In “Global and Local Materialiaties of Anime”, her contribution to the essay collection Television, Japan, and Globalization (Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan, 2010), Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano presented what I still think is one of the sharpest criticisms of “anime studies” as it comes together as an academic field:
With anime studies as a forming discipline, discussions often center on the visually more complex anime “films”, but not on the domestic and mass-produced anime TV series. Big budget anime films such as Metropolis, Princess Mononoke, Ghost in the Shell, and Akira are frequently discussed, along with their contemporary critical themes of technological alienatation, environmental issues, cyborg feminism, and postmodernity, while the majority of TV anime series have been neglected, since an analysis would require an examination of anime’s connections with local audiences and the complex popular culture of Japan.”Global and Local Materialities of Anime, p. 245
But, does this statement – made in 2010 – still hold today, in 2019? That is, as scholars are making their contributions to anime (and manga) studies right now, what films and TV series and comics are they actually discussing? The same ones over and over again, or new and different titles?
A comprehensive list of English-language scholarly publications on anime/manga that have appeared this year so far would be able to provide at least some of the answers to these kinds of questions. And the Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies, 2019 is just such a list!
My approach for this study, then, is a basic content analysis of English-language scholarly publications on anime/manga that appeared in 2019 to identify the specific titles that they discuss – in particular, where the subject film, series, or comic is specifically mentioned in the title of the publication or in the abstract. A good example is Faith and spirituality in Naoko Takeuchi’s Bishojo Senshi Sera Mun. For the purposes of this analysis, I am not looking at studies that deal with anime/manga “in general”, or with more abstract concepts – such as in Scripted voices: Script’s role in creating Japanese manga dialogue.
Results: Based on my sources and scope, I was able to identify 51 specific “examples” of an anime or manga work discussed extensively in an English-language scholarly publication that appeared in 2019. There were multiple discussions of:
Doraemon, Ghost in the Shell (in 3 publications each)
Dragon Ball Z, Kantai Collection, Sailor Moon, Your Name (in 2 each)
This means that discussions in anime/manga studies in 2019 considered at least 37 more titles. Some of these are perhaps expected, such as Akira, Perfect Blue, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. In other cases, while the titles themselves have not received much academic attention to date, they are fairly well-known outside Japan: Cowboy Bebop, Madoka, Psycho-Pass, and The Rose of Versailles are all good examples. But nonetheless, there are a further number of studies that significantly expand the “scope” of the field, by considering both “classic” works such as Appleseed, Barefoot Gen, and Uzumaki, relatively recent ones and even ongoing titles (Attack on Titan, Black Butler, Golden Kamuy, One-Punch Man, Yuri on Ice!!!), and a number that are still largely unknown to Western audiences: Kūki Ningyō (adapted into a live-action film directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda), KOBAN, Natsuko’s Sake, and Red, although it is true that English-language scholarship on anime series still generally only considers those that are available in English translation.
In any case, at least the example of this year does seem to support the argument the the “state” of anime and manga studies in 2019 has moved beyond the criticisms of a decade ago. Like the broader field of Japanese popular culture studies, anime and manga studies is dynamic, “a field in formation” – and one that is evolving significantly just as, over the last ten years, Japanese animation and Japanese comics too have changed significantly in many ways.