Category: New Publications

New Issue – Resilience: A Journal of the Ecocritical Humanities

ResilienceMore than a year and a half ago, early in 2015, the editors of Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities announced a Call for Papers for a special Media Review section in an upcoming issue of the journal, that would be dedicated to “apply[ing] ecocritical and Green cultural studies approaches to the field of Japanese animation.”

The CFP provided additional background for the section, and listed the specific titles that the editors were hoping to attract reviews of.

“2014 was a watershed year for Studio Ghibli, arguably the leading anime studio, because it marked the retirement of the founding directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. who issued their swan-songs The Wind Rises and Princess Kaguya. To honor this moment and attract more critical attention to anime, we are soliciting reviews of the following:

  • Miyazaki’s films, especially Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Ponyo.
  • Takahata’s Ken the Wolf Boy, Heidi: Girl of the Alps, Pom Poko aka “Tanuki Wars,” Grave of the Fireflies, and Princess Kaguya.
  • We are also interested in work inspired by or intertextually related to Studio Ghibli, such as Disney’s Lilo and Stitch; Irish director Tomm Moore’s The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea; and the animated version of Avatar: The Last Airbender (including its sequel, The Legend of Korra, which is a gold mine for feminist, post-colonial, eco-cosmopolitan, and queer ecocriticism, just sayin’).
  • Reviews of other anime films, TV series, and manga unrelated to Ghibli will also be considered.”

For a while after the call for papers went out, I had not heard anything about this project – and in fact, it does not appear that the journal’s website has not been updated in more than two years either. But, as it turns out, electronic versions of it are available in both JSTOR and Project Muse, and, Ecocritical Reviews to Studio Ghibli was in fact published as the Media Cluster section of Resilience‘s Fall 2015 issue (Volume 2, No. 3).

Looking at the articles that actually appeared in the section, a few things  come to mind right away. The “spread” of films that the authors who responded to the CFP addressed is definitely fairly expansive – though not quite comprehensive – with separate essays on Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Pom Poko, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, the non-Ghibli anime Mushishi, and the arguably “inspired by Studio Ghibli” The Secret of Kells, as well as two more that discuss broader topics as expressed in more than one film. And, the list of authors is fairly wide-ranging as well – although most are based at American colleges/universities, others are affiliated with institutions in Australia, Germany, and the U.K. At the same time, the question also stands – Miyazaki’s work and influence has already been the subject of literally dozens of journal articles, and at least two journal special issues. Is another one really necessary? And, does it then merely emphasize Jacqueline Berndt’s argument that Miyazaki exerts an undue influence on the shape of anime studies as a field, and that this outside influence leads to a tendency to treat Miyazaki’s films as “typical of anime as a whole”, and largely ignore anime that doesn’t neatly fit this image or stereotype?

Regardless, the actual contents of this Special Section are as follows:

Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities
Special Section – Ecocritical Approaches to Studio Ghibli

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Highlighting New Publications: Urutsokidoji and the Transcultural Reception and Regulation of Anime

Japanese animation is, of course, animation created in Japan (even if, increasingly, a significant percentage of the actual “animation” work is out-sourced to other Asian countries), by Japanese creators – and designed primarily for distribution to Japanese audiences. But, since at least the early 1960’s, Japanese animation – first feature films, then television series – has been presented to audiences around the world.

And, each of these presentations has involved taking the original film or television series, and modifying it in some way. At the very least, this modification can be a translation of the script into another language – that, as any translation, can be more or less accurate. The script can also be rewritten entirely, so the end product is only tangentially related to the original. The characters’ voices will most likely need to be provided by different actors. And, some parts of a particular film or television series can be left off entirely.

These different kinds of modification practices present an obvious opportunity for anime scholars. How exactly is a particular anime modified for distribution outside Japan? Why? And, how do these modification practices differ from each other – across both time, and across space. For example, one of the most well-known examples of this kind of “modification” is the way that Osamu Tezuka’s Kimba the While Lion series was changed for distribution in the U.S. – a process Fred Patten examines in “Simba versus Kimba: The pride of lions” (in The Illusion of Life II: More Essays on Animation). Similarly, Brian Ruh examines the changes that Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind underwent before it could be released in the U.S. as Warriors of the Wind in Transforming U.S. anime in the 1980’s: Localization and longevity (in Mechademia v. 5: Fanthropologies). These kinds of studies are not limited to releases of anime in the U.S., either – consider Cobus van Staden’s Moomin/Mumin/Moemin: Apartheid-era dubbing and Japanese animation, or Ilaria Parini’s Censorship of anime in Italian distribution.

And now, in the new issue of the Journal of British Cinema and Television, Emma Pett (University of East Anglia) expand on these, with a case study of how anime has been presented to audiences in the U.K. – and the way that British authorities responded to this presentation.

Pett, Emma. ‘Blood, guts, and Bambi eyes’: Urutsokidoji and the transcultural reception and regulation of anime. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 13(3), 390-408.

Overfiend“The regulation and reception of anime in Britain has, historically, been fraught with difficulty. In 1992, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) rejected the first instalment of Urotsukidoji, a controversial series of erotic anime, on the grounds of its sexually explicit content; this decision set a precedent for the way in which they would continue to censor anime for the following two decades. Nearly twenty years later, in 2009, Clause 62 of the Coroners and Justice Act, also colloquially known as the ‘Dangerous Cartoons Act’, made it a criminal offence to possess non-photographic pornographic images of children, including CGI, cartoons, manga images and drawings. Through an examination of the BBFC’s archival materials on Urotsukidoji – Legend of the Overfiend, supplemented by references to a small number of newspaper articles published during this period, this article offers a range of insights into the historical context in which the current series of debates surrounding the ‘Dangerous Cartoons Act’ can be situated and assessed. These are used to consider the transcultural flow of genres across national borders, and the difficulties that a regulator from one culture encounters when dealing with controversial material originating from another, such as Japan, that has a substantially different set of social values and artistic conventions. Furthermore, this case highlights the important role played by distribution companies in shaping the production and evolution of genres within the transcultural marketplace.”

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Highlighting New Publications – Manga Vision

One thing I have always found a bit curious about English-language academic writing on Japanese animation and comics is that while anime has been the subject of a number of full-length books, such as Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke, The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation, Frames of Anime: Culture and Image-Building, Anime: A History, and, just last year, Anime: A Critical Introduction, the last general/comprehensive book on manga published in English has been Frederik Schodt’s 1996 Dreamland Japan – the ones that have appeared since are either introductions like the Rough Guide to Manga, or more focused titles such as A Sociology of Japanese Ladies’ Comics and Straight from the Heart: Gender, Intimacy, and the Cultural Production of Shojo Manga.

At the same time, every year, plenty of other writing on manga does appear – in the form of articles in various scholarly journals and chapters in edited collections. In fact, several collections deal with manga specifically – among them are Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives, Manga’s Cultural Crossroads, Manga and the Representation of Japanese History, and International Perspectives on Shojo and Shojo Manga: The Influence of Girl Culture. Now, one more such collection can be added to the list of English-language academic books on Japanese comics.

Manga VisionManga Vision: Cultural and Communicative Perspectives

Editors: Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou and Cathy Sell
Publisher: Monash University Publishing (Australia)
ISBN: 978-1-925377-06-4

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Highlighting New Publications – Origin and Ownership from Ballet to Anime

One of the inevitable challenges of attempting an academic approach to anime/manga is the simple question of selecting particular works to examine – out of hundreds. In a way, it is this challenge that leads many scholars to limit their discussion of anime to discussions of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films – if nothing else, this kind of limitation allows them to easily connect such new to the significant amount of scholarship on these films that exist already. Similarly, as Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano points out, scholars who write on anime all too frequently limit their studies to straight-forward textual analysis – this leads to a “marginalization” of anime series that air on television – and, maybe, are just not that interesting from a pure textual analysis point of view.

This is precisely why examples of new contributions to anime studies that do go beyond Miyazaki and a handful of other directors are always worth paying attention to. And one such example appears in the February 2016 issue of the Journal of Popular Culture . The full issue is currently available in open access on its publisher’s website.

Kennell, Amanda. Origin and ownership from ballet to anime. Journal of Popular Culture, 49(1), 10-28.

Princess Tutu“‘Long ago and far away…’ begins each episode of Princess Tutu. An anime steeped in century-old ballets – themselves steeped in older folklore, opera, history, and fairytales – Princess Tutu does not quite fit into an easily recognizable mold. It features a magical girl, or mahō shōjo, but she seems to take a back seat to other characters, and the reward waiting for her at the end of the series is a quiet life as a single duck, rather than as the partner of a handsome prince. The story revolves around a battle between a beloved prince and an evil raven, but the prince first lacks interest in battle and then eventually allies himself with the raven. A young man trying to become a valiant knight plays an important role, yet he becomes most important when he throws away his sword and absents himself from the climactic fight, allowing a wimpy bookworm to defend him valiantly against attack. Finally, a young woman falls in love with the prince, but she is dating him before the series begins and they ride off into the sunset at the end with little change in their relationship. Not a mahō shōjo-type coming-of-age story; not a love story; not, really, the story of a battle between good and evil, Princess Tutu emerges from a frothy ocean of stories without really belonging to any of them. Yet, an in-depth examination of the relationship between Princess Tutu and one of its sources, the ballet Swan Lake, reveals that Princess Tutu is representative of a process of creation common to classic ballets.”

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Highlighting New Publications – Manga & Anime Go to Hollywood

Manga and Anime Go to Hollywood“Can anime/manga be adapted into successful American live-action films?” And, for that matter, “which anime/manga would be good candidates for adaptation into American live-action films? These kinds of questions are too easy – and are asked time and time again. In the mid-2000’s, A.D. Vision, then the leading distributor on anime on VHS and DVD in the U.S. was in the early stages of producing a live-action version of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Several years later, a live-action Speed Racer opened in U.S. theaters, followed by a live-action Dragonball: Evolution. And just a few weeks ago, ICv2, a leading website for news about “pop culture products”, reminded readers in a feature article on “new trends in manga” that:

“There’s another trend coming down the pipe that’s also likely to raise the profile of anime and manga even further.  Hollywood is taking notice of the global popularity of Japanese pop culture, and the results of that interest are going to start hitting screens soon. Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson, is fairly far along, as is Death Note, which is being cast.  At earlier stages of development are Naruto, and Akira.”

So far, however, with the exception of Rayna Denison’s Franchising and failure: Discourses of failure within the Japanese-American Speed Racer franchise, published in 2014’s “Origins” volume of Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga, and Fan Arts, there has been very little in the way of English-language commentary on the potential of Hollywood adaptations of anime/manga, or analysis of the adaptations that have appeared so far. (more…)

Highlighting New Publications – Manga in America

Manga in AmericaEnglish-language scholarship on Japanese comics/manga goes back almost 40 years – at least to Mary Sanches’ Contemporary Japanese youth: Mass media communication, published in 1977 in Youth & Society (8:4, 389-416) – an analysis of “the information presented to young readers in one issue of each of two typical Japanese publications [manga magazines]”, with an emphasis on “the differences in the kinds of information aimed at female and male readers.” And in the years since that essay’s publication, the majority of such writing has focused on manga as literature or as a form of Japanese visual culture. Fred Schodt takes this approach in both Manga! Manga: The World of Japanese Comics and Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga, as do the editors of the essay collections Manga and Philosophy: Fullmetal Metaphysician and Manga and the Representation of Japanese History, and the authors of articles such as Layers of the ethereal: A cultural investigation of beauty, girlhood, and ballet in Japanese shojo manga. (Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, 18:3, 251-296), Transgression of taboos: Eroticising the master-servant relationship in Blue Morning. (Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, 6:4, 382-397), and Visualizing the self in comedic pathos: Japanese autobiographical manga at the limit of multiculturalism (East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, 1:2, 239-253). But, stories and themes do not simply appear. They are created by authors, developed by editors, published and distributed by for-profit companies, sold by retailers. And, manga scholars need to also be aware of all of those steps and processes, recognize their importance and pay attention to them. (more…)

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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New Issue: Scandinavian Journal of Comic Art

One of the most interesting trends in the development of the academic field of comics studies over the last two or so decades has been the emergence of several academic journals focused specifically on comics – broadly defined, and including manga. This trend started with the launch of the International Journal of Comic Art; since then, it has been joined by the online-only (and so, open access/free-to-read) Image [&] Narrative and ImageTexT, as well as the more traditional (i.e., distributed primarily to libraries that pay a subscription price for electronic access and/or print issues) Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics and Studies in Comics. Another, The Comics Grid, was first launched as a WordPress-driven blog, but has since converted to a more traditional format, with all pieces published in a given year assigned to a unique volume and given an individual article number – so, The relationship between personalities and faces of manga characters can be identified – and cited to – as being published in Volume 5, and as Art. 3. Its editor provided an in-depth explanation for the reasons behind this change.

SJoCA-CoverOne more such journal – and one that I was not previously aware of – is the Scandinavian Journal of Comic Art. The journal’s first two issues were published in 2012, none in the next two and a half years, but a new one is now available. As per its profile, it is “global in scope and aims to publish high quality research regardless of national or regional boundaries” – the “Scandinavian” in the title refers primarily to where its editors are originally from and/or are currently based. The theme of the issue is “Nordic history and cultural memory in comics” – and one of its three articles deals specifically with manga.

Yamazaki, Asuka. The body, despair, and hero worship: A comparative study of the influence of Norse mythology in Attack on Titan (pp. 25-49).

“The Japanese comic Attack on Titan has become greatly popular, currently with a circulation of more than forty million. Its worldwide popularity crosses national and generational boundaries, and it has been translated into numerous European and Asian languages. Attack on Titan presents a more than a century long battle between the human race and the Titans, whose ruthless hunting and devouring of human beings has forced the last of humanity into a fortress surrounded by three enormous, concentric walls. This article studies the influence of Norse mythology on Attack on Titan from an aesthetic and philosophical perspective. It focuses in part on the Titan legend, including Attack on Titan’s unique figure Ymir, who is compared with an important creature in Norse mythology, the giant Ymir. It also focuses on similarities between the motif of the wall in this comic and of the Miðgarðr in Norse myth. Finally, the paper analyzes the structure of hero worship in Attack on Titan in relation to mythological concepts, especially the metaphorical ritual of extracting a warrior’s heart and the image of the damaged body of the warrior.”

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New Issue: Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics

RCOM_COVER_6-04.inddAcademic articles on comics, including manga, can – and certainly do – appear in a wide range of ournals. For example, just this year so far, the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, the Journal of Neo-Victorian Studies, and Transformative Works and Cultures have all published such articles. However, several English-language journals cover comics exclusively. It is certainly reasonable to assume that they will welcome articles on Japanese comics.

The Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics (Routledge), is probably the highest-profile such journal. It began publication in 2010, at first with two issues in each year’s volume, and has since expanded to four. Within the first year, it published Casey Brienza’s Producing comics culture: A sociological approach to the study of comics, a study of how “the conditions and mode of production help to determine the particular sorts of [comics] texts that are actually created” in the U.S. and In Japan, followed by three other individual articles, and a full “Boys’  Love manga (yaoi)” special section. And, two more articles on Japanese comics appear in the new December 2015 issue.

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Highlighting New Publications – Anime: A Critical Introduction

The goals of the first books on Japanese animation published in English – Antonia Levi’s Samurai From Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation (1996), Susan Napier’s Anime From Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation (2001), and Patrick Drazen’s Anime Explosion! The What? Why? & Wow! of Japanese Animation (2002) – were fairly modest, and limited simply to describing the major features and themes that are present throughout anime. The books that individual authors have published on anime since then have been more elaborate, with focuses on themes such as “fan communities” and the “anime media mix”, and in-depth theoretical approaches as with Thomas Lamarre’s The Anime Machine. The exceptions have been 2009’s The Rough Guide to Anime and the 2013 Kamera Books handbook Anime (essentially, a listing of major directors.creators and major films/series). But, no such thing as a current/contemporary critical overview of Japanese animation, from an academic expert but aimed at a general audience, existed – until now.

Anime - DenisonAnime: A Critical Introduction is a new entry in Bloomsbury Publishing‘s “Film Genres” series that also includes volumes on “Fantasy Film”, “Teen Film”, “Science Fiction Film”, and “Historical Film”. Fittingly, the approach that it takes emphasizes the genres within Japanese animation, such as science fiction, horror, shone and shojo, and the separate and unique “Ghibli Genre”, while acknowledging that genres, as concepts and categories are constructed by both creators, audiences, and third parties such as the media, and are subject to change/evolution over time. In its discussion of anime as a particular “cultural phenomenon” and a “globally significant category of animation”, the author also makes sure to introduce a historical perspective that places “anime” as we usually think of it into the broader context of “Japanese animation”, and to engage with the work of both English-language and Japanese anime scholars, including the ones mentioned above.

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