The monograph written by a single author and the article published in a peer-reviewed journal are two of the most common forms or formats of academic writing, and the ones that readers are generally the most intuitively familiar with. But they are not the only possible formats – another major one is a collection of essays, organized by a specific editor around a common theme, with contributions from a number of different authors – potentially from different academic fields, and often, different countries. As Brian Erb notes, in Beyond WorldCat: Accessing scholarly output in books and edited monographs “the importance of the edited book chapter for academic output should not be understated”, but of course, beyond simply academic output, there is also the question of the importance of these kinds of collections to readers – especially to readers who are looking for introductions to particular topics, for general overviews of major themes and issues, or for surveys of a variety of range of approaches.
In previous posts, I described some of what I think are the most useful single general books for anyone who is new to the field, and the major titles on specific creators/directors. Now, I would like to continue with this project, and present an overview of the major academic essay collections on anime/manga
Books on Anime/Manga, Part 1: Introductions and Overviews
Books on Anime/Manga, Part 2: Specific Directors/Creators
Books on Anime/Manga, Part 3 – Edited Essay Collections
Cinema Anime: Critical Engagements with Japanese Animation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006)
By the mid-2000’s, individual chapters on anime had already appeared in more general essay collections, and in 2001, Susan Napier was the first to publish a monograph with “Anime” in the title. Cinema Anime, bringing together nine leading scholars, builds on them by arguing that the only way to interact with anime critically is to consider that anime encompasses a “diversity of approaches”, styles, and modes of distribution – in short, there is no single or “best” way to examine Japanese animation. At the same time, the essays in it can be organized broadly into three groups: one set broadly examines how anime addresses “the politics of identity”, the next, one of anime’s most consistent themes – post-humanism, and the last set, the relationship between anime and cinema broadly defined.
Sample chapter: “Excuse me, who are you?”: Performance, the gaze, and the female in the works of Kon Satoshi
Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime (M. E. Sharpe, 2008)
An expansion in terms of both scope and size – to 14 chapters – Japanese Visual Culture seeks not just to present a range of “explorations”, but more importantly, to demonstrate why anime and manga should be considered from an a critical, academic perspective. Many of the explorations themselves are meant to be introductions or surveys – of particular types of anime/manga, of the way that particular subjects or topics are depicted, and of the works of specific creators. Only a couple of them specifically focus on single titles – and even then, the emphasis is on themes within these, as in “History and nostalgia in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away” and “Natural history as otaku fantasy: Satoshi Kon’s Millennium Actress“.
Sample chapter: Framing manga: On narratives of the Second World War in Japanese manga, 1957-1977
Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives (Continuum Publishing, 2010)
In a similar way to the previous two books, Manga: An Anthology aims to seize the opportunity offered by the argument that “manga has become cool”. Perhaps even more so than either of them, it is more a collection of essays than any kind of cohesive package. In a way, this makes it very useful as a reference work and an introduction to manga genres and age categories, major themes such as “food, communication and culture” and “gender, sex and sexuality”, and the global manga industry – although, of course, the global manga industry as it existed in 2010. On the other hand, the Reading Manga section, with three essays, approaches the much more complex task of highlighting some of the more specific structural features of manga – to differentiate it from other types or formats of sequential art.
Sample chapter: What boys will be: A study of shonen manga
Mangatopia: Essays on Manga and Anime in the Modern World (Libraries Unlimited, 2011)
The editors of this collection specifically positioned it as one that could serve as a reader’s first introduction to formal scholarly writing on anime/manga. Accordingly, the emphasis is once again on essays that explore broader thematic elements, rather than on studies of particular works. Several of the essays also specifically approach the question of what makes anime/manga appealing to non-Japanese audiences. In general, Mangatopia‘s tone and overall scope is somewhat less narrowly” academic; one explanation for this is that it is published by an imprint that specializes in books aimed at library professionals.
Sample chapter: Love through a different lens: Japanese homoerotic manga through the eyes of American gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and other sexualities readers
Japanese Animation: East Asian Perspectives (University Press of Mississippi, 2013)
More or less inevitably, the majority of writing on anime and manga in English is going to be authored by scholars for whom English is their first language, and who are themselves based in English-speaking countries. There can, of course, be some exceptions – of the 59 authors who contributed chapters to the four essay collections I highlighted above, 7 (12%) were based in Japan. And overs its ten volumes, Mechademia has made a consistent effort to present translations of seminal Japanese writing on anime/manga as well. But it is this collection that most explicitly highlights Japanese writing on anime, the history of animation and animation criticism in Japan, and the influence of anime specifically on visual media in other Asian countries.
Sample chapter: On the establishment and the history of the Japan Society for Animation Studies
Global Manga: Japanese Comics ‘Without’ Japan? (Ashgate, 2015)
Writing about manga requires, at some point, defining the term. “Japanese comics”, “Japanese comic books”, and “the collective comics traditions of Japan” have all been used. Neil Cohn proposes a complex approach of using manga to refer to “Japanese ‘comics’, the sociocultural objects, and often the industry and community surrounding them” – that most often relies on a graphic system of communication that he calls Japanese Visual Language (JVL). But, the question of how important is it for manga to be Japanese is equally worth asking. To answer it, Brienza proposes the possibility of a “manga style” – defined primarily and specifically by a presence of “symbolic and stylistic appropriation, borrowing, and/or reinterpretation” from actual Japanese comics – and the absence of any “actual [Japanese] economic and/or labor inputs into…production.” The essays in this collection review both particular approaches to the “manga style” around the world, and some of the debates about its validity and manga fans’ reactions to it.
Sample chapter: Scott Pilgrim vs. MANGAMAN: Two approaches to the negotiation of cultural difference
Boys’ Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre (McFarland Books, 2010)
Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture and Community in Japan (University Press of Mississippi, 2015)
These two volumes can be seen as companions; Boys’ Love Manga has a more global and comparative emphasis, with extensive discussions of fan activities in general, fan fiction in particular, and the “yaoi phenomenon”. Boys Love Manga and Beyond is focused specifically on the Japanese context – the genre’s history, the evolution of Japanese critical approaches to it, and the legal aspects of BL. Here too, the majority of the authors are Japanese, and two of the essays are translations of pieces that were originally published in Japan.
Yaoi and slash fiction: Women writing, reading, and getting off?
Fujoshi emergent: Shifting popular representations of yaoi/BL fandom in Japan
Anime and Philosophy: Wide Eyed Wonder (Open Court Publishing, 2010)
Manga and Philosophy: Fullmetal Metaphysician (Open Court Publishing (2010)
Open Court Publishing’s Popular Culture and Philosophy series of soft-cover books currently features more than 110 titles “exploring the meanings, concepts, and puzzles within television shows, movies, music and other icons of popular culture”.
The essays in the Anime and Manga volumes are relatively brief – around a dozen pages each – and written in a breezy and informal style. The key to understanding these books is simply accepting that in the context of their titles, “philosophy” is used in the broadest possible sense of moral and ethical questions – and fairly general questions about anime and manga.
As such, the essays in them are meant to be analytical and informative – and perhaps educational – but they are not intended to add to any ongoing academic conversations.
Cyborg songs for an existential crisis
Showing the world the right path: Gundam Wing
Manga in general has been the focus of several more collections, such as possibly out-of-print Reading Manga: Local and Global Perceptions of Japanese Comics, Manga’s Cultural Crossroads, notable for a section specifically on the globally bestselling Naruto manga, International Perspectives on Shojo and Shojo Manga: The Influence of Girl Culture, which includes both essays and interviews with a number of leading manga creators, and Manga Vision: Cultural and Communicative Perspectives. One more pair of books that can be treated as companions are Manga and the Representation of Japanese History and Rewriting History in Manga: Stories for the Nation. It is also useful to consider several titles that cover topics broader that anime/manga specifically, but certainly contain plenty of useful essays – Debating Otaku in Contemporary Japan, Fandom Unbound: Otaku Culture in a Connected World, The End of Cool Japan: Ethical, Legal, and Cultural Challenges to Japanese Popular Culture, and The Japanification of Children’s Popular Culture: From Godzilla to Miyazaki. One more such title seemed destined for irrelevance, but, fourteen years after it was first published, Pikachu’s Global Adventure: The Rise and Fall of Pokemon remains relevant and useful – and maybe due for an update!
One of the coolest things about anime and manga studies as an academic field is that it is still very much expanding. The brand-new collection Introducing Japanese Popular Culture is one major addition; Princess Mononoke: Understanding Studio Ghibli’s Monster Princess, in Bloomsbury Academic’s “Animation: Key Films/Filmmakers” series, which I look forward to profiling, is another. But, even without mentioning these new books, I once again hope that I can highlight the sheer diversity of materials that are currently available to anyone who is interested in studying Japanese animation and Japanese comics and the variety of ways in which scholars are approaching anime and manga!
A basic “feature” of academic/scholarly writing – one of the markers of scholarly writing as a genre, and what differentiates it from other types of writing – is the use of citations to previously published scholarship. Scholars, regardless of the fields they work in, and the types of publications they are working on, draw on – and engage with – other publications. But, the specifics of these kinds of engagements differ widely various academic fields. And one particular way in which academic fields often differ is the use of specific “formats” of previously published scholarship. For example, as Vincent Lariviere, et al., point out in The place of serials in referencing practices: Comparing natural sciences and engineering with social sciences and the humanities – “journal literature is increasingly important in the natural and social sciences, but that its role in the humanities is stagnant”. Graham Sherriff examines this in “Information use in history research“, and Bryan Young does in “What do engineering researchers cite?”
For now, as anime and manga studies is still establishing itself as an academic field, I think it is important to simply continue highlighting the kinds of sources that anime/manga scholars – or, really, anyone interested in academic approaches to anime/manga can use – regardless of whether or not these resources make their way into any papers’ “notes” or “works cited” sections. But, at a later point, I certainly hope to be able to conduct a more formal, in-depth study of the kinds or formats of publications (as well as specific journals and even specific books) anime/manga scholars rely on in their work.]