Category: Book Reviews

Book Review – The Anime Boom in the United States: Lessons for the Global Creative Industries

Authors: Michal Daliot-Bul (University of Haifa) & Nissim Otmazgin (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Publisher: Harvard University Asia Center
Contents

Twenty years ago now, in Anime From Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation, Susan J. Napier presented one leading reason for approaching selecting anime as an object of study. “For those interested in Japanese culture, it is a richly fascinating contemporary Japanese art form with a distinctly narrative and visual aesthetic that both harks back to traditional Japanese culture and moves forward to the cutting edge of art and media. Furthermore, anime, with its enormous breadth of subject material, is also a useful mirror on contemporary Japanese society, offering an array of insights into the significant issues, dreams, and nightmares of the day.” 

Napier’s book was the first full-length scholarly study of Japanese animation published in English, and most others that have been published since – titles such as Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii (Brian Ruh, 2004), The Anime Paradox: Patterns and Practices through the Lens of Traditional Japanese Theater (Stevie Suan, 2013), and Anime: A Critical Introduction (Rayna Denison, 2015) have largely followed its focus on Japanese animation as something to be examined with the approach and tools of literary and film criticism. But, as Napier herself also argued, “…anime is worth investigating for other reasons as well, perhaps the most important being the fact that it is also a genuinely global phenomenon, both as a commercial and a cultural force.” 

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Highlighting New Publications – Princess Mononoke: Understanding Studio Ghibli’s Monster Princess

Princess Mononoke (Bloomsbury)Editor: Rayna Denison
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Table of Contents

When, on October 29, 1999, Princess Mononoke premiered in U.S. theaters, Hayao Miyazaki was not completely unknown to American audiences, but he was still far from being the worldwide-famous director that is now. And neither audiences nor critics really knew what to expect from the film itself, either. Of course, now, it is one of a few films, along with Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and probably My Neighbor Totoro, that often represent the idea of “anime” outside Japan. For that matter, it is also the most “frequently studied” Ghibli film – with, by my count, at least 34 unique “discussions” that have been published so far. And now, Princess Mononoke is the first anime that is the subject of a full edited collection of English-language scholarly essays (the two feature anime that have merited individual book-length studies are Akira and Miyazaki’s Spirited Away – with volumes in Bloomsbury’s BFI Film Classics series). So, what does Understanding Studio Ghibli’s Monster Princess actually add to the literature – what is the reason for this book, and for its specific shape, form, and structure?

The first part of this question is very easy to answer – Rayna Denison, the volume’s editor, does an excellent job of outlining it in the opening chapter, “Introducing Studio Ghibli’s Monster Princess: From Mononokehime to Princess Mononoke“. Mononokehime/Princess Mononoke, Denison notes, “became a ‘monster’ film event” and “marked changes in the Japanese animation industry” – as well as a major shift in the course of Miyazaki’s career, his standing as an animator and director, and his worldwide perception and status. Another factor that presents itself particularly well for analysis is the film’s “lasting global cultural presence”. And overall, its “verdant and varied cultural legacy and history” simply mean that open the possibility for a variety of different scholarly approaches. (more…)