After several months of intensive work, I am pleased to announce the final program for this year’s AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium. Running over all four days of Anime Expo, the largest anime convention in the U.S., the Symposium brings together a group of scholars who are interested in presenting their academic research on topics related to Japanese animation and Japanese comics directly to Anime Expo’s attendees. The symposium has several goals – to foster the development of a community of anime/manga studies, to give scholars an opportunity to share their work with an appreciative and understanding audience, and to introduce attendees to the practices of academic research. The Symposium does not have a particular theme – it is meant to welcome different kinds of approaches, drawing on a variety of sources and research methods. This year, it features over 20 speakers, including faculty members, graduate students, undergraduates, and independent scholars. The full program consists of a keynote address, three special guest lectures, a special roundtable discussion, and five sessions of individual presentations. The exact dates and times for all of the sessions will be confirmed in the coming days.

AX 2016 Academic Program

Friday, July 1

6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Keynote Address

Anime for Aspiring Filmmakers: Lessons from the USC School of Cinematic Arts

Ellen SeiterWhy should American film students pay attention to anime? In the AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium Keynote Address, Prof. Ellen Seiter, holder of the University of Southern California’s Stephen K. Nenno Endowed Chair in Television Studies, shares her thoughts on the distinctive visual, dramatic and narrative language of Japanese animation in film and television, and on what aspiring filmmakers can learn from anime directors such as the late Satoshi Kon, especially in the contemporary environment of digital production and distribution.

Prof. Ellen Seiter (University of Southern California)

Dr. Seiter received her BA in Anthropology from UCLA, and her MFA and PHD degrees in film from Northwestern University. Dr. Seiter specializes in audience research – anime being the most fascinating case study of all, children and youth media, semiotics, intellectual property law and media economics. Books she has authored include The Internet Playground: Children’s Access, Entertainment and Mis-Education (Peter Lang, 2005), Television and New Media Audiences (Oxford, 1999), and Sold Separately: Children and Parents in Consumer Culture (Rutgers, 1993). Her most recent work, The Creative Artist’s Legal Guide: Copyright, Trademark and Contracts in Film and Digital Media Production, which she co-authored with her attorney brother Bill Seiter was published in 2012 by Yale University Press.  She is currently writing a book on Teen TV series for Routledge.

7:45 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.
Session 1: Words, Scripts, Implications: Creating Meaning in Anime and Manga

  • Sounding Out the Pictures: Manga Sound Effects, Meanings, and Translation
    Andrew John Smith (Indiana University of Pennsylvania)

This talk looks to discuss the unique world of comic sound effects, specifically those found in manga. Although many readers may not think about them directly, sound effects affect their ability to read, enjoy, and understand graphic texts—meaning that an inability to understand them can stop understanding, and changing them can potentially cause a disastrous misreading. Sound effects can carry just as much meaning, weight, and import as the dialogue and art they accompany, and this discussion looks to introduce that concept and expand the scope of what can be studied when it comes to graphic works.

  • Can the Pop-Idol Speak?: The Role of Voice in Satoshi Kon’s Films
    John Ballarino (Bridgewater State University)

Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue is a film about identity: the conflict of the film is driven by the divide that exist between how people perceive the main character, Mima, as a commercial commodity and a woman, and in turn how Mima perceives herself. I analyze how this is portrayed symbolically throughout the film through the motif of Mima’s voice, developing being owned and sold by others to being entirely her own. This provides a useful approach to better understand the outside influences influencing her identity and development as a character, revealing a strong criticism of the expectations of women in a patriarchal society.

  • Drawing Lines between Boys and Girls: What do we Mean by “Shōnen” and “Shōjo”?
    Mia Lewis (Stanford University)

While manga combines image and text, it divides boys and girls. In bookstores in Japan manga is divided primarily by the gender of the target audience, often separated onto different floors in larger bookstores. This reflects the gendered division that begins in manga zasshi [comics magazines] and continues through the media mix chain. This talk will briefly overview how this distinction has been discussed in previous scholarship, and shifted over the years. This talk will also introduce preliminary results from my ongoing research on the divisions between these genres. One of these research projects examines how the reader’s sections in shōjo manga proscribe the ideal work to readers and aspiring artists to a far greater extent than their shōnen equivalents. The other examines formalist distinctions between contemporary shōnen and shōjo manga in order to explore what it means when we open a comic, glance at it, and declare it to be one or the other.

Saturday, July 2

3:45 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.
Session 2: Reflections of a Changing Japan in Modern Japanese Visual Culture

  • Salaryman at the Black Factory: Absurdist Loserdom and Labor Politics in Osomatsu-san
    Danielle Frankel Choi (University of Southern California) and Calvin Choi

This presentation investigates the archetype of the “loser” in Osomatsu-san, the 2015 anime reboot of the well-known Osomatsu-kun (1966-67, 88-89) franchise. Tensions inherent in the image of the salaryman—simultaneously a signifier of socio-economic stability, yet also of soulless drudgery—paradoxically position it as a personally unfulfilling career, and also a desirable marker of traditional (masculine) success that is no longer attainable for a young workforce in Japan’s late capitalist global economy. Osomatsu-san’s structure and content preclude any possibility of financial or personal success for its characters, offering a revealing critique of contemporary labor politics in a post-industrial Japan.

  • Fantastic Damage – Architecture, Anime, Destruction, and Tokyo
    Evan Jones

Of all of the Earth’s major cities, perhaps none have undergone more cataclysmic changes in a shorter time period than Tokyo. Earthquakes, modernization, firebombings, and urban renewal have changed the three dimensional Tokyo just as much – if not more – than giant robots, angels, or magical girls have changed a myriad number of two dimensional versions. By analyzing the city as both a historical entity and as a narrative setting, Evan Jones will explore Tokyo as a cityscape of limitless flexibility, one which creators and visionaries bend and manipulate at will to satisfy various wants and needs. This presentation will use a number of visuals to highlight various animated interpretations of Tokyo with an emphasis on important representational shifts.

  • Good Eating and Social Meetings: The Semiotics of Food in Goro Miyazaki’s From Up on Poppy Hill
    Verna Zafra (University of Guam)

Depictions of making and consuming food have been prominent throughout the history of Japanese animation and Japanese comics.. This presentation will overview development, role, and significance that food plays in anime/manga, and the place of Japanese media in the emerging academic field of “food studies”. In Goro Miyazaki’s From Up on Poppy Hill, food can be interpreted as a sign that carries various meanings, which in turn underscore and facilitate specific themes, such as family, camaraderie in the community, and role fulfillment.

5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Session 3: Examining and Questioning Japan’s Place in the World

  • On This Side of the Gate: Politics and Geopolitics in Contemporary Anime
    Paul S. Price

Gate presents a right-wing view of Japan by combining an irruption of a fantasy world into Japan with the real world of the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) and Japanese politics and geopolitics. Gate is a tale of the vindication of three underdogs: Japan, the JSDF, and otakus/otaku culture. Japan maybe a small country surrounded by more powerful nations. The JSDF maybe under funded and under suspicion at home and viewed as a joke by other nations. Otaku culture may not be viewed as exemplary or even entirely adult. In Gate, however, all three are more than conquerors.

  • The Real Limit on the Cult of Speed: Attack on Titan’s Ambivalent (Anti-)Fascism
    N. Trace Cabot (University of Southern California)

Attack on Titan’s engagement with the narrative and visual conventions of Japanese ultra-nationalist manga and anime combines an enthusiastic engagement with these elements, on their own terms and with the full strength of their appeal, with the violent interruption of these elements, their foundational myths being torn apart in an impossible blur of teeth. Situating this analysis alongside an overview of the ideological characteristics of Japanese ultra-nationalism and its history in manga/anime from the 1960s and onwards, this key to reading AoT presents insights into the character of these phenomenon in Japan’s animation and comics tradition and its political imaginary.

  • Ghosts of February 26: The Officers Plot and the Keitai Revolution in Eden of the East and Gatchaman Crowds
    Jordan Marshak

On February 26, 1936 a group in the Imperial Japanese Military calling themselves the Young Officers attempted an uprising in Tokyo and a series of assassinations, calling on the the people and the  Emperor to lead a “Showa restoration” to end economic inequality through the abolition of capitalism and corrupt party politics. Taking inspiration from the shishi of the Meiji restoration, its low status samurai leaders, they belong to a rich tradition of Japanese radicals who have attempted, armed with unfailing moral clarity, to use symbolic violence to bring about social transformation. This talk discusses two recent TV anime that engage with this tradition and the memory of the Young Officers as a potential model for addressing the many social crises of post-bubble Japan and wrestle with its continuing legacy and importance while ultimately endorsing different methods of radical action.

6:45 p.m. – 7:45 p.m.
Session 4: 50 Years of Anime in America, 50 Years of American Anime Fans

  • What You Watch Is What You Are?: Early Anime and Manga Fandom in the United States
    Andrea Horbinski (University of California, Berkeley)

How did anime and manga first enter U.S. fandom, and why were people watching “Japanimation”? Using materials from the Fred Patten collection, this paper explores early anime and manga fandom in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. The problems that early fans faced were similar to those faced by Japanese audiences encountering English-language movies in the 1910s and 1920s, and the fans who watched anime in these years did so for similar reasons: anime offered them content they wanted mixed with appealing foreign-ness. The practices these fans pioneered eventually gave rise to the U.S. anime and manga industry.

  • Anime in the US in the 1990’s and 2000’s: Unauthorized distribution as a catalyst for evolution
    Allison Hawkins

Whether it was a copied VHS tape or a fansubbed video, chances are that you or someone you know has viewed anime through unauthorized means of distribution. With a consumer base formed partially by fans acting as creators and distributors, how has the anime market continued to grow? How do these fan distributors coexist with corporate distributors in an expanding market? This talk explores the way in which unauthorized distribution played a role in creating the current market of anime fandom and what that history means for the market today.

  • Persuasion or Pleasure: Cosplayers’ Use of Social Media as a Rhetorical Tool
    Caitlin Postal (California State University, Northridge)

This talk focuses on the fan practice of cosplay through a rhetorical analysis of cosplayers’ use of social media when building their online persona. Through personal interviews conducted with cosplayers and a textual analysis of their social media posts, we can see how Cicero’s three offices of rhetoric (instruction, pleasure, persuasion) work in the minds and pages of well-known cosplayers. From there, let’s consider how social media affects the performative nature of cosplay.

Sunday, July 3

2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Special Session: Using Anime and Manga in Education

In this session, three practicing educators provide responses to the question of how manga, anime, and other Japanese popular culture texts can be incorporated in a formal classroom setting. Old and new challenges to educators color this question – proscribed academic standards that limit teacher autonomy, barriers to students who struggle with traditional forms of literacy, and persistent conceptions of gender that reinforce certain types of readings of these texts. The session will review strategies to overcome these problems as well as engage the audience to consider how using Japanese popular culture texts can redefine gender, literacy, and ultimately what it means to “read”.

Moderator: Prof. Brent Allison (University of North Georgia)

Brent AllisonAfter a childhood partly “wasted” on Mazinger-Z and Hyakujuu-Ou Go-Lion (Tranzor-Z and Voltron in the U.S.), Brent was unaware that some of his childhood TV diet came from Japan originally. During his first week as a grad student at UGA, Brent came across a group of students who showed him the anime that he had long forgotten. Falling back in love with anime, he eventually wrote his doctoral dissertation on how anime fans teach other and learn about Japanese culture. Brent has been studying anime fandom and presenting his findings at academic conventions and anime cons ever since. He currently makes his living as an associate professor at University of North Georgia on a rural branch campus easily walked in two minutes. Brent also serves on the editorial board of the anime, manga, and video game-oriented academic journal Mechademia as well as on the editorial board of the Journal of Fandom Studies. He’s also faculty advisor of his campus’s anime club Anime Anonymous and loves visiting other anime clubs and conventions too.

  • Creating Confident Readers Through Unconventional Texts
    Stevi Grimm (Jefferson Union High School District, Daly City, CA)
  • Digital Literacy: Expanding Students’ Literary Toolkits with Manga
    Alexandra Dean (Eastern Illinois University)
  • Incorporating Anime and Manga into Gender Studies Courses
    Derek S. McGrath (Stony Brook University)

3:45 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.
Special Guest Lecture

Girls Und Robots – Re-Evaluating “Genre” Demarcations in Anime

The evolution of the “Robot Anime” and “Magical Girl” genres since the 1960s has led to an expansion of target audience beyond their initial toy-sale-oriented origins and today the demarcation lines are blurred between the two. Looking at anime series today, we often find aspects of one in the other.  Using the examples of the SF fandom controversy surrounding the original Gundam series, the development of the Macross franchise, and the coming-of-age of shojo manga with Hagio Moto and Takemiya Keiko, we will attempt to describe the various cultural and social factors surrounding how the requisites for anime genres have been maintained throughout the last five decades, while narrative complexity, visual grammar and media literacy have developed the core of the surrounding anime fandom culture.

Prof. Renato Rivera Rusca (Meiji University)

Renato Rivera Rusca 2Renato Rivera Rusca, M.A. is a graduate of the Japanese Studies program at Stirling University in Scotland and conducted his postgraduate research in sociology and Japanese popular culture in Osaka University and Kyoto University. He has lectured at the Manga Faculty at Kyoto Seika University and has participated in many projects organized by the Kyoto International Manga Museum. Prof. Rusca teaches classes on manga and animation culture at the School of Global Japanese Studies, Meiji University and coordinates the Meiji University Cool Japan Summer Program. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Astrosociology Research Institute. His publications include chapters in the essay collection Manga Vision: Cultural and Communicative Perspectives (Monash University Publishing) and Mechademia vol. 8: Tezuka’s Manga Life (University of Minnesota Press) in English, and 『宇宙エレベーターの本:実現したら未来はこうなる』(Uchuu Erebeetaa no hon: jitsugen shitara mirai wa kou naru / The Space Elevator Book: The Shape of the FutureSociety) (Aspect Publishing) in Japanese.

5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Special Guest Lecture
Anime and Manga in Hollywood – and What Happens Next

Northrop Davis 2In a fascinating look at the interrelated history of Japanese manga/anime and Hollywood since the Meiji period through to World War II and up to the present day – and even to into the future, Prof. Northrop Davis will bring his extensive experience in the business and artistic intersection between manga/anime and Hollywood to talk about the latest projects in Hollywood live-action adaptations of anime/manga. Which ones have a good chance of working? What others might not work so well. The media industries in the United States and Japan are now accelerating into new forms of hybridization that will drive much of future storytelling entertainment. Drawing on original interviews with top creators in these fields and other research that he used when writing Manga and Anime Go to Hollywood, just published earlier this year by Bloomsbury Academic, Prof. Davis will show how to use this knowledge creatively to shape the future of global narrative storytelling, including through the educational system.

Prof. Northrop Davis (University of South Carolina)

Northrop Davis is a screenwriter who teaches screen and television writing and manga/anime studies. He earned his B.A. at Duke University and his MFA at California Institute of the Arts. He has sold three Hollywood projects:  his science fiction script Cyber Ship to Warner Brothers and two pitches, one to Columbia/Sony Studios and another to 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, both of which he subsequently wrote as screenplays.  He has also taught courses on manga and anime at the University of California, Irvine, and in 2012, received the University of South Carolina’s Michael J. Mungo Undergraduate Teaching Award. He was also awarded a Provost’s grant for adapting his story into a manga that is currently in production and will be published next year. Prof. Davis published a number of print articles in the US and abroad in leading publications in his field. His book Manga and Anime Go to Hollywood is now out from Bloomsbury Academic.

Monday, July 4

12:45 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.
Session 5: Applying Auteur, Critical, and Feminist Theory to Anime

  • Open Continuity: Ecofeminist Dialogue and Inclusiveness in Princess Mononoke
    Josh Easton (University of Evansville)

Within ecofeminist thought and theory, the concept of continuity, as articulated by scholars such as Val Plumwood and Lisa Kretz, provides a good fit for the content of Hayao Miyazaki’s powerful and deeply evocative film. This view recognizes how humans engage in othering behaviors, distancing themselves from their natural environments. Application of this viewpoint indicates, society ought to move away from such a conceptualization of the self, as well as other harmful dualisms which inform our anthropocentric attitudes and interfere with the creation of an environmental ethic that is truly respectful of nature. This talk incorporates additional sources and works dealing with philosophy and bioethics and themes such as animal rights and the consideration of time in relation to the natural environment.

  • Adaptation and Evolution in Japanese Visual Culture
    Amanda Kennell (University of Southern California)

Contemporary media production methods have been theorized in two similar ways, as transmedia storytelling and as the media mix, by Henry Jenkins and Otsuka Eiji, respectively.  This talk introduces adaptation as a way to reconsider how stories come to be (re)told and suggests how art can evolve through adaptation using Yamamoto Sayo’s Lupin the 3rd: A Woman Called Mine Fujiko (2012) as a case study.

  • Anime Archives: Digital Curation and Scholarly Perspectives
    Johnathan Lau

This presentation explores “alternative” archival spaces (“surfaces”) of Japanese animation and the historical intersections between scholars and fans, shifting ethics, means of viewing and distribution. It proposes that careful consideration of these trends benefits not only fan studies, but studies of the works themselves in an evolving technological context. Here certain parallels are highlighted between comments on streaming video and file-sharing websites, and the tradition of colophons on Sino-Japanese handscrolls. The talk then proceeds to discuss the unstable nature of these “anime archives,” extending this instability to the notion of the digital archive. A case study of the file-sharing website is explored alongside theories of a utopian “archival commons.”

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Special Guest Lecture
Translating Cool: Teaching Popular Culture Through the Lens of Translation

The global trade and the advent of the Internet have turned local cultural products into easily accessible entertainment worldwide, including comics, cartoons, dramas, films, video games, etc. These products undergo a wide array of different processes of translation and localization on their way to foreign audiences — from subtitles, to dubs, to edits, to full remakes, and everywhere in between — demonstrating how profit driven corporations and fan culture intersect in translation practices. Based on a 2015 course taught at Stanford University, this talk looks at how Japanese and Korean popular culture can be used to teach translation, to link theory to practice, and to challenge students to critically examine their own consumption habits.

Mia Lewis (Stanford University)

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