A couple of months ago, I presented a fairly straight-forward question – when we talk about anime/manga studies (and even just academic writing on anime/manga in general), how many publications are we actually talking about? A few dozen? Several hundred? More?

This led me to draw on the work that I do in compiling the annual editions of the Bibliography of Anime/Manga Studies and extract some specific numbers from them to put together a broader picture of “publishing trends” in anime/manga studies. This goes towards answering the overall ‘how many?’ question, but also shows how the numbers have changed over the years, what journals have been particularly welcoming to scholarly writing on anime/manga, and who the publishers of those journals are.

In extracting the numbers, though, I had to make various somewhat arbitrary choices. And now, I hope I can at least explain the reasoning behind them.

A Preliminary Study of Anime/Manga Studies Article Publication Trends, 1993-2015 – Methodology

Based on my research, from 1993 to 2015, academic journals published at least 981 English-language articles on anime/manga and related topics. The overall results, by year, can be seen in this chart:


[ed. note: this chart differs somewhat from the one in the one in my original study. In particular, in the last several months, I have identified several more items that were published in 2014 and 2015, and so, the total figures for those years, as well as the overall number of publications, are both slightly higher.]

Two things are immediately obvious:

  • Overall, the number of articles on anime/manga published annually has increased almost constantly from 1993 on, with significant jumps in some years such as 2002 and 2008. The decline in 2012 may simply be a quirk – in that year, unlike in many others, no journal published a special issue on anime/manga. Similarly, the decline from 2013 to 2014 and 2015 can best be explained by the simple lag time that it may sometimes take for articles, especially those that appear in newer journals, to be covered by databases.
  • Interestingly, major “corporate” publishers such as Wiley, Springer, Taylor & Francis and Elsevier do not play a particularly major role in publishing articles on anime/manga; university presses and independent publishers dominate. In fact, a study published last year, The oligopoly of academic publishers in the digital era, notes that “papers in arts and humanities are still largely dispersed amongst many smaller publishers” – and my findings seem to agree with that statement.

Presenting these results, though, forces several questions – in particular

  • Why is the chronological scope of this study restricted in the way that it is?
  • What do I mean by ‘academic journals’?
  • What exactly do I mean by ‘anime/manga and related topics’?
  • What kinds of sources do I actually draw on?
  • How do I actually structure my searches?
  • What kinds of items, if any, did I exclude?

A follow-up, and related, question is – what are the limitations of this study. What, if anything, have I ignored? Going forward, how can it be improved?

So, first things first – keeping in mind that the earliest English-language academic article on Japanese comics that I am aware of was published in 1977, why did I decide to narrow the chronological scope of the study to articles published from 1993 on?

1993 was the year in which Susan Napier published Panic sites: The Japanese imagination of disaster from Godzilla to Akira, the first article on anime specifically to appear in an English-language academic journal. In fact, in his own From Ground Zero to degree zero: Akira from origin to oblivion, in 2014’s “Origins” volume of Mechademia, Christopher Bolton specifically talks about it – along with Akira itself – as a “point of origin” in anime/manga studies. And, for that matter, while no papers on anime or manga were published in English in the previous year, Napier’s was one of four such articles to appear in 1993 – and, at least several new ones appeared every year after that. For that matter, 2015 is simply the last full year that I can build an Annual Bibliography for – though even then, I’m only now becoming aware of some of the articles that were published last year and clearly fit within the study’s scope. Of course, at some point next year, I will be able to add this year’s results to it as well.

What do mean by ‘academic journals’?

Long-form writing on anime/manga can – and does – appear in many different types of sources. Trying to keep track of all of them – blogs, newspapers and magazines, and a basically infinite number of websites, is impossible. So, this study is restricted to materials in scholarly/academic journals – that is, publications that appear on a regular schedule, and are aimed at a particular audience. The individual articles are characterized by a particular language/tone of voice – and, more importantly, by formal features such as citations to previously published scholarship. Exactly what is an academic journal is, of course, also a question of some debate, but Casey Brienza, in Activism, legitimation, or record: Towards a new tripartite typology of academic journals, provides a useful overview. And, of course, the formats of the articles themselves differ quite a lot based on conventions followed by different academic disciplines and the specific styles of the different journals.

What kinds of sources did I draw on for this study, and how did I go about selecting the individual articles?

Anime/manga studies is a field that is inherently interdisciplinary, and open to a wide range of approaches – so, articles on topics related to anime and manga can – and do – appear in many different journals. Simply looking at articles published in journals on animation, or comics, or film, or Japanese studies, or for that matter, any other subject area would leave out way too much. So, instead of a “source-oriented” approach, I focused instead on the articles themselves – by searching for both relevant keywords, such as ‘anime’, ‘manga’, ‘Japanese animation’, ‘Japanese comics’, etc. and specified subject headings in a wide range of interdisciplinary and subject-specific academic databases, as well as sources such as Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search.

I am careful to keep in mind Kelly Blessenger and Maureen Olle’s findings, in Content analysis of the leading general academic databases, that these kinds of databases do not cover all journals equally, and so, supplemented the database searches with examining the notes/works cited sections of as many articles as I was able to access, and recorded any others that I had not already been aware of. In addition, I periodically reviewed the tables of contents of new issues of journals that I already knew had published scholarship on anime/manga in the past – or, that based on their titles and areas of emphasis, were likely to publish such scholarship. Finally, again, as with compiling the bibliographies, the only ways I found out about some of the articles was from their authors directly.

What do I mean by ‘anime/manga and related topics’?

Of course, ultimately, the decision whether or not to actually include an article in the bibliography is one I have to make subjectively. Again, with some, it’s easy – one with a title like Evil must be punished: Apocalyptic religion in the television series Death Note or Breaking boundaries: The representation of split identity in anime cleary should be included. But an article such as  Adolescents’ anime-inspired “fanfictions”: An exploration of multiliteracies definitely expands the range of the subject. Overall, if an article discusses one or more anime/manga titles, the works of a particular director/creator, the anime/manga industry, how anime/manga are distributed to audiences, or anime/manga fan activities broadly defined, I included it. If it simply mentions anime/manga in passing, I did not. My approach can be compared to those used in ‘New media’ research publication trends and outlets in communication, 1990-2006 (a search the Communication and Mass Media Complete index for articles that contained any of sixteen different specific terms in their titles) and in Mainstreaming human rights: Publishing trends in political science (a search for any articles published in the 15 top journals in a particular field, based on a previously published ranking, that contained any of a number of potentially relevant keywords in their titles or abstracts).

What kinds of items, if any, did I exclude?

Two other decisions I made were to limit my selection slightly by excluding any articles in languages other than English (the bibliographies do cover some articles with titles and/or abstracts in English, but that are actually in other languages – primarily French), and any that were shorter than 5 pages. This primarily means that the final figure leaves out several dozen shorter pieces that appeared in magazines aimed primarily at educators and in newsletters published by professional associations.

Limitations and shortcomings

One obvious limitation of this study is that its chronological scope is not comprehensive – I am aware of at least 9 articles on manga that were published in English-language academic journals before 1993. On the other hand, given that the individual articles I examine were chose subjectively, its scope is perhaps overly broad. Again, would somebody else accept every article that I selected for inclusion as fitting under the “anime/manga studies” label? This is particularly true for articles in specialized legal, medical, and technical journals. Finally, while this study certainly provides an expansive picture of publication trends in anime/manga studies, again, it is not comprehensive – and ignores monographs, essay collections, and the many individual chapters in books such as Super/Heroes: From Hercules to SupermanClassics and Comics, and Simultaneous Worlds: Global Science Fiction Cinema that, had they been published in the form of journal articles, would definitely have been included!


Despite these limitations, again, given that my goal with this project is simply to demonstrate the extent to which scholars around the world have now accepted anime/manga as an object of study, I think I achieve it adequately. As a result of it, I would like to believe that we are now able to talk about anime/manga studies in the abstract, argue about the field’s directions, criticize its shortcomings and inadequacies, and look forward to correct them, but, at the same time, we are also able to describe it using some concrete numbers!

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