Category: New Publications

Highlighting New Publications: Boys Love Manga and Beyond

Boys Love Manga and BeyondAs a particular genre in Japanese comics (and to a lesser degree, animation), Boys’ Love and the related generic/content label of yaoi has attracted significant scholarly attention from English-language scholars of Japanese popular visual culture. Boys’ Love, often abbreviated to BL, refers to texts with homosexual or at least homoerotic romance themes, created primarily by, and primarily for women. Yaoi is used generally for explicitly pornographic fan-created works, depicting sex between male partners, and using characters from established media properties such as novels, films, and anime/manga. Some of the ways that scholars are writing on BL/yaoi can be seen in book chapters such as Suzuki, Kazuko (1998), Pornography or therapy?: Japanese girls creating the yaoi phenomon, in S. Inness (Ed.), Millennium girls: Today’s girls around the world (pp. 243-267), and McHarry, Mark. Girls doing boys doing boys: Boys’ love, masculinity, and sexual identities, in T. Perper & M. Cornog (Eds.), Mangatopia: Essays on manga and anime in the modern world (pp. 119-133), and journal articles like Welker, James (2006), Beautiful, borrowed, and bent: “Boys’ Love” as girls’ love in shojo manga, Signs, 31(3), 841-870, McLelland, Mark (2006), Why are Japanese girls’ comics full of boys bonking? Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media, 10, and Pagliassotti, Dru (2008), Reading Boys Love in the West, Particip@tions: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies, 5(2). In addition, out of the less a dozen edited collections of essays on anime/manga that have been published in English before this year, one specifically focuses on “Boys’ Love manga”.

The publication by the University Press of Mississippi of Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture, and Community in Japan now brings the number of English-language essay collections on shounen-ai/Boys Love/BL/yaoi to two. And the obvious question is – what makes this essay collection unique. Is it anyhow different from the already-published five years ago now Boys’ Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre (Jefferson, NC: McFarland), or is it just more of the same?

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New Issue – Japan Forum: Japanese Popular Culture and Contents Tourism

Japan ForumOne feature of scholarly communication that is common to many different academic fields/areas is a small group of journals that are considered to be “core” to that particular field or area. These journals are the field’s most important and most prestigious – and often also the most heavily cited. Anime/manga studies does not (yet?) have such a core group. One reason for this is that as an academic area, it’s still very young. Another, perhaps more important reason is that as a label, anime/manga studies encompasses a wide range of approaches, grounded in many different disciplines. There is very little in common that articles like Satoshi Kon’s Millennium Actress: A feminine journey with dream-like qualities, Bringing anime to academic libraries: A recommended core collection, Ownership, authority, and the body: Does antifanfic sentiment reflect posthuman anxiety, and Viewer perception of visual nonverbal cues in subtitled TV anime have between them – other than that they all, to one degree or another, discuss Japanese animation as an art form, a commodity, or an object that audiences can respond to. (more…)

New Issue – Science Fiction Film and Television

sff.7.3_frontAnime, as anime scholars will never tire of repeating, is not a genre, it is a “form” or “mode” of animation, and anime films and television series can include a wide variety of genres. At the same time, it is also true that anime’s stereotypical genre is science fiction. The two films that first really got anime noticed outside Japan, Akira and Ghost in the Shell – are the epitome of science fiction cinema. And so, one of the most common approaches to anime that scholars take it to focus on anime as science fiction.

For example, the only anime director (in fact, the only animator) profiled in Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction (“a collection of engaging essays on some of the most significant figures who have shaped and defined the genre”, Routledge, 2009) is Ghost in the Shell‘s Mamoru Oshii. “Manga and anime” is a section in the Routledge Companion to Science Fiction (2009). Among the chapters in Science fiction film and television: Across the screens (Routledge, 2012) is one on Cowboy Bebop. And some of the most seminal scholarly essays on Japanese animation to be published in English – among them, Carl Silvio’s Reconfiguring the radical cyborg in Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell (No. 77, March 1999), Michael Fisch’s Nation, war, and Japan’s future in the science fiction anime film Patlabor II (No. 80, March 2000), and the three articles by Susan Napier, Sharalyn Orbaugh, and Christopher Bolton in the special issue on Japanese science fiction (No. 88, November 2002 – appeared in the journal Science Fiction Studies – these include).

With this in mind, ever since Liverpool University Press launched the journal Science Fiction Film and Television, the only peer-reviewed scholarly journal I am aware of with that specific focus, I have been looking forward to the kind of scholarship on Japanese animation the journal would feature. Until now, it was limited to reviews of books (and edited collections containing chapters on) anime, as well as one review of a particular anime film. And now, “science fiction anime” is the specific theme of the journals’ new Autumn 2014 issue. (more…)

Highlighting Upcoming Publications: Global Manga

When we use the term ‘manga’, what exactly do we mean? What are the components, or features, or characteristics of manga. Are these features or characteristics equal and equally necessary – does a work need to have all of them to qualify, or are some of them more fluid or optional than others. Is something either manga or not manga? Or can we talk about degrees or a spectrum? Can we say that one work is “more manga” than another? And, for that matter, how is the definition created? By whom? Why? When? How has it changed over the years? Are the borders of this definition subject to any kind of friction?

What do different scholars mean when they use the term ‘manga’ is a topic for another post. But it is clear that at least in America, manga has always meant something that can serve as a base or structure, but is open to modification. And a lot of the history of manga in America is a history of taking this term and all of its meanings, and creating new ones. So, from manga came the decidedly awkward Amerimanga (the title of an anthology magazine published over several issues by the long-forgotten Studio Ironcat; though it’s hard not to wonder whether “Amerimanga” was a conscious – or even unconscious – mirror image of the term “Japanimation”, which at one point in time was a perfectly acceptable way of referring to Japanese animation). From manga came OEL (Original English Language) manga, with the marketing and branding power of Tokyopop, for years, easily the most successful publisher of Japanese comics in English. From manga came “original-English language manga”, the preferred turn of phrase still used by the publisher Seven Seas Entertainment. And, from manga came “global manga”. (more…)

Highlighting New Publications: Anime Fan Communities

Anime_Fan_CommunitiesAs an academic field, anime studies may not be quite as “hot” as it was a few years ago, at the height of the anime boom/bubble, when it could very well seem that images drawn from Japan were everywhere in Western visual culture. And even though that bubble burst, and Japanese animation is nowhere near as popular or prominent in the U.S. and other Western countries as it was a decade ago, one particular effect of that bubble, an effect that we are still seeing now, is a steady stream of academic books on various aspects of anime and manga. There were eight such books published in 2014, although of the eight were new editions of previously published titles. 5 such books were published in 2013, 6 in 2012, and 4 in 2011 (all of these numbers are for monographs, not essay collections or reference titles). When thinking about explanations for this particular effect, perhaps the one that comes to mind right away is simply that at least some of the high school and college students who first became interested in anime at the height of the bubble ten years ago are now in academia, as graduate students and early-career professors. Anime and manga is what they know intimately, what they have been interested in for years – and topics related to anime and manga make for obvious candidates for their first major publications. (more…)

Comment/Response: Bringing Anime to Academic Libraries

Ten or fifteen years ago, the idea that academic libraries should collect “sequential art” of any kind, whether comics, graphic novels, or manga was if not controversial, then at least cutting-edge. Since then, however, these kinds of materials have found wide acceptance in library collections, to the point that librarians are now publishing articles on the “best practices” of collecting comics in a research library (O’English, Lorena, et al., Graphic novels in academic libraries: From Maus to manga and beyond) and looking at the sizes of comics collections in major academic research libraries (Masuchika, Glenn & Boldt, Gail, Japanese manga in translation and American graphic novels: A preliminary examination of the collections in 44 academic libraries). On the other hand, up until recently, there were no similar articles on the practices of building anime collections in academic libraries.

Robbins, Laura Pope (2014). Bringing anime to academic libraries: A recommended core collection. Collection Building, 33(2), 46-52. (more…)

New Issue – Int’l Journal of Comic Art

The full table of contents for the latest (Spring 2014) issue of the International Journal of Comic Art (IJOCA), the oldest and most well-established forum for English-language scholarship and research on all aspects of comics, graphic novels, caricature, strips, editorial and political cartoons, animation, and other related topics worldwide is now available at the IJOCA website. The new issue includes at least two papers on Japanese comics:

  • Galbraith, Patrick. The Misshitsu trial: Thinking obscenity with Japanese comics (pp. 125-146)
    [Preview / Read online]
  • Whaley, Ben. Doomed hybrids: Three cases of fatal mixing in the war comics of Tezuka Osamu (pp. 244-257)
    [Preview / Read online]

IJOCA has been published twice a year since 1999. It has grown from 219 pages and 18 articles in the launch issue to almost 800 pages and 42 articles in last fall’s (down to 590 pages and 28 articles for Spring 2014). It has always been actively international in scope, and almost every issue has included at least several articles on Japanese comics. And although it is perhaps not as “reader-friendly” as other, more recent publications, such as Studies in Comics, the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, and the open-access ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies, it remains the single most prominent periodical in English-language comics studies. In fact, earlier this year, it was the only periodical nominated for a Will Eisner Comic Industry Award in the “best scholarly/academic work” category.

 

Manga Scholarship in the Eisners – Update

In my earlier post about this year’s nominations for the Eisner Awards Best Scholarly/Academic Work category, I mentioned the chapter on nouvelle manga in Drawing From Life: Memory and Subjectivity and Comic Art, and the many essays on Japanese comics that have appeared over the years in the International Journal of Comic Art. But I will be the first one to admit that I missed one more book that I should have mentioned.

Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation is another of the four books and the one journal nominated in the category this year. The title alone gives no indication that it would be relevant to anime/manga studies. But, as is so often the case with inter-disciplinary essay collections, the title does not adequately represent its contents. And one of the essays in this book is in fact worth bringing up in the context of manga studies.

‘Beyond b&w?: The global manga of Felipe Smith’, by City University London’s Casey Brienza, who is fast emerging as one of the most active and insightful scholars currently writing on manga anywhere outside Japan, is an “in-depth textual and visual analysis” of two works by American comics artist Felipe Smith – the “manga-style” MBQ , which was published in the U.S. along with a number of other “original English language” or OEL titles in the mid-2000’s, and his second, Peepo Choo  – published first in a Japanese magazine, and only then brought back to the U.S. In her analysis, Brienza uses both the publication histories of these two works and their author’s personal background to demonstrate how manga is able to speak to audiences across nations, cultures, and perhaps races – but how these messages are received still varies based on regional or local factors.

Drawing from Life: Memory and Subjectivity in Comic Art – See more at: http://www.comic-con.org/awards/will-eisner-comic-industry-award-nominees-2014#sthash.PMUcWDm1.dpuf

Manga Scholarship in the 2014 Eisner Awards

In academic publishing – in any field or area – how do you differentiate between a good publication – and one that is truly extraordinary? One easy way is through citations – a paper that has been cited a hundred times is probably more influential than one that’s only been cited a couple, or never at all. But in of themselves, citations are not a measure of quality, merely an indication of a connection of some sort between two pieces of scholarship.

Another indicator is awards – the “best paper’ honors that are frequently presented by academic societies and individual academic departments. One such award, for example, is the Stuart L. Bernath Scholarly Article Prize, awarded annually by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations to the “author of a distinguished article appearing in a scholarly journal or edited book, on any topic in United States foreign relations” – in 2011, it went to Andrew McKevitt for his “You are not alone!”: Anime and the globalizing of America (Diplomatic History, 34:5).

But awards like these are only really meant to impress a small circle of other academics in the specific field or area, and rarely mean anything to the general reader. Is there something similar that’s directed not at academic departments, but at wider audiences? If there is anything, it’s the Eisner Awards – more formally, the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. The Eisners have been presented at the San Diego Comic-Con since 1988, and although they are generally known – and generally meant – to honor comic artists and writers, in fact, they have consistently included a “Best Comics-Related Book” category, and, since 2012, a specific award for the previous year’s Best Educational/Academic Work.

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Spotlight on New Publications – The Hysterical Subject of Shojo

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is easily one of, if not the most memorable – and influential – anime series to run on Japanese television and expand outside Japan – in recent years. So far, however, responses to Madoka have been limited to reviews, blog and forum posts, and other personal reflections, not scholarship. This is not surprising – the low speed of scholarly publishing, especially in the humanities – is a well-known issue.

So, it is quite exciting to see what I believe is the first full-length scholarly article published in English on Madoka:

Shen, Lien Fan (2014). The hysterical subject of shojo: The dark, twisted heroines in Revolutionary Girl Utena and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. In N. Jones, M. Bajac-Carter, and B. Batchelor, (Eds.). Heroines of film and television: Portrayals in popular culture. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Prof. Shen (Film and Media Arts, University of Utah) presented earlier versions of this paper at A Comic of Her Own, the University of Florida Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels, and at the 2013 AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium.

In the abstract the author submitted for the Symposium, she provided this description:

“Literally meaning a girl or girls in Japanese, shojo entails cultural connotations of innocence, purity, and fragile female figures with full range of emotion.  Anime portrays a significantly large number of shojo heroines to exaggerate this female representation as an object of fetish eroticism. This essay pays attention to the portrayals of shojo heroines in two anime works: Revolutionary Girl Utena and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Whereas shojo heroines are granted magic power as a form of female empowerment, the symbolic system of anime posits shojo heroines both as the subject and the Other, emphasizing their sexuality through visual symbols and narratives. Situated in psychoanalytic frameworks, this essay highlights shojo heroines’ persistent quest after ‘who am I to others’ as the hysterical subject who fully recognizes her subject self as an object in the masculine order. Through the examples of Revolutionary Girl Utena and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, I argue that the hysterical subject, the dark and twisted shojo heroines, is self-reflective in understanding her subject as one among many represented objects in the world, acknowledging the fundamental misrecognition of the self autonomy. This form of self-reflectivity may show us a way in which female subjects speaks an alternative language with and for herself/itself, hysterically yet persistently inquiring into her/its relation with others as a challenge of the masculine order.”

There may, of course, have been some changes between the version she presented then, and the final published version, but hopefully, even the abstract gives a general idea of the questions the author is asking, and the direction she pursues.