the past is misguided”) and The Telegraph (“is Manga really as significant as Rodin and the Ancient Greeks?”) were not as enthusiastic. In any case, an exhibition of this scale – and at this kind of venue – attracts attention.

And now, following up on the exhibition’s success, and connected to it, the British Library has announced plans to host a special one-day What is Manga academic symposium that will bring together many of the world’s leading scholars of manga specifically and comics/sequential art in general, as well as museum practitioners, and a range of international perspectives for a discussion on manga in a global context and the role of cultural institutions such as the British Museum in preserving, presenting, and promoting manga. The Symposium is open to the public, but tickets must be purchased via the British Library website.

What is Manga – Exploring Japanese Manga and Visual Narratives
[full program – PDF]

Friday, August 23
10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
The British Library
Knowledge Centre Theatre
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

Schedule:

10:20 a.m.
Opening Remarks
Dr. Eugenia Bogdanova-Kummer (Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures)

10:30 a.m.
Keynote Address
Manga Studies’ “Manga” and the Outsider Perspective: Intercultural Observations
Prof. Jaqueline Berndt (Stockholm University)

Dr. Berndt is one of the world’s leading scholars of Japanese comics. He work has included editing the essay collections Manga’s Cultural Crossroads and Reading Manga: Local and Global Perceptions of Japanese Comics, a number of individual chapters and journal articles that have been fundamental to shaping the field of manga studies (particularly important examples include ‘Historical adventures of a post-historical medium: Japan’s wartime past as represented in manga’, ‘Manga, which manga? Publication formats, genres, users’, and ‘Reconsidering manga discourse: Location, ambiguity, historicity’), and teaching several pioneering classes

11:00 a.m. – 1:20 p.m.
Panel 1: Manga and Comic Theory and Iconography (manga hyōgenron) (more…)

Call for Papers – JAMS no. 1

Several months ago, I was excited to share news about the launch of a new peer-reviewed journal with a specific focus on Japanese animation, comics, and related topics – the Journal of Anime and Manga Studies. And now, JAMS has officially opened the Call for Papers for its first issue, currently on track to be published early next year.

Specifically, the journal welcomes all types of “scholarly analysis of anime” (and manga) and related topics such as cosplay and other fan activities and practices, from all kinds of authors, whether faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, or independent scholars, and is open to different forms of research methods and approaches, from critical readings to quantitative/data-driven studies. The recommended length for submissions is between 4,500 and 7,500 words, but longer or shorter manuscripts may be accepted after a discussion with the journal’s editors, and it is also open to book review submissions.The deadline for submitting a paper for inclusion in the inaugural issue is August 31, 2019.

In addition, JAMS has also updated its website with a full listing of its editorial board. The journal’s editors are a line-up of experienced anime/manga scholars, with varied backgrounds as authors and educators:

Dr. Frenchy Lunning (editor-in-chief, Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga, and Fan Arts)
Dr. Brent Allison, University of North Georgia (editorial board member, Mechademia)
Dr. Andrea Horbinski (copy editor, Mechademia)
Kay Clopton, The Ohio State University
Dr. Maria Bonn, School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois
Elizabeth Wickes, School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois

The full CFP is reproduced below, and archived on the Call for Papers website hosted by the University of Pennsylvania Department of English.

(more…)

Anime Expo 2019 Academic Program

In a few days, Anime Expo, the largest convention in the U.S. for fans of Japanese popular culture broadly defined will once again return to the Los Angeles Convention Centere, where it will run from July 3 to July 7. AX’s live programming schedule is packed with a line-up of panels and workshops – and, since 2011, has also included a track of academic presentations and panel discusions – the Anime Expo Academic Symposium. Among the Symposium’s goals are to present anime and manga scholars with an opportunity to share their work and knowledge directly with fans, to introduce convention attendees to the methods, tools, and language of academic research, and to foster information-sharing and facilitate the developing of an anime and manga studies community. Over the years, it has featured presentations from scholars from around the world, including many of the most important names in anime and manga studies, and has consistently been one of the most unique features of AX’s overall program. In 2018, the Symposium went on a redevelopment hiatus, and now, it returns for Anime Expo 2019, with a total of 14 presentations and a line-up of returning and brand-new speakers!

[Ed. note: I developed the original idea for the Symposium, and was the producer from 2011 to 2017, but did not work on this year’s program]

AX 2019 Academic Program
“Anime Chronotopes: Nostalgia in Japanese Animation and Comics”

Anime Expo 2019
Los Angeles Convention Center
LACC 411 / AX Live Programming 4
July 4-7

Thursday, July 4

12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Nostalgia/Intertextuality

  • The OG of Black Revolutionary Japanese Anime: Golgo 13
    Dexter Thomas (Cornell University)
  • Wakon (yo)sai – Tracing Japanese Technomodernity Back to 1970s and 1980s Science Fiction Anime
    – Anthony Lee
  • Western Culture’s Influence in Japanese Entertainment: Intertextuality and Metafiction in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
    – Ericka N. Rivera Figuero
  • Feminist Recontextualization of Nostalgia in Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Mine Fujiko
    Yasheng She (University of California, Santa Cruz)

(more…)

Neon Genesis Evangelion: A Bibliography of English Language Scholarship

It’s definitely not every week and not every month that New York Magazine, The New Yorker and Vox pay attention to Japanese animation. But, of course, if there is ever an anime – not directed by Hayao Miyazaki or Mamoru Oshii – that would qualify for coverage in a mainstream English-language publication, Neon Genesis Evangelion, now available for streaming on Netflix, is that anime.

Ever since Evangelion premiered on Japanese television in the fall of 1995, and then made its way to countries around the world via means both official and decidedly unofficial, it has been the subject of intense discussion and reflection. And while it’s essentially impossible to build anything like a comprehensive catalog of “fan” reaction to Eva, what we can do is instead ask – and answer – the question of how have anime scholars responded.

As with any literature review or survey of this type, it is subject to certain restrictions and caveats. The most obvious one is of “scope” – the distinction between just passing mentions of Evangelion, and actual in-depth substantive discussion. But exactly where does this distinction lie? And beyond that, there is also the issue of “recall” – there is no way to ever be sure that a literature search is fully comprehensive. Nonetheless, and with these restrictions in mind, a look at English-language scholarly responses to Neon Genesis Evangelion still adds an important angle to considering and reflecting on Eva’s impact and effect.

Neon Genesis Evangelion Studies, 1996 – present

1996

*** OPEN ACCESS ***
Azuma, Hiroki. Anime or something like it: Neon Genesis Evangelion. InterCommunication, 18.

1997

[ARCHIVED]
Woznicki, Krystian. Towards a cartography of Japanese anime: Anno Hideaki’s “Evangelion”. Blimp Film Magazine, 36, 18-26

1999

Steinberg, Marc. The trajectory of the apocalypse: Pleasure and destruction in Akira and Evangelion. East Asia Forum, 8/9, 1-31.

2000

Routt, William D. Stillness and style in ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’. Animation Journal, 8(1), 28-43.

2002

*** OPEN ACCESS ***
Broderick, Mick. Anime’s apocalypse: Neon Genesis Evangelion as millennarian mecha. Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, 7.

Napier, Susan J. When the machines stop: Fantasy, reality, and terminal identity in “Neon Genesis Evangelion” and “Serial Experiments Lain”. Science Fiction Studies, 29(3), 418-435.

(more…)

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…)