There is no way around this – books are judged by their covers. Readers judge. Corporate bookstore chain “buyers” (not customers, but rather, the corporate bookstore chain employees whose job it is to select the specific books that their particular bookstore chain will purchase from the publisher and put up on the shelves) judge. Librarians judge. And ultimately, a cover reflects and indicates not just what a particular book is about, but how much care and effort has been put into a particular book as a physical object – and as something that is supposed to be worth a reader’s money.
The history of English-language books on Japanese animation and comics begins over thirty ago, with Frederik Schodt’s Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics – first published in 1983, and still in print today. And by my count, at least 90 books dealing with anime/manga have been published in English since. Granted, this figure includes everything from “traditional” scholarly monographs such as The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation and Cartoon Cultures: The Globalization of Japanese Popular Media and edited essay collections (Cinema Anime: Critical Engagements with Japanese Animation, Mangatopia: Essays on Manga and Anime in the Modern World) to books directed at casual readers (Anime and Philosophy: Wide Eyed Wonder, BFI Film Classics: Spirited Away, The Rough Guide to Manga), “directories” (500 Essential Anime Movies: The Ultimate Guide, Anime Classics Zettai!: 100 Must-See Japanese Animation Masterpieces) and various odds-and-ends – exhibit catalogs, revised reprints of magazine columns, first-hand accounts. But even focusing on the more “academic” books on anime and manga that have been published in English from 1983 to the present, we can learn a lot about how authors – and publishers – have approached Japanese animation and comics over the years as expressed in the covers that they selected. (more…)