Category: New Publications

Highlighting New Publications – JAMS v. 4


When it first launched in 2020, the open-access Journal of Anime and Manga Studies represented a major new development in the establishment of anime and manga studies as a defined academic field. Since the launch, it clearly thrived, with each new issue a range of new authors, and covering a diverse array of topics under the general umbrella of Japanese animation and comics. JAMS’ latest volume (2023) was formally released on December 3, and its eight articles once again do a great job of representing some of the most innovative scholarly writing on anime/manga that is currently available in English. And – all of it is free to read!

The issue opens with a letter from the JAMS editor-in-chief, summarizing the year’s developments and activities for the journal, the most prominent among them the Mechademia/JAMS track of scholarly presentations held as a part of the year’s Anime Expo convention. The letter also highlights the continuing upward trends in the journal’s readership, to over 2,000 pageviews per month at the conclusion of 2023, as well as the journal’s top five most read articles – the leader by far is A Survey of the Story Elements of Isekai Manga (volume 2) – currently, the 4th-ranking result in Google Scholar for a search for the term “isekai”, and the first result that is an actual peer-reviewed article.


The volume’s main section opens with Inclusive Media Mix: Shaping Communication through A Silent Voice. In this essay, Yuta Kaminishi (Habib Institute for Asian Studies, University of Idaho) expands the concept of the “Japanese media mix” that Marc Steinberg proposes and applies it to activities of different types – and involving different participants – than those that Steinberg envisions.

(more…)

Highlighting New Publications – JAMS v. 3

I think it’s safe to say we are comfortably past the point where the appearance of a new scholarly article on a topic related to anime/manga is something remarkable or extraordinary. As other scholars have already noted – and as I have worked to demonstrate – “anime and manga studies” (or the broader area of “Japanese popular culture studies” is now very much “a field in formation”, establishing itself and developing, and evolving.

But, even if a new publication on anime/manga is not particularly remarkable or even groundbreaking, it may still be worth examining. And this is especially true when we are looking not just at a single article, but several that appear at once – as is the case with the new third volume of the Journal of Anime and Manga Studies, the only “open-access journal dedicated to providing an ethical, peer-reviewed space for academics, students, and independent researchers examining the field of anime, manga, cosplay, and fandom studies”. JAMS launched in 2020, and with this latest volume, with nine stand-alone articles, one event report, and two book reviews, continues to make a very significant contribution to anime and manga studies as an academic field.

In November of 2020, JAMS got 322 file views. In November of 2021, this increased to 755 files views. And in November of 2022, this increased again to 1286 file views.

The issue opens with a report from the journal’s editor, including a look at readership statistics and month-to-month trends. At launch in November 2020, JAMS received 322 file views. This number stayed stable at approximately 200 views through much of 2021, but began trending up significantly from September 2021 on. with peaks in January, March, and October of the following year. The final figure the editor was able to provide, for November 2022, was 1286 file views. The major explanations for the growth trends that the editor presented are JAMS’ inclusion in the Directory of Open Access Journals, starting in February 2022, and the related Anime News Network news item. One question the report does not consider is whether the articles that JAMS is publishing are achieving any “impact” in the sense of receiving citations in other publications, or at least mentions in online discussions. Granted, even expecting impact from a relatively recent journal in a specialized subject area may be a lot to ask for – but from what I can tell, at least a couple of the articles that were published in JAMS have already been referenced elsewhere, such as The indigenous shôjo: Transmedia representations of Ainu femininity in Japan’s Samurai Spirits, 1993–2019, cited in Edutaining with indigeneity: Mediatizing Ainu bilingualism in the Japanese anime, Golden Kamuy, and Embedded niche overlap: A media industry history of yaoi anime’s American distribution from 1996 to 2009 included in the online resource What are Fujoshi, Fudanshi & BL? – plus mentions of others, and of the journal as a whole, in blog posts and on social media!

(more…)

Thoughts and Comments – 100 Animated Feature Films

Over the years, the British Film Institute (BFI) has established itself as one of the leading publishers in the field of anime studies, with Akira, Grave of the Fireflies, and Spirited Away in its BFI Film Classics line, 100 Anime in the BFI Screen Guides, and Anime: A History, Jonathan Clements’ in-depth examination of how animation was actually produced in Japan from the early 1900’s to the present, and how the animation industry developed and evolved over the years. In 2010, BFI published 100 Animated Feature Films, by Andrew Osmond (the author of BFI Film Classics: Spirited Away, as well as other writing on anime, going back to 1998’s Nausicaa and the fantasy of Hayao Miyazaki, in the journal Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction – one of the earliest English-language scholarly articles of any kind on Japanese animation). And now, Osmond and BFI have decided it’s time for an update, with 100 Animated Feature Films, Revised Edition.

(more…)

Highlighting Upcoming Publications – “Manga: A Critical Guide”

One of the biggest paradoxes in the way the literature of manga studies has developed since the first English-language publications on Japanese comics began appearing in the 1970’s has been a trend towards research on more and more narrow and specialized topics. In this way, Fred Schodt’s 1996 Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga is still the most recent general survey, while the kinds of books on manga that have been published just in the last several years include The Representation of Japanese Politics in Manga, Reframing Disability in Manga, and Manga Cultures and the Female Gaze. This is particularly interesting because at the same time, scholars studying Japanese animation have been publishing full-length comprehensive approaches and overviews of this “shifting, sliding category of media production”, as Rayna Denison calls it, with titles such as Anime: A Critical Introduction, Interpreting Anime, and Anime’s Identity: Performativity and Form Beyond Japan. The reasons for this situation are a separate question, but regardless, essentially until now, it has persisted, and the best that someone who was interested in learning about manga could have were shorter essays in companion and handbook-type collections, highly specific book chapters and journal articles, and entries in reference works like the recent Key Terms in Comics Studies.

A wide-ranging introductory guide for readers making their first steps into the world of manga, this book helps readers explore the full range of Japanese comic styles, forms and traditions from its earliest texts to the internationally popular comics of the 21st century.

Finally, though, it appears that Bloomsbury Publishing will be filling this gap, and bringing out exactly what the manga studies has needed for so long – a compact and accessible volume that can nonetheless serve as an authoritative source of information about the history of the medium, its role as an art form and as literature, as a commodity, and as an object of fandom and fan activity, various controversies that have surrounded manga, related to pornography, violence, nationalism, and other issues and topics, and how manga can be approached critically. Manga: A Critical Guide will also include an overview of “key texts”, a glossary, and a list of resources for manga studies. All of this – especially given a very attractive price of only $21.56 for the e-book version or $26.00 for the softcover edition make me think that this book will become an invaluable resource for anyone interested in studying or learning about Japanese comics. If not the full book, then at least some chapters from it will be an easy addition to any syllabus for a college class on comics or Japanese literature/popular culture that discusses manga to any extent. about any classes. And of course, the full book will be a perfect fit for the reading list for a full class on manga, whether in one of the Comics Studies programs that are now starting to appear at several U.S. universities, or in the many different such classes that already exist.

The book’s two co-authors are both well-known experts in the field. Shige (CJ) Suzuki is an associate professor of Japanese and comparative literature at Baruch College, City University of New York, and has published extensively on Japanese comics, including in the International Journal of Communication and the International Journal of Comic Art, and the essay collections International Perspectives on Shojo and Shojo Manga and Manga’s Cultural Crossroads. Prof. Suzuki also contributed the “manga” entry to the Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture, and the chapter “Gekiga, or Japanese alternative comics” to the textbook Introducing Japanese Popular Culture. Ronald Stewart teaches in the sociology department at Daito Bunka University, in Tokyo. The focus of his research and writing, in both English and Japanese, is on cartooning in 19th and early 20th-century Japan.

When it is published later this year, Manga: A Critical Guide will be the latest addition to the Bloomsbury series Critical Guides in Comics Studies. A preview is not available yet, but the profile page for it on the Bloomsbury website at least includes a table of contents.

In any case, right now, I would like to congratulate Prof. Suzuki and Prof. Stewart for all of their hard work in putting this book together, and bringing it to readers! Bloomsbury is currently listing September 22 as the publication date, and I will be looking forward to seeing an actual copy of it then – and to sharing my impressions soon after that date!

Highlighting Upcoming Publications – “Essential Anime”

What kinds of formats does writing on Japanese animation appear in? Full-length books, essays on a common theme, individual chapters in edited collections, and articles in peer-reviewed journals all represent the more “scholarly” type of writing on anime, while plenty of blogs still present individual writers’ individual perspectives. The mainstream press does pay attention to anime occasionally, but that attention is awkward at best, and often leads to controversy and accusations of hopeless misunderstanding. At the same time, the “enthusiast” media that focuses on anime and the anime fan community around the world is very much thriving, with sites such as Anime News Network now embracing feature articles, and Anime Feminist establishing itself as an unapologetically ideological outlet for commentary from a particular and very specific point of view.

Each of these formats welcomes a particular style or genre of writing. But other styles of writing on anime can exist as well – and may be best served by other formats. One such style can probably be best described as “creative nonfiction” – short pieces that are still very much personal and subjective, but longer and perhaps even a bit more elaborate than blog posts, but definitely not written in formal academic language or following any kind of style that would require notes, citations, and references. An example of writing in this style is Anime Impact: The Movies and Shows that Changed Japanese Animation (Mango Publishing, 2018) – several dozen short pieces, each only two or three pages, on a “major” (or Important, or Significant, or simply Meaningful) anime film or series. Probably this book’s biggest claim to fame, and certainly the kind of thing that got it noticed, was that one of the contributors was Ernest Cline, the author of the best-selling novel Ready Player One.

And now, it appears that Crunchyroll wants to follow the same model with Essential Anime: Fan Favorites, Memorable Masterpieces, and Cult Classics – currently set to be published next April by the Running Press imprint of Hachette Book Group. At this point, the book’s full scope is not yet clear, though according to descriptions that have been released so far, it will cover “50 influential and unforgettable anime series and films” – from Astro Boy to Demon Slayer, with pretty much all of the “expected” titles, especially those released over the last 40 or so years, included.

It is important to emphasize that it’s not meant to compete with or even complement the scholarly monographs and edited essay collections. Essential Anime is, unapologetically, casual reading, the kind of thing that is meant to catch your eye in a bookstore before you have too much time to really think about it. But this kind of book can actually serve a useful function – it’s great for someone who is curious about Japanese animation, may even have heard a few different titles and names, but wants to choose from a range of different movies and series without relying on either on one hand, or simply what just happens to be available and right there front and center on Netflix on the other. And it’s equally as encouraging simply to see that the two writers in charge of this project (both of whom are experienced anime journalists) have faith in its viability, and have convinced Crunchyroll, right now the flagship venue for streaming English-subtitled Japanese animation to Western audiences, to commit to publishing this book under the Crunchyroll brand!

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 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…)

New Special Issue – Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance

A key feature of Japanese visual popular culture, and especially anime and manga, is the extent to which creative works exist in different forms or formats. A work can – and frequently does – first appear as a manga, and may then serve as the basis of an anime series, a novel, video games, and the driver behind a wide range of merchandise and consumer goods. And even manga and anime are often based on other sources, such as non-Japanese novels. This process has already attracted significant scholarly attention, such as Anime’s Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan (Marc Steinberg, University of Minnesota Press, 2012), as well as more specific studies (“Animating the fantastic: Hayao Miyazaki’s adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle“, “Manga, anime, adaptation: Economic strategies, aesthetic specificities, social issues”, The essence of 2.5-dimensional musicals? Sakura Wars and theater adaptations of anime).

Now, the Journal of Adaptation in Film & Performance has published a full special issue with the theme of “Adaptation in/and Japan“, based on papers originally presented at the Adaptation, or How Media Relate in Contemporary Japan symposium that was held at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Culture in June of 2018. The issue’s editor, Prof. Amanda Kennell (University at Buffalo, The State University of New York), who also organized the original symposium, has herself studied the process and practice of adaptation extensively, with a particular focus on how Alice in Wonderland has been adapted in different contexts in Japan. The majority of the articles in the issue deal with anime/manga – although each of them approaches what exactly can be meant by “adaptation” in a different way.

Nobuko Anan, in Theatrical realism in manga: Performativity of gender in Minako Narita’s Alien Street, highlights “different conceptions of realism in theatre and manga” through a close reading of a classic manga about a “male actor who plays female roles”. Adaptation in Japanese media mix franchising: Usagi Drop from page to screens is Rayna Denison’s effort to shift the focus in studies of Japanese popular culture studies away from centering on anime films and major franchises, and to consider how the adaptation and media mix process plays out with regard to lesser known – but far more common – works. With this, Prof. Denison is able to address directly Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano’s call for scholarship on the kind of “domestic and mass-produced anime TV series” that actually constitute the overwhelming majority of what is meant by “anime”. This article also expands the approaches to the concept of the “media mix” to consider a full range of “media texts”, including manga and live-action films. Kouno Fumiyo’s Hi no Tori (‘Bird of the Sun’) series as documentary manga: Memory and 3.11 analyzes another aspect of adaptation – the way that elements such as “drawings, prose, poetry, statistical data, maps and commentary by the artist” can be integrated into a fictional text and into the medium of comics/manga. Interpretive negotiation with gender norms in shojo manga: Adaptations of The Changelings is a comparative study, addressing the ways in which adaptations of the same source text – even into the same format, but made in different years differ from each other. And closing the issue, Prof. Kennell draws on her major research interests for a study of adaptations of Alice in Wonderland in the work of Japanese “avant-garde sculptor, painter and novelist” Yayoi Kusama.

Taken together, as Kennell notes in the editorial that opens the issue, the five articles stand as a “superb introduction to the diverse media ecology of contemporary Japan and the implications of contemporary Japanese media production for the wider world.” And, beyond that, they really can also easily be seen as cutting edge of anime and manga studies, and a great example of the diversity and wide scope of this emerging field. 

Highlighting New Publications – Mechademia: Second Arc

One of the most powerful steps in the development process of a new academic field is the launch of a journal to collect and present new scholarly writing in the field. If nothing else, a journal means that enough scholars are interested in a particular topic area or on a particular subject to support the existence of one – and thus, can signal that the area or subject is supported by an actual community. In this way, publications such as Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, International Journal of Comic Art, and Journal of Fandom Studies help support the idea that animation studies, comics studies – and, recently, fandom studies do, in fact, exist as actual academic fields.

In 2006, the idea of approaching Japanese animation as a subject of academic study was certainly not unheard of. Susan Napier first introduced it in 2001’s Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation – followed by titles such as Roland Kelts’ Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S. and Brian Ruh’s Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii. There were at least several classes on Japanese animation and Japanese comics at various colleges/universities around the U.S., and a small but active and growing community of scholars interested in the topic. So, when the University of Minnesota Press announced plans to launch an full-scale ongoing scholarly publication on anime, manga, and related topics, the announcement was seen as exciting and welcome – but not unexpected.

The first volume of Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga, and the Fan Arts set the tone for the publication with several unique features. Its contents were structured around a common theme – in that case, “Emerging World of Anime and Manga”, and included both original articles with titles such as The Japan Fad in Global Youth Culture and Millennial Capitalism, The Werewolf in the Crested Kimono: The Wolf-Human Dynamic in Anime and Manga, and Assessing Interactivity in Video Game Design, translations of materials that had already previously been published in Japanese, shorter commentary pieces, reviews, interviews, and artwork. Nine more followed, with subtitles such as Limits of the Human (2008), User Enhanced (2011), and Origins (2014). Mechademia consistently attracted submissions from leading academics, but also welcomed work from graduate students and independent scholars, the volumes were easy to access electronically via JSTOR and Project Muse and widely available in academic libraries, and many of the individual essays received frequent citations in subsequent scholarship.

However, following 2015’s Volume 10, World Renewal, Mechademia‘s editorial team made a decision to expand its scope to encompass more broadly “scholarship on media cultures and texts from across Asia”, and thematically, “topics of current interest to scholars of Asian art, animation, literature, film, comics-manga-manwah, video games, merchandise, digital storytelling, and other ever-emerging media”. To underline this change, the journal would be formally retitled Mechademia: Second Arc, and, going forward, would be published twice a year. The call for papers for the initial volume – “Childhood” – was distributed in the summer of 2016. An “extraordinary series of delays on the publication side” followed, but Mechademia: Second Arc – “Childhood”, numbered as Volume 11, Number 1, and with a Fall 2018 cover date, is finally now available, though at this point, only online, through JSTOR and Project Muse (according to a notice on the University of the Minnesota Press website, the issue “is not in stock and the estimated shipping date is not available at this time”). (more…)

Highlighting New Publications – Interpreting Anime

Until recently, the options open to anyone looking for a general text on Japanese animation – one that could serve as a general explanation and summary, and an introduction to more in-depth approaches and readings – have been relatively limited. Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke, first published in 2000 and updated in 2005, certainly played this role at the time of its initial publication, but could it still do so almost twenty years later? The essay collection Cinema Anime: Critical Engagements with Japanese Animation (2006) was similarly important, but it too is now dated in many regards. Thomas Lamarre’s 2009 The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation is a major contribution to anime studies – but it is by no means an introductory text. And somewhat despite its title, even the relatively recent Anime: A Critical Introduction is a more complex book than it may at first seem – as it is in fact an introduction to the critical debates and discussions around and about Japanese animation.

This is precisely why Interpreting Anime (University of Minnesota Press, 2018), is a such a welcome addition to the body of English-language scholarly writing on Japanese animation. The author, Christopher Bolton, is a professor of comparative and Japanese literature at Williams College, with a focus on Japanese science fiction in particular, and has been studying Japanese animation since the early 2000’s. So, what exactly does Interpreting Anime add to the growing list of “books on anime”, and, turning this question around, how it is actually useful, and to whom? (more…)