Call for Papers – AX 2024 Academic Symposium: Edo Japan

Usually – and by their nature – academic conferences are not open to general, non-academic audiences, and for that matter, not really intended for them. But at the same time, nothing requires academic discussions to exclude the public, especially when members of the public may be interested in the same themes and topics that scholars are. And it is this understanding that lies at the heart of the Academic Program track at the Anime Expo convention, the largest in the U.S. I first proposed this track in 2011, and was its Executive Producer through 2017. And now, for 2024, the Academic Symposium is once again accepting submissions for papers with a “scholarly perspective on anime, manga, cosplay, and their fandoms”.

The theme of AX 2024 is Edo Japan, and authors are encouraged – but not required – to consider it. Proposals can address topics and subjects such as:

  • Japanese culture, past and present
  • Japanese festivals and holidays
  • Japan as Place, modern or historical
  • Performing artists like geisha
  • Histories of Japan, real or imagined

So, if you are studying a topic related to anime/manga, and want to share your research with a general, non-academic audience, here is your chance!

For consideration, submit a title, 150-word abstract, and short bio by the April 19 abstract submission deadline. All selected participants will be offered complimentary admission to AX.

Additional details (H-Net Network on Japanese History and Culture)

Online Symposium – Queer and Feminist Perspectives on Japanese Popular Cultures

The full schedule is now available for the upcoming online symposium Queer and Feminist Perspectives on Japanese Popular Cultures, organized by a team of scholars from Concordia University (Canada), UNSW Sydney (Australia) and Tulane University (USA), and supported by the Media, Gender and Sexualities Study Group (University of Tokyo). The goal of the symposium is to explore points of contact between Japanese popular culture broadly defined – including anime/manga, videogames, fashion, literature, and other fields and areas – and feminist studies, with an emphasis on issues of and intersections among gender, sexuality, race, queerness, disability, and class.

Over three days, the symposium will feature more than 20 speakers, representing institutions from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Italy, Japan, and other countries, as well as two keynote addresses. Emory University professor Erika Kanesaka, the creator of the website CuteStudies.com, will speak on the topic of “Cute and the Asian American experience”, and Laura Miller, the Eiichi Shibusawa-Seigo Arai Endowed Professor of Japanese Studies, University of St. Louis-Missouri, will speak to “Taking Girls Seriously”. Dr. Miller is the author of Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics (University of California Press, 2006) and co-editor of, among other titles, Manners and Mischief: Gender, Power, and Etiquette in Japan (University of California Press, 2011) and Modern Girls on the Go: Gender, Mobility, and Labor in Japan (Stanford University Press, 2013). Just some of the articles on Japanese popular culture she has written include Extreme makeover for a Heian-era wizard, Japan’s Cinderella motif: Beauty industry and mass culture interpretations of a popular icon, Behavior that offends: Comics and other images of incivility, and Rebranding Himiko, the shaman queen of ancient history.

The symposium is free, but registration is required, and a Zoom link will be sent to all individuals who register for the event.

April 15

5:30 p.m. – 6:45 p.m.
BL and queer studies

  • A utopian poetics of female observers inside/out in BL Manga
    Marianne Tarcov (McGill University)
    Emma Wang
  • Who put the ♂ in M♂M? Locating the breedable male body in shōshika BL
    Yoshika Han
    Jaclyn Zhou (University of California, Berkeley)
  • The bishōnen as void, and void again: Understanding Rio Kishida’s Summer Vacation 1999 through a framework of zero
    River Seager
(more…)

‘Cats, Single Ladies, and Manga: Feminist Fantasies of Cohabitation in East Asian Discourses’ lecture

Over the past ten or so years, the Japanese program at Baruch College (City University of New York) has hosted a series of mini-seminars and talks by individual speakers on topics related to Japanese animation and comics. The series started in 2015 with Globalized Manga Culture and Fandom and continued with Alt Manga: Alternative Manga Symposium (April 2016), Manga/Comics and Translation (April 2017), Manga/Comics against Human Trafficking (April 2018), and, in 2019, Untold History of Japanese Comics: Prewar and LGBTQ+ Manga. And, after an understandable hiatus, it has continued, with the latest one scheduled for next week.

The speaker, Dr. Grace En-Yi Ting is an assistant professor in the gender studies programme, The University of Hong Kong, and author of, among other publications, the essay The desire and disgust of sweets: Consuming femininities through shōjo manga (U.S.-Japan Women’s Journal) and the Gender, manga, and anime chapter in the Routledge Companion ot Gender and Japanese Culture. Entitled Cats, Single Ladies, and Manga: Feminist Fantasies of Cohabitation in East Asian Discourse, the talk is an examination of Japanese popular culture’s approach to themes of “heteronormative pressures regarding marriage and reproduction”, as expressed in particular in the manga The Masterful Cat is Depressed Again Today and its 2023 anime adaptation.

Thursday, April 4
12:50 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Baruch College
55 Lexington Ave, VC-4-165
New York, NY 10010)

The talk is open to members of the Baruch community and the general public, but registration is required. Additional details and the registration link are available on the Baruch Japanese Program website.

Comment/Response – “Do female anime fans exist?”…


Any kind of writing about anime will at some point have to consider anime’s audiences and their activities and practices. And in fact, studies that ask questions like “what anime fans do, and how, and why” are prominent in the field. As far back as 1994, writing for the journal Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life, Annalee Newitz examined “Japanese animation fans outside Japan“, and in 2001’s Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation, Susan Napier devoted an appendix to the topic of “Western audiences and Japanese animation”. Other notable studies include Brent Allison’s chapter “Interviews with adolescent anime fans” (in The Japanification of Children’s Popular Culture: From Godzilla to Miyazaki and Lawrence Eng’s Strategies of engagement: Discovering, defining and describing otaku culture in the United States (in Fandom Unbound: Otaku Culture in a Connected World), as well as the full monograph Anime Fan Communities: Transcultural Flows and Frictions, by Sandra Annett.

The history of anime fans outside Japan can be traced to at least the 1980’s, if not earlier. Now that this history is established, the conditions are in place for scholarship that engages with the history critically. And one such recent engagement is the essay by Aurélie Petit (Concordia University) that examines the discussions that took place in early anime fan communities, and argues that these discussions have played a major role in shaping how anime fans interact between themselves and with the “external” world, and to some extent how the idea, concept, and image of the “anime fan” is now defined.

Petit, Aurélie (2022) “Do female anime fans exist?” The impact of women-exclusionary discourses on rec.arts.anime. Internet Histories, 6(4), 352-368.

anime is still synonymous with far-right ideologies of white and male supremacy

“Do female anime fans exist?”…, p. 353
(more…)

Highlighting New Publications – JAMS v. 4


When it first launched in 2020, the open-access Journal of Anime and Manga Studies represented a major new development in the establishment of anime and manga studies as a defined academic field. Since the launch, it clearly thrived, with each new issue a range of new authors, and covering a diverse array of topics under the general umbrella of Japanese animation and comics. JAMS’ latest volume (2023) was formally released on December 3, and its eight articles once again do a great job of representing some of the most innovative scholarly writing on anime/manga that is currently available in English. And – all of it is free to read!

The issue opens with a letter from the JAMS editor-in-chief, summarizing the year’s developments and activities for the journal, the most prominent among them the Mechademia/JAMS track of scholarly presentations held as a part of the year’s Anime Expo convention. The letter also highlights the continuing upward trends in the journal’s readership, to over 2,000 pageviews per month at the conclusion of 2023, as well as the journal’s top five most read articles – the leader by far is A Survey of the Story Elements of Isekai Manga (volume 2) – currently, the 4th-ranking result in Google Scholar for a search for the term “isekai”, and the first result that is an actual peer-reviewed article.


The volume’s main section opens with Inclusive Media Mix: Shaping Communication through A Silent Voice. In this essay, Yuta Kaminishi (Habib Institute for Asian Studies, University of Idaho) expands the concept of the “Japanese media mix” that Marc Steinberg proposes and applies it to activities of different types – and involving different participants – than those that Steinberg envisions.

(more…)

Interview with the Anime Scholar – Dr. Bill Ellis

Several weeks ago, the American Folklore Society, the leading organization for the study and advancement of folklore and expressive cultural traditions wordwide, broadly defined, announced that its 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award was being bestowed on Dr. Bill Ellis, emeritus professor, Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Ellis is a pre-eminent folklore scholar – and, over the last fifteen years, he has written extensively on the intersections between folklore in general and fairy tales specifically, and anime/manga. Some of his major publications in this area include the chapter “Folklore and gender inversion in Cardcaptor Sakura”, in the 2009 essay collection The Japanification of Children’s Popular Culture, one of the first English-language studies of that particular manga, as well as The fairy-telling craft of Princess Tutu: Metacommentary and the folkloresque, and the chapter Anime and manga: The influence of Tale Type 510B on Japanese manga/anime in the Routledge Companion to Media and Fairy Tale Cultures. Dr. Ellis also contributed the “Anime and manga” section to the Greenwood Publishing Group reference volume Youth Cultures in America.

And, to mark this, I am extremely excited to be able to sit down with Dr. Ellis, and to hear his thoughts on anime, manga, and folklore all fit together!

MK: As an experienced and established folklore scholar, how did you become interested in Japanese comics?

Bill Ellis: To begin with, I should note that I have always been seen as something of an outsider in folklore studies.  My training was in and English program, rather than folklore studies per se, notably Medieval English literature and the American Renaissance.  I was hired by a small campus of Penn State University (freshmen and sophomores only) on the basis of my experience in teaching remedial composition and my work with Ohio State’s Center for Textual Studies, which was preparing a standard edition of everything (yes, everythingI) written by the author Nathaniel Hawthorne.  I edited two volumes of his business letters written when he was American consul at Liverpool and contributed to four other volumes of letters and notebooks.  On the strength of that, I earned tenure from Penn State, which considered my work in folklore a whimsical and irrelevant digression from “mainstream” research.

My first awareness of the anime/manga came in the late 90s by way of my teenaged daughter, who for a time dated a boy who was a fan of Dragon Ball Z.

By disposition I was always something of a lone-walker, doing things not because one gained academic credit by doing so, but because I thought the topics important for some reason.  Examples of these off-beat topics included alien abductions, adolescents’ legend-trips, Satanic cult rumors and panics, topical black humor referencing disasters (e.g., Challenger Shuttle jokes and later the much larger corpus of September 11 humor), and Facebook games.

(more…)

Manga Subgenres – The GNCRT View

How do we categorize different kinds of Japanese comics? What categories or labels do we use? For that matter, who even decides what categories or labels we even have access to? These questions are provocative, but as it turns out, they are not rhetorical. Outside Japan, and particularly in the U.S., there are actually specific organizations that are tasked with assigning labels to different kinds of published materials, and probably the most important organization of this type is the Library of Congress. Unless you are somehow involved with the Library of Congress classification system in your work, or have studied it in a library/information science graduate program, the activity of the Library of Congress that are you probably most familiar with is the system of terms to organize entries in library catalogs both by subject and by genre.

Since November 2022, “manga” has been included on the approved Library of Congress list of terms as both a subject heading (for materials about manga) and a genre term – for actual manga titles. And, as it turns out, last year, the Metadata and Cataloging Committee of the American Library Association Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table presented a proposal to the Library of Congress endorsing the establishment of several specific terms that would apply to “manga subgenres”. In particular, the Committee endorsed four broad terms, with these potential recommended descriptions:

  • shonen: “Manga emphasizing action and adventure, often with slapstick humor, a journey featuring personal growth, heroes with spiky hairstyles ,and themes of friendship, determination, and teamwork.”
  • shojo: “Manga emphasizing personal feelings and emotions, often centered on relationships, with a distinctive artistic style featuring lithe characters and big eyes, decorative panel dividers and layered panels.”
  • Boys love: “Romance manga with beautiful, androgynous male leads, featuring exclusive mutual attraction and a plot driven by emotion and psychological obstacles. For comics about realistic gay experiences, see Gay comics.”
  • Yuri: “Manga depicting the homosocial, spiritual bonds and relationships between adolescent girls, often with a floral motif of lilies. For comics about the lesbian experience, see Lesbian comics.”
(more…)

One Piece in Anime and Manga Studies

One of the most memorable anime-related events of 2023 was the worldwide Netflix launch of a live-action series adapting the long-running One Piece manga and anime series, by far one of the most successful and globally recognized entertainment properties of all time in any medium. As could be expected, viewers were initially cautious about just how the live action series would turn out, but, reviews and audience reactions were largely positive.

For the purposes of this site, however, what is particularly interesting is not so much the reaction of critics and fans, but, rather, whether One Piece has received any extent of attention from anime/manga scholars. And, as it turns out, the answer to this question is very much yes. In fact, with at least eight English-language publications on it so far, the way that scholars have examined One Piece since the manga first began publication in Japan in 1997, presents some very interesting, even if not yet very extensive, examples of different scholarly approaches to Japanese comics and animation!

One Piece deserves our attention not only because it is the most successful Japanese mangas of all time, but also because it reflects on dilemmas of IR in a surprisingly elaborate manner

– Ákos Kopper, Pirates, justice and global order in the anime “One Piece”

2023

  • Nakamura, Konoyu. One Piece: Diversity and borderlessness.
    In Marybeth Carter, & Stephen Farah (eds). The Spectre of the Other in Jungian psychoanalysis: Political, psychological, and sociological perspectives (pp. 175-184). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

    Anime constitutes prime material to be analysed and interpreted in a Jungian manner. This chapter focuses on ONE PIECE, a fantastic sea adventure. The protagonist is a 17-year-old named Luffy who journeys with his friends, called ‘the team of straw’, in search of a legendary treasure, the titular ONE PIECE. Here Konoyu Nakamura explores the idea of ‘the team of straw’ as an individual. She discusses the ‘variety and differences’ that these characters represent not only in terms of the differentiation of an individual but also in relation to the diversity represented by the cultural and national borderlessness that societies face today.
(more…)

Call for Papers – Journal of Anime and Manga Studies v. 5

Since its launch in 2020, the open-access Journal of Anime and Manga Studies has quickly established itself as the leading scholarly publication for this emerging field. Over the four issues that have been published so far, JAMS has attracted a wide array of articles, representing diverse perspectives and approaches, as well as a significant diversity in terms of the characteristics of the authors of the individual papers. Just some of the papers that have appeared in it so far have included:

In addition – and the name and open-access status certainly help – JAMS is fast becoming the first, or at least one of the first – resources to recommend to anyone who wants to become familiar with how scholarly writing on anime and manga even looks like.

So, keeping all of this in mind, it is great to see JAMS announce the Call for Papers for the journal’s 2024 issue. Submissions will be accepted until March 31, 2024, and recognizing both the breadth of the field of anime and manga studies, and how open it is to different approaches and perspectives, the journal welcomes papers of any type, as long as the subject matter of the paper involves “anime, manga, cosplay, and their fandoms”. Submissions are expected to be approximately between 6500 and 8000 words, but papers that fall outside that range may be considered if discussed with the journal’s editor.

The full Call for Papers is available here.

Good luck to everyone who will be submitting a paper for consideration! The issue will be published towards the end of the year, and I will definitely be looking forward to reading all of the papers in it!

Makoto Shinkai – A Bibliography of English-language Scholarly Writing

The start of the year’s movie awards season is always a good opportunity to reflect back on what the year has offered to audiences in terms of anime – and what anime continues to offer to viewers. This year, understandably, much of the attention that was directed towards new Japanese animated feature films went to Hayao Miyazaki’s 君たちはどう生きるか / How Do You Live / The Boy and the Heron. But that it was neither the only anime feature film released this year, nor the only one that is receiving recognition now that the awards season has launched. And, perhaps, if The Boy and the Heron represents Japanese animation looking back, the other prominent film that opened this year worldwide – Makoto Shinkai’s すずめの戸締まり / Suzume is inevitably both the present – and the future – of Japanese animation.

And for that matter, in the same way that The Boy and the Heron is the capstone film for Hayao Miyazaki’s career as a director and creator, Suzume, globally successful and critically acclaimed, eligible for the 2024 Academy Awards, and already nominated for the Golden Globes, is a great summation of the work that Shinkai has done up to now, from his first days as a video game artist, through his earliest solo projects, and through more and more sophisticated and elaborate films. So far, Suzume has gathered significant critical attention, though no scholarly responses yet, but watching this film and thinking about it is also a great time to reflect on how scholars are now approaching Makoto Shinkai – because scholars certainly are!

Total: 20 publications (15 journal articles, 5 chapters in edited essay collections)

2023

Izumi, Katsuya. Saviours of the world: Impersonality and success in Shinkai Makoto’s animated films.
In Shih-Wen Sue Chen & Sin Wen Lau (eds.). Representations of children and success in Asia: Dream chasers (pp. 202-211). Abington, UK. Routledge.

  • “This chapter analyzes how Shinkai Makoto, a Japanese animation film director, has built a new image of the teenage hero who reflects shifts in cultural values during the Heisei period (1989–2019). Focusing on the teenagers, Mitsuha and Taki, in Your Name. (2016), this chapter argues that impersonality, rather than strong individualism, enables Shinkai’s characters to become heroes in the sekai-kei genre. Shintoism and classical Japanese language constitute the key elements in Shinkai’s concept of impersonality, or the state of an individual character in which they empty themselves to become a medium for others’ agencies and voices.”
(more…)