Contemporary Japanese CultureTo most people, “encyclopedia” means one of two things. It can mean a national encyclopedia like the Encyclopedia Britannica – obsolete, a prop, a historical artifact. Or it can mean Wikipedia – criticized and controversial (and the subject of extensive research – a lot of it is summarized in Mesrage, M., et al., “The sum of all human knowledge”: A systematic review of scholarly research on the content of Wikipedia, Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, forthcoming) – but also undeniably useful, and most importantly, heavily used by students at all levels. However, in the academic context, “encyclopedia” can also refer to a particular type of information resource – the “subject encyclopedia”, an edited collection of short articles on topics related to a particular field, discipline, area or theme.

The purpose of this type of resource is not to present original research, but rather, to “provide both undergraduate students and researchers with a starting point to clarify terminology and discover further reading” – East, John W. (2010) “The Rolls Royce of the library reference collection”: The subject encyclopedia in the Age of Wikipedia, Reference & User Services Quarterly, 50(2), 162-169.

So, do subject encyclopedias cover anime/manga? What kinds of subject encyclopedia cover anime/manga? And more importantly, how useful are these subject encyclopedias for a researcher at any level who is interested in anime and manga? In my work compiling a comprehensive bibliography of anime and manga studies, I have identified at least 15 individual academic encyclopedias with entries/articles on anime, manga and related topics. These range from 1999’s The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (with a one-page entry on ‘anime’) to Boy Culture: An Encyclopedia (2010, entry on ‘Manga and anime’) and the Encyclopedia of Religion and Film (2011, entry on ‘Hayao Miyazaki’).

The full list:

Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading
(2008) Kenneth Womack (Editor). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press

  • Gilles Poitras, Manga and anime (pp. 600-612)

Boy Culture: An Encyclopedia
(2010) Shirley Steinberg, Michael Kehler & Linsday Cornish (Editors), Westport, CT: Greenwood Press

  • Manga and anime (pp. 330-332)

Contemporary Youth Culture: An International Encyclopedia
(2005) Shirley Steinberg, Priya Parmar & Birgit Richard (Editors), Westport, CT: Greenwood Press

  • Lawrence Eng, Otaku (pp. 188-194)
  • Michele Knobel and Colin Lankshear, Manga (pp. 194-197)
  • Lien-Fan Shen, Anime (pp. 197-203)

The Continuum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality
(2003) Robert Francouer & Raymond Noona (Editors), New York: Continuum

Encyclopedia of Children, Adolescents, and the Media
(2007). Jeffrey Jensen Arnett (Editor), Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

  • Anime
  • Manga (Japanese comic books)

Encyclopedia of Comic Books and Graphic Novels
(2010). M. Keith Booker (Editor). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press

  • Pascal Lefevre, Barefoot Gen (pp. 46-47)
  • Nhu-Hoa Nguyen, Buddha (pp. 74-76)
  • Wendy Goldberg, Lone Wolf and Cub (pp. 367-368)
  • Robert O’Nale, Manga (pp. 378-387)
  • Nhu-Hoa Nguyen, Ozamu Tezuka (pp. 632-633)

Encyclopedia of Contemporary Japanese Culture
(2002). Sandra Buckley (Editor), London: Routledge.

  • Mark Driscoll, Anime (pp. 17-19)
  • Sandra Buckley, Manga (pp. 295-298)
  • Sharalynn Orbaugh & Sandra Buckley, Otaku (pp. 379-380)

Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature
(2006). Gaetan Brulotte & John Phillips (Editors), New York: Routledge.

  • Manga
  • Yaoi

The Encyclopedia of Fantasy
(1999). John Clute & John Grant (Editors), New York: St. Martin’s Press.

  • Richard Middleton, Anime (p. 34)

Encyclopedia of Literature and Science
(2002). Pamela Gossin (Editor). Westport, CT: Greenwood.

  • Pamela Gossin, Anime (pp. 12-13)
  • Pamela Gossin, Manga (p. 268)

Encyclopedia of Modern Asia
(2002). Karen Christensen & David Levinson (Editors), Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

  • Michael Ashkenazi & Francesca Forrest, Anime (Volume 1, p. 108)
  • Michael Ashkenazi, Manga (Volume 4, p. 34)

Encyclopedia of Religion and Film
(2011). Eric Michael Mazur (Editor). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

  • James Mark Shields, Hayao Miyazaki (pp. 320-323)

Encyclopedia of Women in Today’s World
(2011). Mary Zeiss Strange, Carol K. Oyster, & Jane E. Sloan (Editors), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

  • Allison Alexy, Anime (pp. 70-71)
  • Ayako Mizumura, Manga (pp. 891-893)

Girl Culture: An Encyclopedia
(2008). Claudia Mitchell & Jacqueline Reid-Walsh (Editors), Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

  • Katynka Z. Martinez, Girls, Digital Culture and New Media (pp. 94-100)
  • Maya Yampolsky, Manga and anime fan culture (pp. 418-423)
  • Nancy Lesko, Miyazaki’s anime girls (pp. 437-438)
  • Hoi Cheu, Sailor Moon (pp. 515-516)

The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales
(2008) Donald Haase (Editor). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

  • B. Grantham Aldred, Amano, Yoshitaka (pp. 30-31)
  • Jeana Jorgensen, Miyazaki, Hayao (pp. 630-632)
  • Mizuno, Junko

Looking through this list, some things are particularly notable:

Most of the individual entries are very short – some are less than a page long, others are two to four pages. However, there are some exceptions: Gilles Poitras’ “manga and anime” in Books and Beyond: The Greenwood International Encyclopedia of New American Reading runs to 13 pages, and the entry on “otaku” by Lawrence Eng in Contemporary Youth Culture: An International Encyclopedia is 7 pages.

The authors of the individual entries are a diverse group. Some are tenure-track or tenured professors who have authored numerous other publications (Mark Driscoll, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; James Mark Shields, Bucknell University; Michele Knobel, Montclair State University). Others, although not academics, have made other important contributions to the anime and manga community. Among these are Gilles Poitras, the webmaster of, one of the oldest continuously operating English-language websites on Japanese animation and author of 1998’s The Anime Companion: What’s Japanese in Japanese Animation and 2000’s Anime Essentials: Every Thing a Fan Should Know, two books that did a lot to introduce Japanese culture to American audiences, Lawrence Eng, whose Ph.D. dissertation, “Otaku engagements: Subcultural appropriation of science and technology” was probably the first one on the topic of anime fans to be submitted to an American university, and Jeana Jorgensen, a dancer, sex educator, and very active folklore scholar.

Subject encyclopedias are designed for and marketed to libraries, rather than individual readers They are priced accordingly, at several hundred dollars per title or set. Therefore, the individual articles are generally not included in standard academic databases or available in open access institutional repositories. However, some subject encyclopedias are accessible in Google Books, with some of their contents available for preview – and precisely because the individual articles are so short, it may be possible to view them this way. An example is the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Japanese Culture, with entries on “anime”, “manga”, and “otaku”.

As East notes in his paper, scholars do cite to subject encyclopedias in books, essays, and journal articles. However, determining the exact extent to which these encyclopedia entries are actually used – and how – is challenging. Doing so would require searching hundreds of journal articles and other publications, only some of which are accessible electronically. In addition, precisely because subject encyclopedias are generally kept in libraries’ non-circulating reference collections, actual usage statistics for them generally simply do not exist. Similarly, although library science researchers may be able to access statistics for how often users (usually in a particular college or university) actually view materials from a particular online encyclopedia, these statistics generally do not provide details about which specific articles are viewed.

Finally, again keeping in mind the supposed goal of the academic subject encyclopedia (“to provide both undergraduate students and researchers with a starting point to clarify terminology and discover further reading”), it is worth considering whether a student or researcher looking for information on Japanese animation or Japanese comics would in fact start their research with a subject encyclopedia. Of the 15 titles, the Encyclopedia of Modern Asia and definitely the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Japanese Culture are certainly the kind that they would consider – or that a librarian would direct them to. However, most of the others are on topics and themes that are far broader that just anime/manga. So, whether someone looking for a “place to start” when researching religious themes and images in the works of Hayao Miyazaki would start with the relevant entry in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Film is very much an open question. At the same time, and perhaps as a flip side of this, it is also not inconceivable that someone who is looking for a specific topic to explore under the general subject of “contemporary youth culture” (or for that matter, “boy culture”/”girl culture”) could approach the relevant encyclopedia to review a list of possible topics – and be drawn to consider anime or manga in that context.

As an information resource, the academic subject encyclopedia has plenty of limitations. But, it is also a resource with a specific use, purpose, and niche. And ultimately, the least that anime and manga researchers (and those who support anime/manga research) should do is be aware of the availability of this resource, be able to evaluate it, and consider when it can indeed be useful.

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