As an academic field or area, anime/manga studies is, of course, concerned primarily with Japanese animation and Japanese comics as art forms. But, anime is also a medium – the same goes for manga – and so, anime/manga studies is also inevitably concerned with how Japanese animation and comics are produced, distributed around the world, and experienced by viewers and readers.
Of course, studying media audiences means asking particular questions – and using approaches, methodologies, techniques and tools that are necessarily different from those used in studying art forms. Audience research is complicated, difficult logistically, time-consuming, and, in anime/manga studies, still rather infrequent, taking the form, primarily, of ethnographic studies such as Susan Napier’s The world of anime fandom in America (Mechademia, 1, 47-63) and Patrick Drazen’s “Reading right to left: The surprisingly broad appeal of manga and anime; or, ‘wait a minute'” (in Mangatopia: Essays on Manga and Anime in the Modern World). Sandra Annett’s recent book Anime Fan Communities: Transcultural Flows and Frictions (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) is definitely a welcome addition to the literature on this topic, but again, its approach is essentially descriptive, not quantitative.
Another initiative that has specifically focused on researching anime fans – their demographics, attitudes, behaviors, personal characteristics, political affiliations, and other related factors is the International Anime Research Project, a group of scholars led by Dr. Stephen Reysen (Texas A&M University-Commerce).
Since it first launched two years ago, the Project has conducted two annual rounds of surveys of fans of anime/manga, and of other forms of visual, material, and popular culture. Respondents for them were recruited from among attendees at the A-Kon anime convention and another event not specifically focused on anime/manga, and solicited online – and the results of the surveys are now beginning to appear in issues of the online journal The Phoenix Papers:
- An examination of anime fan stereotypes. The Phoenix Papers, 2(2), 90-117.
- Different motivations as predictors of psychological connection to fan interest and fan groups in anime, furry, and fantasy sport fandoms. The Phoenix Papers, 2(2), 148-167.
- Not all fantasies are created equal: Fantasy sport fans’ perceptions of furry, brony, and anime fans. The Phoenix Papers, 2(1), 40-60.
- Pale and geeky: Prevailing stereotypes of anime fans. The Phoenix Papers, 2(1), 78-103.
- Predictors of fan entitlement in three fandoms. The Phoenix Papers, 2(2), 203-219.
- Sport fan as the default fan: Why non-sport fans are stigmatized. The Phoenix Papers, 2(2), 234-252.
And, the IARP team is now accepting responses to the 2016 Anime Survey.
As per their description:
“Broadly, we are interested in issues of the role of the anime community in peoples’ lives. In this study we will be collecting information about a variety of different aspects of anime culture in the hopes of gaining both a better understanding of anime fandom and to possibly expand our findings and compare the anime fandom to other types of fandoms (e.g., furries, sport, science fiction)…
…This year’s survey study will be collecting demographic information (e.g., age, sex) and attitudes and opinions regarding engagement with the fandom, perceptions of the fandom, identification with anime, perception of furries, preference for different genres, and well-being.tion with anime, perception of furries, preference for different genres, and well-being.”
The Survey has been reviewed by and received ethics clearance through the Texas A&M University-Commerce Institutional Review Board. And, all respondents are eligible to participate in a draw for Amazon gift certificates valued at $50 each.
As someone who studies anime fans ethnographically, I’m actually glad to see researchers addressing the fandom from a quantitative angle. Furries and anime fans overlap somewhat on the venn diagram from my experience, but I would expect that gamers would be an upcoming research priority since the overlap there is much deeper.