Category: New Publications

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.

Spotlight on New Publications – Folktales and other references in Dragon Ball

One of the easiest, most straight-forward ways of finding new publications on topics related to anime or manga is simply to identify journals that have published anime/manga articles in the past, and pay attention to these journals’ upcoming issues. Of course, plenty of times, a journal might feature an anime article once – and never again. Other times, relevant articles may be few and far between. But, just as with many other academic areas, anime/manga studies has a list of “core” journals that specifically welcome papers on Japanese animation and comics.

Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal is definitely one of these core titles. Its goal is straight-forward – the journal “provides the first cohesive international peer-reviewed publishing platform for animation that unites contributions from a wide range of research agendas and creative practice.” And, since the journal began publication, in 2006, it has been one of the most consistent and reliable sources for new research on Japanese animation.

The latest issue – Volume 9, Issue 1 (March 2014), is now available. And once again, it features a new and noteworthy paper on a Japanese animated series.

Minguez-Lopez, Xavier (2014). Folktales and other references in Toriyama’s Dragon Ball. Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 9(1), 27-46.

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