‘Manga in a Postdigital Environment’ Symposium

On May 30-31, Universida de Vigo, Pontevedra Campus, will host an international academic symposium entitled Manga in a Postdigital Environment. The symposium, organized by the research group DX5 is open to the public, and also will be broadcast online via Zoom. For additional information, including registration instructions, please contact grupodx5@uvigo.es.

The full program will consist of 12 individual presentations, with speakers from a number of leading European and Japanese universities, representing the cutting edge of global manga studies. For more details, including abstracts of the presentations and further details about the speakers, please see full symposium program.

Monday, May 30

10:00 a.m. – Opening Remarks

– Jorge Soto (Vice-Rector, Pontevedra Campus, Universidade de Vigo)
– Ana Soler (Director, dx5 Research Group)
– Jose Andres Santiago (Symposium Coordinator)

10:15 a.m.
From Cover to Page. From Title to the Speech Balloon: An Analysis of Typographic Applications in Naruto and Bleach
– Jose Andres Santiago (Universidade de Vigo)
– Tatiana Lameiro Gonzalez (Universidade de Vigo) (more…)

Who are the anime/manga scholars? – a 2022 update

As anime and manga studies continues to establish itself, developing from simply an area of interest to an established academic field, one of the questions that has to be asked time and time again is not just what is the definition of anime and manga studies, but what are its actual features and characteristics. “Where” does anime and manga studies actually take place – or where do the results of “anime and manga studies” appear. And, similarly, who are the actual participants in this field? Having answers to these questions can help establish a profile for anime and manga studies, and can also allow for comparisons between it and other areas of interest, fields of study, etc.

Seven years ago now, I already tried answering one of these kinds of foundational questions with a basic analysis of “who are the anime/manga scholars“. At that point, I examined the institutional affiliations of the authors who contributed chapters to four different essay collections on anime/manga, and determined that of a total of 59 authors, 35 (59%) were college/university faculty, 8 (14%) – graduate students, 5 (8%) – other academic employees (researchers, etc.), and 11 (19%) – independent scholars or not affiliated with an academic institution (including artists, librarians, museum employees, and industry professionals).

Of course,, anime and manga studies, and Japanese popular culture studies in general has evolved significantly since I published my initial 2015 study. For example, the Society for Animation Studies now includes an Anime Studies special interest group. Mechademia, the first regular English-language scholarly journal on anime/manga and related topics, which first began publication in 2006 but went on hiatus after ten annual volumes, has been relaunched as Mechademia: Second Arc, with an expanded focus on “the study of East Asian popular cultures, broadly conceived”, and a more frequent publication schedule. It has recently been joined by the open-access Journal of Anime and Manga Studies. More and more colleges/universities around the U.S. are offering classes on anime and manga, every year, new graduate students are focusing on anime/manga in their dissertations, and major new textbooks, such as A Companion to Japanese Cinema and Introducing Japanese Popular Culture emphasize the place of anime and manga in Japanese culture.

So, with all of this in mind, I think that 2015 “who are the anime/manga scholars?” is due for an update, with some modifications. In particular, just as Mechademia has expanded its scope, it’s appropriate to go beyond just an analysis of authors of chapters in edited essay collections on anime/manga. In fact, the “new” Mechademia, which has now published 7 issues, each with its own subtitle and general theme (such as “Childhood”, “Soundscapes”, and “New Formulations of the Otaku”) is a perfect source to drawn on to identify some of the current characteristics of authors in anime/manga studies, Japanese popular culture studies, and, really, East Asian popular culture studies in general.

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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!

English-Language Scholarship on Osamu Tezuka – Looking at the Numbers

If Japanese popular culture studies (and anime/manga studies) is now, in 2021, “a field in formation“, then it is no longer enough just to describe or even analyze. At this point, it is becoming more and important to start thinking about the contours and dimensions of this field, and about what this field encompasses. What topics are scholars who are working in anime and manga studies actually examining? What kinds of approaches are they using?

In this way, Jaqueline Berndt, in an analysis of “the interplay of anime research and the institution of Japanese studies outside of Japan” titled Anime in Academia: Representative Object, Media Form, and Japanese Studies makes the effort to point out that “the bulk of Japanese studies in the humanities pays attention to representations of Japanese culture and society in anime”.

…the bulk of Japanese studies in the humanities pays attention to representations of Japanese culture and society in anime

Jaqueline Berndt, “Anime in Academia”

Similarly, in A Coming of Age in the Anthropological Study of Anime? Introductory Thoughts Envisioning the Business Anthropology of Japanese Animation, Ryotaro Mihara has challenged the field with a straight-forward question: “Why do Anglophone anime studies, especially the anthropological studies on anime, show so little interest in anime’s business aspects and so much interest in its non-commercial activities?”

A related kind of approach would be to ask which particular creators – and even which particular works – is anime and manga studies emphasizing or centering, and the way this process can then affect the expected image or “meaning” of anime/manga outside Japan. I presented an example of this approach in an analysis of English-language scholarly publications on the work of Hayao Miyazaki, demonstrating that, as of the spring of 2018, Princess Mononoke was Miyazaki’s most-studied English film (34 publications, including an edited essay collection), followed by Spirited Away (32, including one full-length book), and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (21).

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Call for Papers – Journal of Anime and Manga Studies v. 2

In their editors’ introduction to the essay collection (“designed as a comprehensive undergraduate and graduate textbook”) Introducing Japanese Popular Culture, Alisa Freedman and Toby Slate refer to Japanese popular culture studies as “a field in formation”. Classes on different aspects and dimensions of Japanese popular culture are now fairly common at American colleges, and scholars are continuing to explore a wide range of approaches to this general topic in books, book chapters, and journal articles. A major new development in the field’s institutionalization took place earlier this year with the official launch of the Journal of Anime and Manga Studies. JAMS is not the first publication of this kind, but between its name and its open-access format (i.e., free availability online), it can have a significant contribution on promoting this field and introducing the idea of academic approaches to Japanese popular culture in general and anime and manga studies in particular to the academic community, and really, to all those who are interested in these kinds of approaches.

The journal’s launch volume featured five full-length peer-reviewed articles and a range of subjects, as well as several analytical approaches that have never before been tried in anime and manga studies. And now, the JAMS editorial team has announced the Call for Papers for the next issue.

In line with the general goal and mission of the Journal of Anime and Manga Studies, this call is general and interdisciplinary – the only guideline is that papers should discuss “anime, manga, cosplay, and their fandoms as analyzed from any number of scholarly perspectives”. All types of authors – faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and “independent scholars” are welcome to submit their work, and the papers can be broadly theoretical, or based on qualitative or quantitative research. Book review proposals may also be considered.

Maximum length: 7,500 words (however, significantly shorter or longer submissions may be accepted at the discretion of the journal’s editor)

Submission deadline: February 1, 2021

So, if you have plans to publish your research on anime/manga, or have ever wanted to try, the Journal of Anime and Manga Studies can be a great opportunity to have your your research undergo a formal peer review process, and then have the result appear as a formal publication in a new journal. I know I am already looking forward to reading the papers that will appear in the new volume, and I’m confident that plenty of other people are too.

So, to all potential Volume 2 authors, good luck!

The full Call for Papers, with additional details, is available online.

Call for Papers – The Waseda Symposium on Demon Slayer (鬼滅の刃)

One of the last places I expect to see a mention of a “smash-hit Japanese comic book” is the business section of the New York Times. And yet, on October 20, the Times highlighted the unexpected and unparalleled success of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train, which set a new box office revenue record on its opening weekend, and has since gone on to become the second highest grossing film of all-time in Japan.

At this point, it’s becoming hard to under-emphasize how much of a big deal Demon Slayer is on the Japanese popular culture landscape. And, now, Waseda University has announced a Call for Papers for The Waseda Symposium on Demon Slayer (鬼滅の刃) (to be held as an online event/webinar)

Suspensions of Concentration: Kimetsu no yaiba and Blockbuster in the Year of the Global Pandemic
Waseda University / online
March 15, 2010

“By scrutinizing Kimetsu no yaiba in relation to these and other issues, we will collectively reflect on the location of anime in its broadest sense. 

This one-day online symposium is an attempt to accomplish this objective by exploring a wide range of issues that are concretely related to Kimetsu no yaiba yet have implications beyond the single media franchise. The following are examples of possible topics for presentations and discussions:

The anime industry and media mix, fan culture, cosplay and social media, anime songs and music, voice acting and actors genre systems, intertextuality, action and spectacle, speed and kinetic dynamism, narrative motifs, iconography, visual style, historical imagination, the political unconscious, affect, violence, censorship, gender and authorship, transnational reception and consumption, labor and marketing, COVID-19 and the culture industry, etc.

We invite papers that critically discuss any aspects of the Kimetsu phenomena including – but not limited to – the list of topics mentioned above.”

Proposal length: 250 words
Submission deadline: January 9, 2021

Send proposals to: wasedakimetsu@gmail.com

The full Call for Papers is reproduced below and available at H-Net H-Announce.

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Book Review – The Anime Boom in the United States: Lessons for the Global Creative Industries

Authors: Michal Daliot-Bul (University of Haifa) & Nissim Otmazgin (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Publisher: Harvard University Asia Center
Contents

Twenty years ago now, in Anime From Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation, Susan J. Napier presented one leading reason for approaching selecting anime as an object of study. “For those interested in Japanese culture, it is a richly fascinating contemporary Japanese art form with a distinctly narrative and visual aesthetic that both harks back to traditional Japanese culture and moves forward to the cutting edge of art and media. Furthermore, anime, with its enormous breadth of subject material, is also a useful mirror on contemporary Japanese society, offering an array of insights into the significant issues, dreams, and nightmares of the day.” 

Napier’s book was the first full-length scholarly study of Japanese animation published in English, and most others that have been published since – titles such as Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii (Brian Ruh, 2004), The Anime Paradox: Patterns and Practices through the Lens of Traditional Japanese Theater (Stevie Suan, 2013), and Anime: A Critical Introduction (Rayna Denison, 2015) have largely followed its focus on Japanese animation as something to be examined with the approach and tools of literary and film criticism. But, as Napier herself also argued, “…anime is worth investigating for other reasons as well, perhaps the most important being the fact that it is also a genuinely global phenomenon, both as a commercial and a cultural force.” 

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Call for Book Chapters – “Libraries/Archives/Librarians in Comics”

“The editors of a new collection of articles/essays are seeking essays about the portrayal of libraries, archives and librarians in graphic novels, comic strips, and sequential art/comics. The librarian and the library have a long and varied history in sequential art. Steven M. Bergson’s popular website LIBRARIANS IN COMICS is a useful reference source and a place to start as is the essay Let’s Talk Comics: Librarians by Megan Halsband. There are also other websites which discuss librarians in comics and provide a place for scholars to start. 

Going as far back as the Atlantean age the librarian is seen as a seeker of knowledge for its own sake. For example, in Kull # 6 (1972) the librarian is trying to convince King Kull that of importance of gaining more knowledge for the journey they about to undertake. Kull is unconvinced, however. In the graphic novel Avengers No Road Home (2019), Hercules utters “Save the Librarian” which indicates just how important librarians are as gatekeepers of knowledge even for Greek Gods. These are just a few examples scholars can find in sequential art that illustrate librarians as characters who take their roles as preservers of knowledge seriously. We will accept essays related to sequential art television shows and movies e.g., Batgirl in the third season of Batman (1966); Stan Lee being a librarian in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) movie. 

Any topic related to librarians/archives/librarians in comics and sequential art will be considered. 

We are seeking essays of 2,500-5,000 words (no longer) not including notes in APA style for this exciting new volume. 

Please send a 300-500-word abstract by November 15th to  

Carrye Syma
Carrye.Syma@ttu.edu  
Assistant Academic Dean and Associate Librarian 
Texas Tech University Libraries”

FULL DETAILS

Ed. note:  Manga in libraries has been the subject of several different recent academic studies, such as The institutionalization of Japanese comics in US public libraries (2000-2010), and Librarians’ perceptions of educational values of comic books: A comparative study between Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The “reverse” of this – libraries and librarians in manga – has not. The reason for this is not difficult to identify – overall, it is just a very marginal topic in manga studies. Nonetheless, at least in comics studies more broadly, it has been approached in the past – as, for example, in The long, strange trip of Barbara Gordon: Images of librarians in comic books, and there is no reason why “Libraries/Archives/Librarians in Comics” would not be open to one or more essays on depictions of libraries/librarians in manga. The key question, of course, would be how to actually structure this kind of chapter – it would have to be more than just a “survey”. Some potential angles could include a comparison of how manga portray libraries/librarians with how American comics do, or, alternately, with portrayals in other Japanese fiction, or an examination of some unique angles in these portrayals – such as the militarized Library Forces depicted in the Library Wars manga series.

2020 Eisner Awards – Manga Studies Nominee

The organizers of the San Diego Comic Convention / Comic-Con International have announced the titles and individuals nominated for the 2020 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards in various categories, including Best Scholarly/Academic Work. And, for the second time since the category was first introduced in 2012, one of the books nominated in it specifically deals with Japanese comics. The nominated book is Women’s Manga in Asia and Beyond: Uniting Different Cultures and Identities (Palgrave Macmillan).

Women’s Manga in Asia and Beyond offers a variety of perspectives on women’s manga and the nature, scope, and significance of the relationship between women and comics/manga, both globally as well as locally…The edited volume elucidates social and historical aspects of the Asian wave of manga from ever-broader perspectives of transnationalization and glocalization. With a specific focus on women’s direct roles in manga creation, it illustrates how the globalization of manga has united different cultures and identities, focusing on networks of women creators and readerships.

Taking an Asian regional approach combined with investigations of non-Asian cultures which have felt manga’s impact, the book details manga’s shift to a global medium, developing, uniting, and involving increasing numbers of participants worldwide. Unveiling diverse Asian identities and showing ways to unite them, the contributors to this volume recognize the overlaps and unique trends that emerge as a result.”

Edited by Fusami Ogi (Chigushi Jogakuen University), Rebecca Suter (The University of Sydney), Kazumi Nagaike (Center for International Education and Research, Oita University), and John A. Lent, this volume is based on the work of the Women’s MANGA Research Project, with the individual chapters largely expanding on talks and papers that their authors have presented at conferences organized by the Project since it launched in 2009. The key concept around which it is organized is the idea that manga is “a global medium” – with roots in Japan, but no longer limited to Japan. This means that while it certainly includes several studies of “women’s manga in Japan” (such as Matsumoto Katsuji: Modern Tomboys and Early Shōjo Manga and Hailing the Subject: Visual Progression and Queer Reading in Nananan’s Blue), much of the book’s content specifically pushes the borders of its scope. In this way, the introduction to its first section presents the argument that “the term ‘women’ in the title…does not just refer to biological women but includes other non-masculine subjects, as well.” Later, “manga” is expanded to also include “manga-based cultural products and activities, such as cosplay.” 

“the term ‘women’ in the title…does not just refer to biological women but includes other non-masculine subjects, as well.” 

Similarly, “women’s manga” or “shojo manga” can encompass topics like the representation of Asia broadly and Australia narrowly in Japanese girls’ comics. And the book’s final section, “Asian Women Comics Artists and Their Careers”, with both critical studies of the work of several artists in Japan, China, and Hong Kong, and personal reflections essentially takes Women’s Manga outside “just” manga studies, and really into comics studies much more broadly defined! 

Ed. note: The only review for this book that has been published so far is by Jonathan Clements, in AlltheAnime. In Clements’ assessment, this volume is “a compendium of all the left-overs from the last decade of conferencing”, and “a random collection of essays, less of a book and more like a one-issue journal with a vague pop-culture focus and no style-guide”, although several of the individual essays are quite strong.

Ed. note 2: The previous manga-related book to get a nomination was Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture, and Community in Japan (2015, University Press of Mississippi – nominated in 2016). Prof. Nagaike was one of that volume’s editors as well.