Just as anime in the U.S. is not nearly as “hot” or popular as it was in, say, 2006, the “size” or breadth of anime studies as a field has diminished significantly from a few years ago. For example, in 2010, there were at least 215 new scholarly publications on anime, manga and related topics – compared to 90 last year. But nonetheless, authors are still writing about anime – and in fact, two authors whose names should be instantly recognizable to anyone who has followed how anime studies has developed in the U.S. are both about to publish a pair of full-length books!
Patrick Drazen’s 2002 The Anime Explosion! The What? Why? & Wow! of Japanese Animation in many ways – not the least being its title – exemplified the sheer enthusiasm towards all things anime that characterized when it was published. It’s not a quiet, nuanced evaluation – it’s loud, brash, and celebratory. And when it came out, it was a Big Deal. And it has certainly been influential – even Google Scholar (not the only citation service out there – but the one that is easiest to access and use) shows since then, published authors have referred to it over 80 times. Plus, of course, for many readers, Anime Explosion served as their first introduction to the idea that you can think about anime and you can write about anime. But, 2002 was twelve years ago…Thing change in twelve years. What anime is, how audiences experience Japanese animation, and how scholars write about it have all changed. And next month, to keep up with the changes, Stone Bridge Press will again be publishing The Anime Explosion as a Revised and Updated Edition.
Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii, by Brian Ruh, was a different kind of animal. Published just two years after Drazen’s book, it was much narrower in scope – but its reach was far wider. That it was brought out by a well-known publishing house certainly didn’t hurt!
From the point of view of today, even if you are fairly familiar with feature-length Japanese animated films, Mamoru Oshii is definitely not the first anime director who comes to mind. Hayao Miyazaki is of course always there, but now, so are Makoto Shinkai, and Mamoru Hosoda – and it will be a while before the late Satoshi Kon’s name fades away. But Oshii’s contribution – now not just as an anime director, but as a director of Japanese cinema across different forms or types or media – cannot be denied. And so, a new Second Edition of Stray Dog of Anime, expanded to cover Oshii’s work in animation and live action over the last decade – is also due out in April!
Incidentally, when each of these books was first published, I reviewed them for the the Anime News Network.
Anime Explosion (August 23, 2003)
Stray Dog of Anime (June 15, 2004)
Looking forward to updating both reviews!