Category: Commentary

New Special Issue – TranscUlturAl: A J. of Translation and Cultural Studies

As I’ve noted a number of times, some academic journals certainly seem to be “more welcoming” to publications on anime/manga than others. 78 articles on anime/manga that have been published since 1993 appeared in the International Journal of Comic Art, 22 in Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 19 in Japan Forum, 15 in the Journal of Popular Culture, and so on. But, overall, more than 460 individual journals have now published an article on anime/manga – and a majority of them only published one or two. This means that as I track publication trends in anime/manga studies, I am constantly discovering not just new articles, but new journals that I have never come across before.

One such journal is open-access TranscUlturAl: A Journal of Translation and Cultural Studies, which publishes “essays, translations and creative pieces that explore interrelationships between translations and cultures, past and present, in global and local contexts.” Its latest issue focuses specifically on “translation and comics”, and contains two articles on manga – as follows, with my thoughts/comments.

Fabbretti, Matteo. The use of translation notes in manga scanlation. TranscUlturAl: A Journal of Translation and Cultural Studies, 8(2), 86-104.

Abstract:

“This article investigates the use of translation notes to deal with translation problems. In Translation Studies, the presence of translation notes in a translation is considered particularly significant because they clearly indicate what features of the source text the translator considered important for the comprehension of the text and therefore necessary to retain or explain. In the field of comics in translation, the use of T/N is rather uncommon, and can be considered the main translation strategy that distinguishes scanlation from other types of translations.

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Book Review – Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices

Manga - IntroductionEditor: Melinda Beasi
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukee, OR)
ISBN: 1616552786 / 9781616552787

U.S. comics companies first began publishing translated versions of Japanese comics (manga) in the late 1980’s. Since then, the manga market has evolved, reached amazing heights (in the spring of 2007, a volume of Fruits Basket rose to the no. 15 spot on the weekly USA Today list of the nation’s top 150 best-selling books), contracted – and, for the last several years, has been on an upswing again. Manga volumes hold five places in the latest ranking of the top twenty graphic novels of all types sold in the U.S., as compiled by Nielsen BookScan and reported by ICv2.com. When, earlier this year, the Young Adult Library Services Association announced its annual Great Graphic Novels for Teens list, manga – Japanese comics –  accounted for 15 titles on the list, out of a total of 112. And, as Danielle Rich demonstrates in The institutionalization of Japanese comics in US public libraries (2000-2010), and Glenn Masuchika and Gail Boldt do in Japanese manga in translation and American graphic novels: A preliminary examination of the collections in 44 academic libraries, both public and academic libraries have very much embraced manga.

Of course, while many librarians are already familiar with manga, many are still not. So, what kinds of sources can they draw on to get a basic understanding of what exactly the term encompasses, what are some of its particular features, and how manga differ from American comics. At the height of the “manga boom” – ten years ago now, the specialized publisher Libraries Unlimited met this information need with Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More and Understanding Manga and Anime, a pair of fairly comprehensive reference volumes designed specifically for librarians. But, while certainly useful, both are now rather dated. Plus of course, both of them may simply cover more ground than a librarian interested only in manga would need. Another option is to consider any one of the edited essay collections on manga that have appeared in recent years, such as Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime, Mangatopia: Essays on Manga and Anme in the Modern World, and Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives. Again, though, an academic essay that is a close reading of the work of a particular manga artist or a study of particular themes across several manga may not really be of any use to a reference librarian or to one working in collection development. Finally, librarians who work with manga have published quite a few case studies in professional magazines, but as with any case study, these focus on activities that took place in particular, specific environments, and may not necessarily yield themselves to replication in other settings.

So, what may be useful for librarians – in addition to all of these kinds of materials – is a relatively concise introduction to Japanese comics that would also be written specifically for a librarian audience. And, as it turns out, Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices, published by Dark Horse Comics, itself a leading English-language publisher of Japanese comics, with financial support provided by the Comics Book Legal Defense Fund, “a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the First Amendment rights of the comics medium”, and drawing on the expertise of a group of journalists, librarians, and manga industry professionals, is exactly this kind of book.

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Anime/Manga Studies Article Publication Trends – Details

A couple of months ago, I presented a fairly straight-forward question – when we talk about anime/manga studies (and even just academic writing on anime/manga in general), how many publications are we actually talking about? A few dozen? Several hundred? More?

This led me to draw on the work that I do in compiling the annual editions of the Bibliography of Anime/Manga Studies and extract some specific numbers from them to put together a broader picture of “publishing trends” in anime/manga studies. This goes towards answering the overall ‘how many?’ question, but also shows how the numbers have changed over the years, what journals have been particularly welcoming to scholarly writing on anime/manga, and who the publishers of those journals are.

In extracting the numbers, though, I had to make various somewhat arbitrary choices. And now, I hope I can at least explain the reasoning behind them.

A Preliminary Study of Anime/Manga Studies Article Publication Trends, 1993-2015 – Methodology

Based on my research, from 1993 to 2015, academic journals published at least 981 English-language articles on anime/manga and related topics. The overall results, by year, can be seen in this chart:

academic-artices-1993-2015

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From Akira to Now: Anime/Manga Studies Article Publication Trends – Introduction

 Anime/manga studies is, as Mark MacWilliams notes in his introduction to the essay collection Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime, the process and practice of “exploring the historical, cultural, sociological and religious dimensions of Japanese animation and comics, their production, and global reception” from an academic perspective. Having this kind of definition is an important first step in establishing an academic field. But, defining an academic field is one thing – identifying its characteristics is the next.

And, for any academic field, there are some particular characteristics that we can identify. Who are the participants in the field? What disciplines or departments are they based in? What kinds of materials do they draw on in their research? What kinds of specific research methods do they use? What formats do they publish their work in, and in what kinds of publications? And, simply, how much do they publish? When we talk about “anime/manga studies”, are we talking about only a few dozen publications? Several hundred? More?

Developing the Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies, which currently covers academic publications on Japanese comics and animation going back to 1977, puts me in a unique position to begin providing some of the answers to these questions. In the process of analyzing the Bibliography, I have been able to identify some specific characteristics, patterns, and trends:

  • Between 1993 and 2015, English-language academic journals/periodicals published at least 965 articles on anime/manga – close readings of individual works, surveys of particular themes, examinations of specific directors/creators, histories, studies of fan practices and many other types of approaches.

    [Although the earliest English-language academic article on Japanese comics that I am aware of appeared in 1977, for this specific project, I only analyzed academic publications on anime/manga going back to 1993 – the publication year for the first article on anime in an English-language academic journal. In addition, I specifically excluded approximately several dozen articles that are listed in the Bibliography based on their language or length. One more thing to keep in mind is that the Bibliography that I used as the source of publications for this study is updated continuously as I identify new publications that qualify for inclusion. So, this total number is the total as of today – but may increase in the future.]

  • These articles appeared in a total of 467 different journals, from Acta Paediatrica Japonica (reports on children who “developed various neuropsychological problems, including seizures, while watching the program Pocket Monster”) to Young Adult Library Services.
  • The academic publication that carried the highest number of articles on anime/manga over this time frame is the International Journal of Comic Art, with 78. The 10 journals that have been most “welcoming” to scholarly writing on anime/manga between 1993 and 2015 are:

1. International Journal of Comic Art: 78 articles (8%)
2. Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal: 22
3. The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus: 21
4. Japan Forum: 19
5. Transformative Works & Cultures: 17
6. Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies: 15
7: Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific: 15
8: The Journal of Popular Culture: 15
9: Image [&] Narrative: 13
10: International Journal of the Humanities: 13

These ten journals accounted for approximately 24% of all the articles on anime/manga that were published in English from 1993 to 2015.

  • 273 of the articles (28%) appeared in journals published by commercial/for-profit publishers – Taylor & Francis, Sage, Wiley, Intellect, Common Ground, and 15 others. The other 692 articles are in journals published by university presses, colleges/universities or even individual academic departments, academic societies and associations, other non-profit organizations, and sometimes, even individuals.
  • The number of articles on anime/manga published in English-language academic journals from 1993 to 2015 annually, and the breakdown by the number of articles that appeared in journals published by commercial publishers and by independents/non-profits each year can be seen in this chart:

Articles ChartIn follow-up posts, I will provide some context for this project, highlight the methods I used – and the specific choices I made to exclude certain publications, discuss the results in more detail, of course, mention some of the limitations of my research – and hopefully, provide some ideas for how to expand on it. But again, at this point, I am pleased to at least be able to make one more concrete contribution to establishing anime/manga studies as a definite and defined academic field.

Citation patterns in anime/manga studies – an initial study

When we bring up the term “anime and manga studies”, or even just the concept, being asked to define what we mean by it is inevitable. In trying to present a definition, we are certainly not alone –  just some recent examples of scholarship describing and defining particular academic areas, fields, and disciplines include Building a new academic field – the case of services marketing (Journal of Retailing), The emerging academic discipline of knowledge management (Journal of Information Systems Education), and, perhaps with the most application to anime and manga studies in particular, Animation studies, disciplinarity, and discursivity (Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture) and the essays Why comics studies and “What’s in a name?”: The academic study of comics and the “graphic novel”, published in an issue of the Cinema Journal, in an “In Focus: Comics Studies Fifty Years After Film Studies” special section.

As Catherine Labio, author of “What’s in a  name?” notes, “defining our object of study…is a fraught yet obligatory first step in the process of academic disciplinary formation”. And, certainly, scholars writing in English about Japanese comics and Japanese animation have made it a point to present several working definitions – two such efforts are Craig Norris’s Manga, anime, and visual art culture chapter in the Cambridge Companion to Modern Japanese Culture (pp. 236-260), and Susan Napier’s “Manga and anime: Entertainment, big business, and art in Japan” in the Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society (pp. 226-237). But, all that a working definition of this kind does is establish an area of inquiry or a field of study – something more is necessary.

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Potential research topics in anime/manga studies – Crowdfunding anime

One of the more common criticisms aimed at the whole process of scholarly publishing is that it just takes too long. The period between when an article is first submitted for publication and when it actually appears in a journal takes several months at the least, and may very well be year or more. For example, the authors of Are Australian fans of anime and manga motivated to learn Japanese language presented it for publication in the Asia Pacific Journal of Education in February of 2013. It was accepted that September, but did not appear online until June of 2014 – almost a year and a half later – and only now had made it into an actual issue of the journal. Similarly, the publisher of the Journal of Youth Studies received the manuscript for ‘Growing as a person’: experiences at anime, comics, and games fan events in Malaysia in November of 2014, accepted it in September of last year, and made it available to readers online the next month – but the article is yet to appear in an issue of the journal.

What the length of the publication process means is that scholars are often simply not able to “react” and respond in a timely manner to new developments in the fields that they are interested. If commentary on a particular event or issue does not appear until two years after the event took place or the issue first came up, by the time it does, such commentary may be largely irrelevant – words spent on a long-forgotten topic – to say nothing of the possibility of other, interceding events or issues that may make the commentary itself obsolete.

In fact, academic publishers have largely acknowledged this issue, and have been searching for ways to mitigate it. For the corporate, for-profit publishers, one way has been by allowing electronic access to articles as soon as they have been accepted for publication, regardless of whether nor they have been assigned to a particular issue of a journal – one example of this is the list of “latest articles” in Japan Forum. Non-profit publishers of open-access journals are beginning to forgo the concept of “issues” altogether, and are publishing articles on their journals’ websites continuously – this is the approach taken by Animation Studies and The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship, among others.

KickstarterHowever, these kinds of options are meaningless unless scholars who are interested in anime/manga make sure to pay attention to new developments in the field. One such development has been the use of crowdfunding to bring anime to audiences outside Japan. In fact, Western anime companies have been experimenting with crowdfunding (primarily via pre-order campaigns) long before the practice became widespread, but the emergence of major crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo has certainly made these campaigns more prominent. (more…)

Tools for locating publications on anime/manga: Thoughts and comments

One of the most defining features of the “genre” of academic writing is that it explicitly connects to, expands on, and engages in a conversation with previously published material. The author of an academic work on a particular topic, whether this work is a book, a journal article, or simply a paper prepared for a class assignment has to be aware of what other authors have written about this topic, their methodologies, their points and arguments, and their conclusions. So, for an easy example, Brian Ruh opens his essay Producing transnational cult media: Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell in circulation (Intensities: The Journal of Cult Media5) with the statement that “In the case of anime and manga, fan response has been a critical factor to how various texts have been adapted and received, and fan activities have been necessary to their transnational flow” – and supports it with references to two book chapters – Anne Allison’s “Can popular gulture go global?: How Japanese ‘Scouts’ and ‘Rangers’ fare in the US” (2000) and Lawrence Eng’s “Anime and Manga Fandom as Networked Culture” (2012), and Marco Pellitteri’s 2010 book The Dragon and the Dazzle: Models, Strategies and Identities of Japanese Imagination: A European Perspective.

So, how does an author find the supporting sources that are necessary for good academic writing? As I described in a previous post, there are several standard techniques and resources for research in anime/manga studies. The resources include library catalogs, and general and subject-specific academic databases, both subscription-based (such as Academic OneFile, the Bibliography of Asian Studies, and the Film & Television Literature Index), and open-access (primarily Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search). Some of the search techniques that scholars can use include “reference chaining” – directly examining the bibliographies/works cited sections of works already identified using one of the resources I just listed, and simply examining the table of contents of new issues of journals that have previously published materials on a relevant topic.

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Highlighting New Publications – The Task of Manga Translation

The question of how exactly to refer to anime/manga studies – as an academic discipline, a field, an area of interest – is easy to ask, perhaps even inevitable. And it certainly puts “anime/manga studies” into good company – this same kind of question has come up time and time again in relation to topics as diverse as knowledge management, “public diplomacy”, popular music studies, and even film studies.

With this in mind, it is particularly interesting to compare “anime/manga studies” to another area that it is very close to, and in fact, that it can be said to overlap with – comics studies. More specifically, what does “comics studies” have that “anime/manga studies” does not?

At this point, English-language comics studies is characterized by several features. Classes on different aspects of comics/graphic novels are common at colleges and universities around the U.S. and in other countries; in fact, the Department of English at the University of Florida now offers a “comics and visual rhetoric” track in its PhD program, while the University of Oregon allows undergraduate students to pursue an interdisciplinary “comics and cartoon studies” minor. Comics scholars can also present their work at events such as the Comics Arts Conference and the sessions at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Annual Conference that are sponsored by the PCA’s Comics and Comic Arts Area, and receive formal recognition for it, for example, via an Eisner Award in the “best scholarly/academic category”.

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Where do we publish on anime/manga – a select list

If anime/manga studies is to be thought of as a defined academic field or area, then it should have particular characteristics. And, one of the ways to characterize an academic field is by identifying the kinds of journals that scholars who work in this area turn to when publishing their work.

Building up, as I have, a fairly comprehensive bibliography of academic writing on anime/manga, including journal articles, allows me to comfortably state that papers on Japanese animation or Japanese comics can – and do – appear in a wide range of academic journals. At the same time, I think it is also important to present a set of journals that, in my opinion, have over the years specifically welcomed discussions of Japanese visual culture. Some of these journals have gone as far as to publish dedicated theme issues on anime/manga, others have simply carried a significant number of relevant articles over the years.

Building this kind of set can serve several purposes. At its most basic, it may help an author decide which journals to consider submitting a paper on anime/manga to. Additionally, even though this list is essentially subjective, it can be used as one of the criteria for developing a “core collection” of academic journals to support research on anime/manga – so, an academic librarian charged with developing such a collection may refer to it when determining whether the faculty and students that they are supporting have access to the journals that they are likely to need/want to have access to. Having said that, it is also important to keep in mind that this kind of list is not based on any immediately obvious empirical factors. Moreover, again, it is a list, not a ranking – no journal on it is inherently “better” than any other one, and in fact, nor are any of them better than titles that are not on the list at all.

Regardless, so, what kinds of journals publish academic articles on anime/manga? Or, turning the question around, in what kinds of journals do anime/manga scholars publish their work?

Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga and the Fan Arts

Mechademia, described variously as a journal and a book series (the technical term for a publication of this type is “continuing monograph”) is the only English-language scholarly periodical with a focus on anime/manga that has been appearing on a regular schedule, at a rate of one volume per year. Each volume has been organized around a common theme or topic, such as “Networks of Desire” (v. 2, 2007), “User Enhanced” (v. 6, 2011), and “Origins” (v. 9). One of its particularly unique features is that in addition to original scholarly essays, it has also featured translations of seminal Japanese scholarship (both stand-alone articles and excerpts from longer works), as well as photo essays, comics, interviews, and shorter commentary-style pieces. Ten volumes have been published since it launched in 2006, and the contents of each are listed in the Annual Bibliographies section of this site. However, if I understand correctly, publication has ceased with last year’s Volume 10: World Renewal  – although plans are supposedly under way to relaunch it as a “New Series”.

Electronic access to Mechademia is available via the Gale Academic OneFile database, JSTOR, and Project Muse (with free access to Volume 4, 2009, “War/Time”).

Other anime/manga studies journals, by subject:

Each of these groups includes several titles. Many are published by corporate/for-profit publishing houses such as Intellect, Sage, and Taylor & Francis, others by colleges/universities directly or by independent non-profit organizations, and some, essentially by individuals. Several of them have been in existence for decades; others were just launched within the last several years.

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“Anime in the US: The Entrepreneurial Dimensions of Globalized Culture” – What Could Have Been

In my critique of the Pacific Affairs article Anime in the U.S.: The entrepreneurial dimensions of globalized culture, I argued that one of the most frustrating things about this essay is that it actually contains the basic shape of a vastly article on the role that individual entrepreneurs played in introducing Japanese animation to American audiences. So, how would this much stronger paper actually look like?

Astro BoyThe most logical way to open it would be with a discussion of how Japanese animated television programs were first brought into the U.S. Much of this story is already described in Astro Boy and Anime Come to the Americas: An Insider’s View of a Pop Culture Phenomenon (McFarland, 2008). Brian Ruh provides additional details in “Early Japanese animation in the United States: Changing Tetsuwan Atomu to Astro Boy“, in The Japanification of Children’s Popular Culture: From Godzilla to Miyazaki (pp. 209-226). This process could then be traced forward to the present. Aspects of it, in particular, the kinds of changes that anime films and TV episodes were subjected to as they were prepared for theatrical releases, television broadcasts, and distribution on VHS/DVD in the West are discussed in Rieko Okuhara’s “The censorship of Japanese anime in America: Do American children need to be protected from Dragon Ball” (in the same book, pp. 199-208), Rayna Denison’s “The global markets for anime: Miyazaki Hayao’s Spirited Away (2001)” (in Japanese Cinema: Texts and Contexts, pp. 308-321), Ruh’s Transforming U.S. anime in the 1980’s: Localization and longevity (Mechademia, v. 5: Fanthropologies, pp. 31-49), and especially, in his Ph.D. dissertation, Adapting Anime: Transnational Media Between Japan and the United States.

It could then be contrasted with how “anime entrepreneurs” approached Japanese animation. Perhaps precisely because they were not coming from the entertainment industry, and perhaps because they also operated at much smaller scales, with much more modest goals in mind, these entrepreneurs – people like John Ledford, Gen Fukunaga, and Gene Field – did not feel any particular need to subject the anime that they were presenting to American audiences to any major changes; in fact, its non-American nature was a selling point. Academic writing on these entrepreneurial activities is still fairly limited, though two examples are Jonathan Clements’ “The mechanics of the US anime and manga industry”, in Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction, 64, 32-44 (1995), and Laurie Cubbison’s Anime fans, DVDs, and the authentic text (The Velvet Light Trap56, 45-57), but there are plenty of articles in various general-interest publications – such as:

A great way to conclude the piece would be with a case study of Crunchyroll. Launched originally as a Youtube-like website focused on streaming Japanese anime episodes and films, many of them subtitled by fans without authorization – but also without seeking any profit for themselves (the site itself would, of course, receive income from ads), it has since reoriented itself entirely and now works directly with Japanese production companies to license anime series for online distribution to Western audiences. In 2013, The Chernin Group, a media investment company, acquired majority control in a deal valued close to US$100 million; Hollywood Reporter recently ranked it as the 8th-largest video streaming app (by revenue), and according to a Japan Times article, earlier this year, it had “the fifth largest streaming subscription base in the United States“.

This article could still reach the same conclusion as the original paper – that entrepreneurs and their activities are key to the “transnational penetration, distribution, reproduction and consumption of cultural commodities” – but the examples it would draw on would actually support the conclusion vastly more effectively than what Anime in the U.S. is able to present.