What kinds of formats does writing on Japanese animation appear in? Full-length books, essays on a common theme, individual chapters in edited collections, and articles in peer-reviewed journals all represent the more “scholarly” type of writing on anime, while plenty of blogs still present individual writers’ individual perspectives. The mainstream press does pay attention to anime occasionally, but that attention is awkward at best, and often leads to controversy and accusations of hopeless misunderstanding. At the same time, the “enthusiast” media that focuses on anime and the anime fan community around the world is very much thriving, with sites such as Anime News Network now embracing feature articles, and Anime Feminist establishing itself as an unapologetically ideological outlet for commentary from a particular and very specific point of view.
Each of these formats welcomes a particular style or genre of writing. But other styles of writing on anime can exist as well – and may be best served by other formats. One such style can probably be best described as “creative nonfiction” – short pieces that are still very much personal and subjective, but longer and perhaps even a bit more elaborate than blog posts, but definitely not written in formal academic language or following any kind of style that would require notes, citations, and references. An example of writing in this style is Anime Impact: The Movies and Shows that Changed Japanese Animation (Mango Publishing, 2018) – several dozen short pieces, each only two or three pages, on a “major” (or Important, or Significant, or simply Meaningful) anime film or series. Probably this book’s biggest claim to fame, and certainly the kind of thing that got it noticed, was that one of the contributors was Ernest Cline, the author of the best-selling novel Ready Player One.
And now, it appears that Crunchyroll wants to follow the same model with Essential Anime: Fan Favorites, Memorable Masterpieces, and Cult Classics – currently set to be published next April by the Running Press imprint of Hachette Book Group. At this point, the book’s full scope is not yet clear, though according to descriptions that have been released so far, it will cover “50 influential and unforgettable anime series and films” – from Astro Boy to Demon Slayer, with pretty much all of the “expected” titles, especially those released over the last 40 or so years, included.
It is important to emphasize that it’s not meant to compete with or even complement the scholarly monographs and edited essay collections. Essential Anime is, unapologetically, casual reading, the kind of thing that is meant to catch your eye in a bookstore before you have too much time to really think about it. But this kind of book can actually serve a useful function – it’s great for someone who is curious about Japanese animation, may even have heard a few different titles and names, but wants to choose from a range of different movies and series without relying on either on one hand, or simply what just happens to be available and right there front and center on Netflix on the other. And it’s equally as encouraging simply to see that the two writers in charge of this project (both of whom are experienced anime journalists) have faith in its viability, and have convinced Crunchyroll, right now the flagship venue for streaming English-subtitled Japanese animation to Western audiences, to commit to publishing this book under the Crunchyroll brand!