In the opening pages of the introduction to the textbook Introducing Japanese Popular Culture, first published in 2018 and last year updated in a second edition, the book’s editors call Japanese popular culture studies “a field in formation”. Support for this assertion is easy to find. Scholarly writing on anime, manga, and other categories of Japanese popular culture continues to expand. Just recently, a major research university announced a search for an “Assistant Professor in Japanese contemporary literature and culture – with interdisciplinary research and teaching interests in manga and animé”. For the first time, the winner of the Best Academic/Scholarly Work category at the Eisner Awards is a volume on Japanese comics! And even a quick search of college course lists will demonstrate that Asian/East Asian Studies departments now commonly offer classes on Japanese popular culture!

And now, we can now add another major development to all of these, with the announcement by Cambridge University Press of plans to publish, later this year, The Cambridge Companion to Manga and Anime. Edited by the leading manga scholar Jaqueline Berndt (Stockholm University), and bringing together the work of almost 20 authors, this Companion intends to position itself as a “dialogue on the study of manga and anime” that can serve to specifically introduce questions for further discussion and topics for further research.

For that matter, this kind of book can be many things. Previous publications, especially Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime (2008) and Mangatopia: Essays on Manga and Anime in the Modern World (2011) were largely just collections of individual essays, without much of an overarching theme. The emphasis, if there was any, was on the unique features of particular manga and anime. The organizing principle here, on the other hand, is the idea of “forms” – not just anime and manga themselves as forms, but also of a broad scope of forms that are relevant to both manga and anime. What this “form-conscious” approach means is that the Companion is first and foremost a collection of studies of “visuals, voices and storytelling”, the roles of the different parties involve in manga/anime production, and, ultimately, audiences and fans.

…this volume offers a lively and accessible introduction, exploring the local contexts of manga and anime production, distribution, and reception in Japan, as well as the global influence and impact of these versatile media

At the same time, the Companion also makes some specific statements that are key to how any discussion about anime and manga even develops. In this way, right in the book’s opening chapter, Prof. Berndt takes the position that while “Manga is often translated as Japanese comics, just as anime is frequently defined as Japanese animation”, for the purposes of this book, “manga and anime” refer to particular kinds of Japanese comics and animation – “corporate productions published in specialized venues and formats: not American-modeled “comic books” but magazines, trade paperbacks (tankōbon), and webtoons in the case of manga; TV series and related franchise movies of drawing-based animation in the case of anime…”

“Manga is often translated as Japanese comics, just as anime is frequently defined as Japanese animation”

This leads into a discussion of the major similarities between manga and anime – defined very broadly – features and characteristics such as the idea that they are “based more on drawing than photographic capture”, and both “show a strong inclination to refrain from explicit sociopolitical representation in favor of fantastic settings and unpredictable narrative outcome”. These kinds of similarities in turn can be used to create a definition of sorts.

In aesthetic terms, manga and…anime, are multimodal forms of
storytelling based on simple line drawing and mostly immobile images

On a transcultural scale, fans and scholars agree that manga and anime are to be understood as media forms rather than genres

The Cambridge Companion to Manga and Anime is scheduled for publication on September 30. The full table of contents for the volume is available already:

Introduction: two media forms in correlation
– Jaqueline Berndt

Part I. Claimed Origins and Overlooked Traditions
1. Premodern roots of story-manga? – Jaqueline Berndt
2. Newspaper comic strips: laughs in four panels – Ronald Stewart
3. Astro Boy and the ‘weaponized’ children of wartime Japan – Joon Yang Kim

Part II. Drawing and Movement
4. Graphic style in anime and manga – Olga Kopylova
5. Motion and emotion in anime – Sheuo Hui Gan

Part III. Sound
6. Hearing manga – Blanche Delaborde
7. Voice acting for anime – Minori Ishida

Part IV. Narrative
8. Reading story-manga – Kōichi Morimoto
9. Incalculable: anime narratives and 3D CG aesthetics – Selen Çalık Bedir

Part V. Characters
10. Characters in the media mix: beyond narratives – Lukas R. A. Wilde
11. Character acting in anime – Stevie Suan

Part VI. Genres
12. Manga genres: demographics and themes – Deborah Shamoon
13. Genre networks and anime studios – Bryan Hikari Hartzheim

Part VII. Forms of Production
14. Manga editors and their artists – Bon Won Koo
15. Anime production, decentralized – Renato Rivera Rusca

Part VIII. Forms of Distribution
16. Manga media from analog to digital – Dalma Kálovics
17. Media mix as licensed distribution – Dario Lolli

Part IX. Forms of Use
18. Manga readerships, imaginative agency, and the ‘erotic barrier’ – Patrick W. Galbraith
19. Anime fandom in Japan and beyond – Akiko Sugawa-Shimada.

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