Tag: books

Neon Genesis Evangelion: A Bibliography of English Language Scholarship

It’s definitely not every week and not every month that New York Magazine, The New Yorker and Vox pay attention to Japanese animation. But, of course, if there is ever an anime – not directed by Hayao Miyazaki or Mamoru Oshii – that would qualify for coverage in a mainstream English-language publication, Neon Genesis Evangelion, now available for streaming on Netflix, is that anime.

Ever since Evangelion premiered on Japanese television in the fall of 1995, and then made its way to countries around the world via means both official and decidedly unofficial, it has been the subject of intense discussion and reflection. And while it’s essentially impossible to build anything like a comprehensive catalog of “fan” reaction to Eva, what we can do is instead ask – and answer – the question of how have anime scholars responded.

As with any literature review or survey of this type, it is subject to certain restrictions and caveats. The most obvious one is of “scope” – the distinction between just passing mentions of Evangelion, and actual in-depth substantive discussion. But exactly where does this distinction lie? And beyond that, there is also the issue of “recall” – there is no way to ever be sure that a literature search is fully comprehensive. Nonetheless, and with these restrictions in mind, a look at English-language scholarly responses to Neon Genesis Evangelion still adds an important angle to considering and reflecting on Eva’s impact and effect.

Neon Genesis Evangelion Studies, 1996 – present

1996

*** OPEN ACCESS ***
Azuma, Hiroki. Anime or something like it: Neon Genesis Evangelion. InterCommunication, 18.

1997

[ARCHIVED]
Woznicki, Krystian. Towards a cartography of Japanese anime: Anno Hideaki’s “Evangelion”. Blimp Film Magazine, 36, 18-26

1999

Steinberg, Marc. The trajectory of the apocalypse: Pleasure and destruction in Akira and Evangelion. East Asia Forum, 8/9, 1-31.

2000

Routt, William D. Stillness and style in ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’. Animation Journal, 8(1), 28-43.

2002

*** OPEN ACCESS ***
Broderick, Mick. Anime’s apocalypse: Neon Genesis Evangelion as millennarian mecha. Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, 7.

Napier, Susan J. When the machines stop: Fantasy, reality, and terminal identity in “Neon Genesis Evangelion” and “Serial Experiments Lain”. Science Fiction Studies, 29(3), 418-435.

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Highlighting New Publications – Interpreting Anime

Until recently, the options open to anyone looking for a general text on Japanese animation – one that could serve as a general explanation and summary, and an introduction to more in-depth approaches and readings – have been relatively limited. Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke, first published in 2000 and updated in 2005, certainly played this role at the time of its initial publication, but could it still do so almost twenty years later? The essay collection Cinema Anime: Critical Engagements with Japanese Animation (2006) was similarly important, but it too is now dated in many regards. Thomas Lamarre’s 2009 The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation is a major contribution to anime studies – but it is by no means an introductory text. And somewhat despite its title, even the relatively recent Anime: A Critical Introduction is a more complex book than it may at first seem – as it is in fact an introduction to the critical debates and discussions around and about Japanese animation.

This is precisely why Interpreting Anime (University of Minnesota Press, 2018), is a such a welcome addition to the body of English-language scholarly writing on Japanese animation. The author, Christopher Bolton, is a professor of comparative and Japanese literature at Williams College, with a focus on Japanese science fiction in particular, and has been studying Japanese animation since the early 2000’s. So, what exactly does Interpreting Anime add to the growing list of “books on anime”, and, turning this question around, how it is actually useful, and to whom? (more…)

Anime/Manga Studies in 2018: The Year in Review

For various reasons, I missed a Year in Review post for 2017. But, with 2018 now several weeks behind us, it is definitely appropriate to review the highlights of the year for anime and manga studies in the broad categories of new and notable publications, conferences and other events, and classes.

Books:

interpreting animeAfter a relatively quiet year in terms of major new English-language books on anime, this past one was anything but, with some of the most well-known authors in anime and manga studies publishing new titles.

Christopher Bolton, who teaches comparative and Japanese literature at Williams College, led the way with Interpreting Anime, the first book on anime I am aware of that is designed specifically for classroom use – and so, aimed at both instructors and students – and priced accordingly, at just $24.00. It has already received excellent reviews, including in Choice and in the Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, where the reviewer praises Bolton for “a meaningful contribution to the scholarship of reading, one able to transcend its subject matter – anime – and speak to readers everywhere, those who seek as full, as complete an engagement with their texts as possible.” To promote the book further, Prof. Bolton has also created a dedicated web page for it, and a YouTube trailer.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWx277kDS9A&w=560&h=315]

[And, in what may be a personal first, alongside the books, chapters, and journal articles that Interpreting Anime’s bibliography lists, there is also a citation to a post in this blog.]

For many years, the introductory title in anime studies – more or less by default, was Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation, first published in 2001. And even though it saw an 2005 update (as Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle, now, in 2018, it is still inevitably dated. So, something like Interpreting Anime, along with Anime: A Critical Introduction, published in 2015, is absolutely invaluable. Probably the only caveat when considering this title is that it is based almost entirely on essays that Bolton published previously, although all of them have been revised and expanded to fit into an overarching structure. (more…)

Highlighting new publications – Miyazakiworld

MiyazakiworldTo Western audiences, Japanese animation still largely means the feature films produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. And Western animation scholars also focus on Miyazaki and Ghibli extensively – just some recent examples include two of the four volumes published so far in Bloomsbury’s Animation: Key Films/Filmmakers series, the articles in the April 2018 “Introducing Studio Ghibli” issue of the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, and a chapter on “excess and abnegation in Spirited Away” in the essay collection Devouring Japan: Global perspectives on Japanese culinary identity. And now, one of the world’s most prominent English-language academic publishers is adding to this list.

Napier, Susan. Miyazakiworld: A Life in Art. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. (more…)

English-Language Scholarship on Studio Ghibli Films: Looking at the Numbers

One of the paradoxes of scholarship in the humanities is that often, some questions that seem straightforward do not actually have simple answers. In fact, even coming up with an answer to some questions may be difficult, if not impossible. For example, it is relatively easy to demonstrate that a particular book or comic or movie is popular – the sales figures and box office numbers may not be immediately accessible, but the numbers do exist. But it is much harder to claim that a particular author – or a particular film – is “the most studied of all time” or something similar. Claims of this kind, applied to many different authors and many different films, are not uncommon – but the casual statements I have often seen, such as that “among the most studied films of the last few decades are those that descend from the mid-century fiction of Philip Dick and his contemporaries“, tend not to be supported in any way. Comparing authors or works based on the amount of critical attention they have received is equally challenging, though not unheard of – see, for example, Powrie, Phil, Thirty years of doctoral theses on French cinema, Studies in French Cinema, 3(3), 199-203, noting, among other things, “the most popular directors studied”. And, of course, studying the relative importance or prominence of actual scholarship is a well-established practice – and identifying the “most frequently cited works” and the “most frequently cited scholars” in particular fields is at the core of formal citation analysis.

Nonetheless, again, while providing an answer to the question of what is the most frequently studied anime ever – or the most frequently studied anime director ever – is impossible, narrowing the scope of the question can lead to interesting, and potentially insightful, results. The role that Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have played in introducing Japanese animation to audiences and critics outside Japan, and in legitimizing academic approaches to anime, is easy to acknowledge. And, as it turns out, now that we are looking at something more narrow in scope than “all anime that has ever been written about critically”, we can, in fact, survey and quantify English-language scholarly writing on Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. The end result, then, can be an actual illustration to the general discussion on how non-Japanese scholars have approached Miyazaki and his films.

English-Language Scholarship on Studio Ghibli Films: Examining the Numbers

Purpose: To compile and present specific figures on English-language research on the anime feature films of Studio Ghibli.

Scope: These figures are based on materials included in the Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies – books, chapters in edited essay collections, and articles in peer-reviewed journals and professional magazines. Articles in newspapers and general-interest magazines/websites, as well as blog posts and personal essays are not included, nor are dissertations/theses/papers written for class, or conference presentations, unless specifically published in Proceedings. The materials were identified using keyword searches in library catalogs, major and subject-specific academic databases, and Google Scholar, direct review of the bibliographies/works cited sections of many previously identified works, and in many cases, direct submissions by authors. All of the entries are listed separately in Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli: A Bibliography.

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Isao Takahata: A Bibliography of English-Language Scholarship

As several sources have reported, Isao Takahata, the co-founder of Studio Ghibli and the director of five Ghibli feature films films, passed away earlier today. Takahata’s output as a creator has always been second to Miyazaki’s. Nonetheless, his work, and in particular, Grave of the Fireflies, also received a significant amount of English-language scholarly attention. And, of course, Takahata’s work has been addressed extensively throughout the more general academic writing on the work of Hayao Miyazaki on on Studio Ghibli.

Isao Takahata (1935-2018): A Bibliography of English-Language Scholarship

Books

Colin Odell & Michelle Le Blanc.
Studio Ghibli: The films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.
Harpenden, UK: Kamera Books (1st ed.: 2009; Revised & Updated Ed.: 2015)

Book Chapters and Journal Articles

Swale, Alistair. Memory and forgetting: Examining the treatment of traumatic historical memory in Grave of the Fireflies and The Wind RisesJapan Forum29(4), 518-536.
“Within Japanese popular culture, manga and anime have played a significant role in mediating responses to the outcome of the Pacific War. Miyazaki Hayao’s (possibly) final feature-length film, The Wind Rises, has been an important addition to the preceding body of popular media ‘texts’ that raise such themes. This article aims to address the question of how far cinematic animation can reasonably be obliged to follow the kinds of historiographical concerns that inevitably arise when engaging with Japan’s militarist past. To answer this question, considerable space is devoted to examining the historical context of what others have done in the post-war period and integrate that commentary into an analysis of how the works of Takahata Isao and Miyazaki Hayao fit amongst a succession of creative works that have been co-opted in the reshaping of historical perceptions of the Japanese at war amongst the Japanese themselves. This will also require some incidental discussion of methodological issues that arise when dealing with such cases as vehicles for understanding transformations in historical consciousness. Ultimately it is argued that Miyazaki does indeed make an important contribution to the commentary on the Japanese war experience, although it must, perhaps unavoidably, be on highly personal terms so far as The Wind Rises is concerned.”

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Resource Review – Database for Animation Studies

Database for Animation Studies - 01A simple and straight-forward question to ask when conducting any kind of academic research is – where do I start looking for materials on my topic? And, a key concept to understand when thinking about the research process is that there is no such thing as single resource that would be an equally effective starting point for any kind of research.  Subject encyclopedias and specialized subject bibliographies, introductory essay collections (these often carry the specific term “Companion” or “Handbook” in the title – as with the examples of the Cambridge Companion to the Graphic Novel and the Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society) and of course, various general and subject-specific research databases , to say nothing of Google Scholar, may all be useful.

In the past, I have profiled/evaluated one such resource – the Bonn Online Bibliography for Comics Research. And recently, I became aware of another one that – at least initially, looks like it would be perfect for anyone who is looking to begin researching topics related to anime/Japanese animation.

Database for Animation Studies

What does this Database cover? How is it organized? And, most importantly, is it actually useful?

(Note: All of my comments apply to the English version of the Database only)

Profile:

“Launched in 2013, Database for Animation Studies is a part of the project called Mapping Project for Animation Studies held by Japanese Association of Animation Studies. It collects the information of the books and the articles on Animation Studies and share it. By doing it, this website aims to show the map of the landscape of Animation Studies.” (more…)

I Want to Know More – Books on Anime/Manga: A Guided Tour, Part 2

In a previous post, I highlighted several books that I think are the best to recommend for someone who really knows almost nothing about Japanese animation/Japanese comics, and wants an introduction that is both accessible and reasonably comprehensive. The titles that I profiled – among them Anime: A Critical Introduction, Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga, and Manga: Introduction, Challenges, and Best Practices – all strive to be just. But, what kinds of books could I recommend to a reader who is interested not in anime/manga “broadly defined”, but in the work of a particular anime director or manga artist/writer?

Books on Anime/Manga, Part 1: Introductions and Overviews

Books on Anime/Manga, Part 2 – Specific Directors/Creators

Books on Anime/Manga, Part 3: Essay Collections

Hayao Miyazaki

For many people, Hayao Miyazaki is anime/Japanese animation – and this is not unreasonable. Sales figures, critical recognition, awards – and scholarship – all contribute to this, to the point where, as Jaqueline Bernd notes (in her essay “Considering manga discourse: Location, ambiguity, historicity”, in Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the Worlds of Manga and Anime): “Non-Japanese scholars tend to assume that his movies are typical as a whole because of their mere presence in Japan; they frequently treat these animated movies are mirrors of Japanese culture, assuming the existence of a homogenous audience, and often implicitly comparing them to Disney products, but they rarely locate them within the history and present variety of animation in Japan.” But, again, just as Miyazaki and his films often serve as points of entry into the “worlds of manga anime”, writing on Miyazaki and his films can serve as point of entry to anime scholarship.

Hayao MiyazakiFirst published in 1999, Hayao Miyazaki: Masster of Japanese Animation – Films, Themes, Artistry is likely the first one on Miyazaki that a reader will come across. It is widely available and easy to read, with a straight-forward organizational scheme that consists of an overview of Miyazaki’s “life and work”, chapters on seven of his movies, from Castle of Cagliostro to Princess Mononoke, each divided into identical sections (“Origins”, “Art and technique”, “The characters”, “The story”, “Commentary”), and a concluding one on “The Miyazaki Machine”. Of course, one thing to keep in mind is that it is almost twenty years old now, and so, simply does not cover either the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, Miyazaki’s other subsequent projects, or his role as the conscience – or vocal critic – of the animation industry in Japan. (more…)

Manga in the New Bloomsbury ‘Comics Studies’ Series

Autobiographical ComicsOver the last several years, the international academic publisher Bloomsbury has actively embraced the emerging academic field of comics studies, with books such as The Visual Language of ComicsTransnational Perspectives on Graphic Narratives (with chapters on “manga versions of Spider-Man” and “the cultural crossovers” of the manga-inspired Scott Pilgrim series), Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation (containing a chapter on “the global manga of Felipe Smith, and winner of the 2014 Best Scholarly/Academic Work Eisner Award) , and with specific relevance to manga studies, last year’s Manga in America: Transnational Book Publishing and the Domestication of Japanese Comics and Manga and Anime Go to Hollywood.

Bloomsbury has now announced the launch of Comics Studies – a new series of “reference guides…to the many worlds of comics and graphic novels.” Each guide will contain a general overview of a particular genre or style of comics/graphic novels, the works of a particular creator, or major themes, and a summary of major texts, their contexts, and the critical discussions that have occurred around them.

The first two volumes in the series, due out in the fall, will be Superhero Comics and Autobiographical Comics (with a specific discussion of Kenji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen as a “key text”). And, a volume on manga is already in development, although no further details are available at this time. But, when such a volume does appear, presumably next year, it may very well end up serving as the go-to “introduction” to manga for readers who are not familiar with the ideas and practices of critical commentary. It could then serve as a necessary update to Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga (now more than twenty years old), The Rough Guide to Manga (2009, and out of print), and Understanding Manga and Anime and Mostly Manga: A Genre Guide to Popular Manga, Manhwa, Manhua and Anime – both useful books, but also now rather dated, and both designed primarily for librarians who need to make decisions whether a particular manga title is worth adding to a public library’s collection – and could very well become a standard college text on manga as well, or at least a relatively accessible source for class readings!

I Want to Know More – Books on Anime/Manga: A Guided Tour, Part 1

One of the most basic questions that can come up in anime/manga studies is simply – where and how can someone begin learning about anime and manga. Where can a person start if their goal is to find out more about the origins and history of anime, identify the major themes that Japanese animation and Japanese comics feature, evaluate the work of major leading creators and directors, and explore the range of critical responses to anime/manga?

“Look at books on anime/manga” is an easy answer to this question – but, given that there are current more than 100 such books, from Fred Schodt’s 1983 Manga! Manga!: The World of  Japanese Comics to the brand-new essay collection The End of Cool Japan: Ethical, Legal and Cultural Challenges to Japanese Popular Culture, it’s a too-easy answer. These books, published over more than 30 years now, and serve different goals (or, in other words, meet different information needs). So, a much more effective approach to the question about resources for learning about anime/manga is to break it down into several parts. What kinds of books are there on Japanese animation and Japanese comics? And what are the best books to consider for particular questions about anime/manga?

I Want to Know More: Books on Anime/Manga, Part 1 – Introductions and Overviews

Books on Anime/Manga, Part 2: Specific Directors/Creators

Books on Anime/Manga, Part 3: Essay Collections

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