Anime and manga studies can be defined as “exploration and analysis of Japanese animation and comics as creative works, their historical, cultural, sociological and economic dimensions, their production, distribution, global reception, and related topics.”

Anime and manga studies specifically as an academic field involves researching anime and manga and sharing the results of the research process as formal scholarship – such as presentations at academic conferences, and primarily, as publications in the form of monographs, chapters in essay collections, and articles in academic journals. Anime and manga studies also has an educational component, in the form of classes specifically on anime/manga, or that incorporate anime/manga into broader topics.

Some examples of concrete contributions to anime and manga studies include:

Scholarly publications:

Condry, Ian. The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Japan’s Media Success Story. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Otmazgin, Nissim, & Suter, Rebecca (Eds.). Rewriting history in manga: Stories for the nation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Link, Alex. Tulips and roses in a global garden: Speaking local identities in Persepolis and Tekkon Kinkreet. In Carolene Ayaka & Ian Hague (Eds.), Representing multiculturalism in comics and graphic novels (pp. 240-256). New York: Routledge.

Close, Samantha. Fannish masculinities in transition in anime music video fandom. Transformative Works and Cultures, 22.

Frohlich, Dennis. Evil must be punished: Apocalyptic religion in the television series Death Note. Journal of Media and Religion, 11(3), 141-155.

Ito, Kinko. New trends in the production of Japanese ladies’ comics: Diversification and catharsis. Japan Studies Review, 13, 111-130.

College/University Classes

Anime as Global Popular Culture
(Harvard University – General Education Program)

Anime and Manga History
(SUNY Oneonta – World History)

Modern Japanese Comics in Translation
(Queens College – East Asian Studies

As an academic field, anime and manga studies is inherently interdisciplinary, and welcomes a wide range of different theoretical approaches, research methods, and questions. However, at the heart of it is a particular conception or definition of “anime” (and “manga”). The terms can be – and have been – defined in different ways in English, such as simply “the shortened Japanese transliterated word for animation” and “the collective comics traditions of Japan”. More elaborate definitions include, for anime, “a culturally and aesthetically hybridized term for animation, implying a certain kind of visual and aesthetic style originally from Japan”, and “filmed cartoons produced in any country that mirror styles typically labeled Japanese, including narrative structures, character design, and aesthetics”, and for manga, “a kind of comic book produced in Japan containing cartoon characters drawn in a particular style: with wide foreheads, pointed chins, oversized eyes, jagged stylized hairdos, and small noses and mouths.” Another one, again for anime, is “a style of animation popular in Japanese films. Animé films are meant primarily for the Japanese market and, as such, employ many cultural references unique to Japan.”

These definitions can also be challenged or questioned – Rayna Denison, in Anime: A Critical Introduction, emphasizes that anime is “more than a single mode of media production”, and “not just a genre any more than it is simply a kind of animation or a product of only Japanese culture”; the term she does settle on is “a cultural phenomenon”.  Another important consideration, introduced by Casey Brienza in the introduction to Global Manga: Japanese Comics “without” Japan? is the idea of “direct creative input from Japan” – defined as “actual economic and/or labor inputs”.

Anime and manga studies can, of course, be concerned with the influence that anime and manga have outside Japan, and with the influence of other forms of media on them, but at some point, it does have borders; it is a subset of animation studies and comics studies and Japan Studies, and it is possible to talk about – and study – animation, comics, and Japan without mentioning or encountering anime/manga.

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