“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.

Comment/Response – Anime in the US: The Entrepreneurial Dimensions of Globalized Culture

In one of my first posts in this blog, I raised the question of why there were essentially no English-language academic articles on the “business” of anime – the history of the U.S. anime industry, the specific practices that American anime companies used to succeed, how some of these companies were able to adjust to changing economic conditions while others went out of business. Among the possible reasons that I presented were that most of the scholars who are interested in anime come from backgrounds in the humanities, and so, they simply do not have the tools to write about business and business management, that because the U.S. anime industry is primarily composed of small private companies, only very limited data is available to potential researchers, and ultimately, that “the business of anime” in the U.S. is just too small to matter or merit academic attention.

In the same post, however, I highlighted a paper that I had just become aware of, in the March 2014 issue of the journal Pacific Affairs, with the intriguing title Anime in the US: The entrepreneurial dimensions of globalized culture – and promised that I would read through it, and share my thoughts and impressions.

Between my experience as a reference librarian and research specialist, and my academic background, I have read hundreds of journal articles, in many different fields. I do not hesitate to say that I have never come across any that is as disappointing as this one. What is even more puzzling to me is that I actually think the basic argument the author presents is correct. It’s just that he fails to support the argument with any kind of convincing or coherent evidence, while also making it very hard to take him seriously.

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Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies – 1999 Ed.

Hayao MiyazakiOn October 29, 1999, Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke opened in 8 theaters around the U.S. It was, of course, not the first Japanese animated feature film to receive an American theatrical release, but it was certainly more prominent than any that was released before. It ultimately expanded to some 130 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, and grossed at least $2.3 million during its theatrical run through the first months of 2000. And so, it was definitely not a coincidence that 1999 also saw the publication of the first English-language book on Miyazaki, authored by British anime journalist Helen McCarthy. Aimed at a general, non-academic audience, it nonetheless performed an excellent job of introducing commentary on Miyazaki’s works to a wide range of readers.

1999 also saw the launch of two different journals that both made an impact on the emerging field of anime/manga studies. From its very first issue, the International Journal of Comic Art, founded by the incredibly prolific comics scholar John A. Lent (he also edited both of the essay collections published in 1999 that contained chapters on manga – and authored one of the chapters), welcomed essays on Japanese comics – defined as broadly as possible. Since then, under Dr. Lent’s editorial guidance, it has published more than 60 such papers, as well as several special issues/special sections on manga, and has featured contributions from many of the most well-known scholars of manga who write in English, including many who are based in Japan and in other Asian countries, as well as in Europe.

The Japanese Journal of Animation Studies, the official publication of the Japan Society for Animation Studies, is a publication that most Western anime/manga scholars are still largely not familiar with. Interestingly, while most of its contents are in Japanese, the very first issue did include one essay on anime written in English, and the issues that appeared in subsequent years have largely followed this pattern. This journal is, of course, a lot more difficult for Western readers to access, but nonetheless, a comprehensive history and bibliography of academic writing on anime and manga cannot be complete without it.

This list is also permanently archived as a separate page. Any updates will be reflected on that page only.

Books

McCarthy, Helen. Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese animation: Films, themes, artistry. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press.

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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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Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies – 1998 Ed.

Words of Japanese Popular Culture1998 saw a slight increase in the number of chapters on anime/manga published in edited essay collections – 7 compared to the previous year’s 5. Three of the seven appeared in the first English-language books on Japanese popular culture in general, alongside other chapters on topics such as sumo, karaoke, women’s magazines, live-action television series. The 11 articles on anime/manga that were published in 1998 issues of academic journals were a decrease from the 20 that appeared the year before, but once again, it was clear that major journals such as the Journal of Japanese Studies and the Journal of Popular Culture had accepted the idea that anime and manga were valid subjects of in-depth academic study.

As always, the following list will be permanently archived in the Bibliographies section of this site. If I identify any new publications, they will be added to the permanent list only, not to this post.

English-Language Academic Writing on Anime/Manga, 1998

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The Early Years of Anime/Manga Studies: 1990-1995

KaboomLooking back more than twenty years, to the five years from 1991 to 1995, is actually a very good way to see how academics first began to approach Japanese animation. This period includes what is considered to be the first paper on anime in a major English-language academic journal (Susan Napier’s Panic sites: The Japanese imagination of disaster from Godzilla to Akira, published in a 1993 issue of The Journal of Japanese Studies), as well as Annelee Newitz’s Anime otaku: Japanese animation fans outside Japan (in Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life). Because this essay was immediately available in open access (though I don’t think the term had even come into use at that point), for many people, it became their introduction to academic writing on anime and anime fans – and even to the concepts of otaku, the communities, structures, and practices of anime fans, while also demonstrating how writing of this kind can be critical and harsh.

With only 22 total items on this list (one book, an essay collection with four chapters on anime, as well as profiles of several leading creators/directors, including Osamu Tezuka, Hayao Miyazaki, Katsuhiro Otomo, and Rumiko Takahashi, and interviews with several of them, 4 chapters in other edited essay collections, and 13 articles), there simply is not a lot available to analyze for the types of journals that published writing on anime/manga over these years. But, there are a couple of points that are worth making. One is that right away, major journals such as Film Quarterly, The Journal of Japanese Studies, and the Journal of Popular Culture were very much open to publishing research on anime and related topics. Another is that right away, it’s possible to trace several academic approaches to anime that would become common later on – comparisons of animated and live-action films (as in “Panic sites”), studies of particular themes in several different anime (as in “War and peace in Japanese science fiction animation”), and examinations of how anime is received outside Japan – and the different parties – creators, distributors/intermediaries, and fans – that participate in this process. It is interesting, too, to note that of the 13 articles, records and abstracts for 7 are currently available online through their publishers (and so, presumably, also in various general and specialized academic databases, potentially with access to the full texts), and one more can be accessed directly and free of charge.

English-Language Academic Writing on Anime/Manga, 1990-1995

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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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Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies – 2005 Ed.

From Akira to HowlIf, as I already noted, “2006 marked the point when the academic study of Japanese animation and Japanese comics could really be thought of as a discreet academic field or area”, 2005 was the concluding year of the period during which anime/manga studies developed into a field (this period, in turn, began in 2001, with the publication by Palgrave Macmillan of Susan J. Napier’s Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation, the first English-language academic monograph on Japanese animation). In fact, it was during 2005 that Napier updated her book to respond to developments such as the 2003 Best Animated Feature Film Oscar going to Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, and the explosive growth of the American anime and manga industries.

This list is also permanently archived as a separate page. Any updates will be reflected on that page only.

Books
(Total published: 1)

Napier, Susan J. Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle: Experiencing contemporary Japanese animation, Updated edition. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Book Chapters
(Total published: 16)

Bolton, Christopher. Anime horror and its audience: 3×3 Eyes and Vampire Princess Miyu. In Jay McRoy (Ed.), Japanese horror cinema (pp. 66-76). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

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Seizures Induced by Pokemon Episode: A Bibliography

PikachuOn Wednesday, December 17, 1997, newspapers and other media – first in Japan and then around the world – reported that the previous evening, several hundred children were hospitalized after experiencing various symptoms, including convulsions/seizures, while watching an episode of the Pokemon anime series. The initial coverage, such as by BBC, CNN, and Reuters, was straight-forward and balanced, but soon enough, what took place was sensationalized and exaggerated – like in the E! Online article Convulsion Cartoon Bound for U.S. TV (Jan. 3, 1998).

In the following years, this “incident” has been brought up numerous times in writing on Japanese popular culture. It is no surprise that how authors have used it have little to do with what actually took place – for example, Elaine Gerbert, in Images of Japan in the digital age (East Asia: An International Quarterly, 19: 1/2, pp. 95-155) writes: “[T]he sheer physical power of this medium [of anime] to work on the nervous system was demonstrated when showings of ‘Pokemon’ on Japanese television produced seizures in viewing children.”

Accordingly, I think it would be useful to compile a comprehensive bibliography of academic writing on the incident. Using the Gale Academic OneFile, EBSCO Academic Search Premier, and ProQuest Research Library databases, as well as the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s PubMed resource, I located a total of 11 articles, published between 1998 and 2005 in 7 different journals (Acta Paediatrica Japonica, Epilepsia, Pediatric Neurology, New England Journal of MedicinePediatric Neurology, Southern Journal of Medicine, and the non-medical Skeptical Inquirer). 8 of the articles are written by Japanese authors; the authors of the other 3 are American/Western.

Academic articles on seizures induced by Pokemon episode

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Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies – 2006 Ed.: Part 2

JapanamericaIn terms of books on anime/manga, whether written by single authors, or collecting essays by several, 2006 was simply like no year that came before. In fact, I would be comfortable saying that it marked the point when the academic study of Japanese animation and Japanese comics could really be thought of as a discreet academic field or area. Of course, academic authors had been writing books, chapters, and articles on anime/manga for years already, but, by 2006, it was clear that there was now enough interest in these topics to support a book from a major publisher claiming right in its title that “Japanese pop culture has invaded the U.S.“, dedicated essay collections such as Cinema Anime and Reading Manga, as well as, for the first time, an ongoing series of volumes that would explore a new general theme every year – Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga, and the Fan Arts. And it’s also worth noting that both the essay collections and the first Mechademia volume drew contributions from authors, such as Susan Napier, Anne Allison, Jaqueline Berndt, Antonia Levi, Thomas Lamarre, Sharalyn Orbaugh, and Brian Ruh, who were already at the forefront of writing about anime and manga – and who have continued playing major roles in how the field has developed since. In addition, the 2006 list of new academic publications on anime/manga includes 14 individual chapters in other general essay collections, as well as a pair of entries (“manga” and “yaoi”) in the scholarly Encyclopedia of erotic literature.

As always, the full list of books, book chapters, and academic journal articles on anime/manga that appeared in 2006 is permanently archived as a separate page. Any new addition will be reflected on that page only. And, also as always, if you have any additions to this list, please do not hesitate to let me know!

English-language books and book chapters on anime (Japanese animation) and manga (Japanese comics): 2006

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