Category: Commentary

English-Language Scholarship on Osamu Tezuka – Looking at the Numbers

If Japanese popular culture studies (and anime/manga studies) is now, in 2021, “a field in formation“, then it is no longer enough just to describe or even analyze. At this point, it is becoming more and important to start thinking about the contours and dimensions of this field, and about what this field encompasses. What topics are scholars who are working in anime and manga studies actually examining? What kinds of approaches are they using?

In this way, Jaqueline Berndt, in an analysis of “the interplay of anime research and the institution of Japanese studies outside of Japan” titled Anime in Academia: Representative Object, Media Form, and Japanese Studies makes the effort to point out that “the bulk of Japanese studies in the humanities pays attention to representations of Japanese culture and society in anime”.

…the bulk of Japanese studies in the humanities pays attention to representations of Japanese culture and society in anime

Jaqueline Berndt, “Anime in Academia”

Similarly, in A Coming of Age in the Anthropological Study of Anime? Introductory Thoughts Envisioning the Business Anthropology of Japanese Animation, Ryotaro Mihara has challenged the field with a straight-forward question: “Why do Anglophone anime studies, especially the anthropological studies on anime, show so little interest in anime’s business aspects and so much interest in its non-commercial activities?”

A related kind of approach would be to ask which particular creators – and even which particular works – is anime and manga studies emphasizing or centering, and the way this process can then affect the expected image or “meaning” of anime/manga outside Japan. I presented an example of this approach in an analysis of English-language scholarly publications on the work of Hayao Miyazaki, demonstrating that, as of the spring of 2018, Princess Mononoke was Miyazaki’s most-studied English film (34 publications, including an edited essay collection), followed by Spirited Away (32, including one full-length book), and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (21).

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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 – Japanese Manga in Translation and American Graphic Novels in Academic Libraries

Do academic libraries include comics broadly defined, including graphic novels and manga, in their collections? The basic idea that they can – and should – is long past being controversial to any extent. In 2006, the co-authors of Graphic novels in academic libraries: From Maus to manga and beyond were able to highlight both the benefits of including graphic novels in academic library collections and some of the conceptual/theoretical and practical challenges of doing so, from convincing faculty, staff, and students of the appropriateness and value of such a collection to simply deciding how to best approach cataloging a graphic novel. 2010’s Japanese manga in translation and American graphic novels: A preliminary examination in 44 academic libraries presented an actual survey of how specifically academic libraries collect graphic novels/manga, or rather, which particular titles they collect.

And now, Japanese manga in translation and American graphic novels: A re-examination of the collections in 36 academic libraries ten years later updates that survey’s results.

Abstract:

Ten years ago, this journal published an article comparing the collection rates of Japanese manga in English translation and American graphic novels (“American” defined as graphic novels published in North America and originally written in English) in 44 American academic libraries in 2007 and 2008 (Masuchika & Boldt, 2010). The results showed that American graphic novels were being added to American academic libraries at a faster pace than translated Japanese manga. With the growing popularity of both manga and graphic novels, it was time to revisit this phenomenon and see if any changes had occurred in collection rates within the last ten years. This study revealed that while graphic novels were being added at a significantly faster pace, manga showed no increase in the rates they were being added ten years ago.

Author:

Glenn Masuchika is an Information Literary Librarian at Penn State University Libraries, where his responsibilities include serving as an “advisor to selectors in the field of graphic novels and comics”. In addition to the original Japanese manga in translation and American graphic novels paper, he is also the author of Japanese cartoons, virtual child pornography, academic libraries, and the law (Reference & User Services Quarterly, 2015), and, earlier this year, Considerations for collecting anime for academic libraries (Collection & Curation).

Summary:

The approach the author of the survey uses is fairly straightforward – it is based on developing a “checklist” of graphic novels and manga, and searching for the titles on the list in the library catalogs of a selection of major academic library systems. But, in any given year, there are now easily several hundred graphic novels and manga published in the U.S. – so actually selecting the titles to search for becomes key. Here, the author decides to focus only on titles included on various Best Of lists (such as Amazon’s, Booklist’s and Entertainment Weekly’s for graphic novels, and Anime News Network’s, ICv2.com’s and Comicbeat.com’s for manga, and select only those titles that appeared on at least 3 lists of graphic novels and at least 2 for manga. Equally key is the second part of the survey design – the academic libraries whose holdings would be searched. Here, a key factor, as in the original 2010 study, would be “major groupings based on geographical locations” – as with 12 major Midwestern universities, 12 in the Western states, and beyond that, 12 with prominent Asian, Asian American, and Japanese Studies programs, to see whether it would be possible to determine any relationship between the existence of these programs, and the libraries’ collection development practices. The graphic novels Best Of lists generated a total of 14 unique titles; the manga ones accounted for 17. (more…)

Highlighting New Resources – Japanese Media and Popular Culture

If a student – or even a professor – is interested in a broad and general overview of “Japanese popular culture”, what kinds of basic starting points can they use to begin familiarizing themselves with what the concept actually encompasses? One such starting point is the recent A History of Popular Culture in Japan: From the Seventeenth Century to the Present (E. Taylor Atkins, Bloomsbury Academic), another, though slightly older now, is the Japanese Popular Culture and Globalization volume in the series of short “Key Issues in Asian Studies” handbooks published by the Association for Asian Studies. An excellent one is Introducing Japanese Popular Culture (Alisa Freedman and Toby Slade, Routledge), especially with its design specifically as both a textbook, a “go-to handbook for interested readers”, and a guide to the field’s most important sources and leading scholars.

And now, the University of Tokyo has launched a new resource of this type – the fully online Japanese Media and Popular Culture – An Open-Access Digital Initiative – “a reference work and alphabetical series of essays on important key concepts”. The “key concepts” cover a range of topics both in media, communication, and cultural studies in general, and in Japanese Studies in particular – as specific as “2.5-dimensional” and “fansubbing“, and as general as “cuteness“, “male gaze“, and “participatory culture“. Each “keyword” short essay is then directly connected to a “celebrity or “character” entry. Some of these connections include Mangaesque to Fullmetal Alchemist, Otaku to Okuda Toshio, Yuri to Hanedara Keisuke, and Database to Mimiketto – and, as explained in the site’s How to Use section, “celebrity or character” is actually expanded to mean “star, celebrity, talent, creator, or character from Japanese popular culture”. (more…)

Highlighting New Publications – Considerations for Collecting Japanese Anime for Academic Libraries

Masuchika, Glenn. Considerations for collecting Japanese anime for academic librariesCollection and Curation, 39(2), 53-56.

The idea that academic libraries can include Japanese animation in their collections of films and television series is neither new nor controversial. The purpose of an academic library is to serve its user community, and to facilitate effective teaching and research – and providing access to Japanese animation, such as, for example, to support the students enrolled in a class like “Anime: Masterworks of Japanese Animation” (Middlebury College, Fall 2018) or “Anime Cinema” (University of North Florida, Spring 2019) absolutely fits into this purpose. But, with literally thousands of anime films and series available for purchase, how can an academic librarian actually go about selecting particular anime to add to a particular collection? (more…)

Guest Essay: Towards A New Posthuman Ontology – The Anti-Anthropocentrism of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

From the editor: So far, the primary purpose of this site has been to serve as a “central point of information about anime and manga studies”, and a collection of resources that would be useful to the anime and manga studies community. However, I also gladly welcome new material, such as actual original commentary on anime/manga. If you would like to contribute an essay on any topic related to anime/manga, whether commentary or original research, please feel free to contact me.

The first such essay that I am happy to feature is “Towards a New Posthuman Ontology – The Anti-Anthropocentrism of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence“.

Yalun Li is the Co-founder of Dunes Workshop, an inter-disciplinary research and design organization. She is a candidate of Master of Architecture at Harvard University GSD and holds a Bachelor degree of Architecture at Syracuse University with a Philosophy minor. Her research interests include topics on Postmodernism theories in relation to media studies.

Abstract

This essay is an attempt to understand Mamoru Oshii’s films of Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence as philosophical propositions. Oshii’s films offered a refreshing insight on the role of film where it can purpose, construct and present new theories instead of being only a representational accessory of philosophical thoughts. I am amazed by the sincerity of the films in constructing a genuine decentralized “posthuman” world. The complex system Oshii created and curated through the characters and the references resonates with Deleuze’s Rhizome and Hayles’s “Cognisphere.” Moreover, the films created a poetic and aesthetics atmosphere that made it more powerful than many philosophy texts. (more…)

Publication Trends in Anime and Manga Studies – 2019

Let’s say, you are someone who wants to take the next step, beyond just thinking about anime, and beyond writing about anime for a personal blog or a fan website, and would like to actually publish your writing about anime (or manga, or a related topic) an academic journal, the kind that college professors would read and would assign to their students to read, the kind that would be included in journal databases, the kind that could potentially be referred to in other scholarly articles and even in books! So, where do you go with your writing? Is there such a thing as a “Journal of Anime Studies” – or something similar? 

As it turns out, “sort of”: the first issue of a Journal of Anime and Manga Studies is set to be published this spring. But, another way to approach this same topic is by thinking about the “publication trends” of anime and manga studies more broadly. In general, what journals does scholarly writing on Japanese animation and Japanese comics actually appear in? It is also useful to consider whether are there any particular titles that dominate the field. The actual usefulness of asking these questions is not hard to understand. The answers to them are useful for anyone who is interested in learning about opportunities to publish their research on anime/manga, as well as to scholars who would like to identify specific journals to be aware of to learn about new trends and directions in research. And in a more abstract sense, it is also possible to use the journals that support anime and manga studies as an academic field to get a sense of the field’s overall identity.

Previously, I examined “publication trends in anime/manga studies” for the years from 1993 to 2015 (identifying a total of at least 965 articles), and from 2015 to 2018 (369 articles). For both periods, I also listed the ten journals that carried the largest number of articles. And now, with the list of English-language journal articles and other scholarly publications on anime/manga that appeared in 2019 largely complete, I can extend the analysis to one more year.

Publication Trends in Anime and Manga Studies – 2019 (more…)

“What do we study?”: A content analysis of recent anime and manga studies

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 MetropolisPrincess MononokeGhost 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! (more…)

“Where do I start?”: Anime/Manga Studies in Major Multidisciplinary Databases – A Preliminary Study

A few days ago, I received an e-mail from a graduate student asking for suggestions about “an area in the field of anime & manga that deserves more exploration or doesn’t have enough research at the moment”. Not an uncommon question by any means, especially in the middle of a fall semester – and one I would be glad to answer. But once I started actually considering the question and the possible answers to it, I realized that these answers themselves lead to a whole set of further questions. (more…)

Comment/Response – Found in Translation

How Japanese animation actually reaches audiences outside Japan has been a major topic in anime studies going back to the field’s earliest days, such as with Jonathan Clements’ essay “The mechanics of the US anime and manga industry”, in Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction, 64, 32-44 (1995). Interest in this topic surged in the mid-2000’s, as Western scholars were being introduced to anime – in many cases by their own students – and even by their own children, and as anime fans moved on from high schools to colleges and graduate schools, and were able to publish their own work. Some examples of the seminar research on the relationship and the conflicts between anime creators/producers, anime distributors, and anime fans that were published around this time include Anime fans, DVDs and the authentic text (Laurie Cubbison, The Velvet Light Trap, 2005), Anime fandom and the liminal spaces between fan creativity and piracy (Rayna Denison, International Journal of Cultural Studies, 2011), Dark energy: What fansubs reveal about the copyright wars (Ian Condry, Mechademia v. 5, 2010), and my own Fighting the fan sub war: Conflicts between media rights holders and unauthorized creator/distributor networks.

The structure of the relationship, and the actual technological affordances that have directed it, have changed significantly since then. And so, it is particularly interesting to see a new publication that sets out to “examine recent systems, both legal and illegal, of North American anime and manga distribution” and positions itself specifically as a follow-up to 2005’s Of otakus and fansubs: A critical look at anime online in light of current issues in copyright law and an evaluation of whether the arguments that Jordan Hatcher presented in that article can still be used to understand “the relationship between fan translator groups and licensed distributors of anime and manga” in the present.

Tremblay, Alyssa (2018). Found in translation: Rethinking the relationship between fan translation groups and licensed distributors of anime and manga. The Journal of Fandom Studies, 6(3), 319-333.

“… it is possible that fan translation groups will become obsolete, perhaps to the benefit of all parties.” (more…)