Tag: books

Book Review – Manga Cultures and the Female Gaze

English-language writing on Japanese comics is not by any means a new thing or even a recent thing. Fred Schodt’s Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics is 40 years old this year, and a couple of journal articles and book chapters are even older. But if we look at the way book length studies of Japanese comics written in English have developed over these last 40 years, one thing that’s easy to notice right away is that these studies can be grouped together around several common themes and approaches. Three recent titles simply bring together “explorations” and “perspectives” (Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime, Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives, Manga Vision: Cultural and Communicative Perspectives). Two analyze boys love manga / boys’ love manga. And four others have as their subject “ladies comics”, women’s comics, shojo manga, and “shojo and shojo manga”.

Examples of a different kind of focus can be found in Manga and the Representation of Japanese History, Rewriting History in Manga: Stories for the Nation, and The Representation of Japanese Politics in Manga: The Visual Literacy of Statecraft. One particularly interesting thing, though, these are all studies of particular kinds or genres of manga – compared to the more comprehensive ways that scholars have been approaching Japanese animation the way Susan Napier does in Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation. Rayna Denison’s  Anime: A Critical Introduction, and Christopher Bolton’s Interpreting Anime are similar examples.

One title that is a definite exception to this is Manga: A Critical Guide, just published earlier this year. And another, though it dates from a couple of years ago – and is more complex than an overview, is Manga Cultures and the Female Gaze. With it, Kathryn Hemmann (who currently teaches in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania and writes on a variety of topics at digitalfantasydiary.com) sets out to make the point that while when we think of visual popular culture in general, and Japanese visual culture in particular, we often assume a “default” male audience, it is crucial to consider the female creators and female audiences. “The female gaze” is how female manga artists depict female characters, but as it turns out, this gaze, and essentially, what it reveals simply by virtue of treating “women as subjects instead of objects” then can challenge some of the standards approaches to “trends in the consumption of (Japanese) entertainment media” that (male) theorists such as Eiji Otsuka, Hiroki Azuma, and Saito Tamaki have presented.

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Manga in the 2023 Eisner Award Nominations – and 2012-2023

On May 17, the organizers of Comic-Con International: San Diego announced the nominees for this year’s Eisner Awards (for materials published in 2022) – officially the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. Although the Eisner Awards are generally known for honoring specific comics and the work of specific comics artists and writers, since 2012, one of the awards has recognized the year’s Best Educational/Academic Work. The category is now officially titled Best Scholarly/Academic Work, and this year once again, although none of the five titles that have received nominations in it specifically discuss Japanese comics, one is an essay collection with several chapters that do.

The LGBTQ+ Comics Studies Reader: Critical Openings, Future Directions (University Press of Mississippi) includes among its contents 3 very different essays on different aspects of manga, brought together under the section heading “Global Crossings and Intersections”:

First, Prof. Keiko Miyajima (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York), contributes the chapter XX, XY, and XXY: Genderqueer bodies in Hagio Moto’s science fiction manga, a reading of several classic manga titles including Marginal, Star Red, and They Were 11, that emphasizes depictions of trans* identities “as a site of resistance to any coercive gender norms”.

Following this, William S. Armour is the author of An exploration of the birth of the slave through ero-pedagogy in Tagame Gengoroh’s PRIDE. In this follow-up to the 2010 paper Representations of the masculine in Tagame Gengoroh’s ero SM manga (Asian Studies Review, 34:4), Armour introduces non-Japanese audiences to what he refers to as a “Bildungsroman ero-MANGA”, discusses particular aspects of it that may ” resonate with Tagame’s intended audience”, and makes the point that in addition, PRIDE can be viewed as essentially a “how-to manual” or instructional work.

Finally, with Gay fanzines as contact zones: Dokkun’s adventures with “bara” manga in between Japan and France, Edmond Ernest dit Alban (Tulane University) argues that amateur pornographic comics such as those published in the French-language fanzine Dokkun enable and support “contact zones” for local, regional, and global cultures and communities.

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Book Review – Manga: A Critical Guide

[Ed. note: Book publishers rarely make an effort to promote new books on topics like manga. Guess leaves it up to people like me, who are interested in these kinds of books, to promote!]

Shige (CJ) Suzuki and Ronald Stewart
Bloomsbury Academic, 2022, 280 pages.
[Amazon] — [Bloomsbury USA]

This is a pre-peer review preprint of an article that has been accepted for publication in East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, 9:2, 2023.

When it comes to books that can explain manga to a non-Japanese reader, Fred Schodt’s Manga Manga: The World of Japanese Comics and Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga are the ones that come to mind right away. But important as these two titles are, they are now more useful as historical artifacts – Manga Manga was first published in 1983, and Dreamland Japan last received an update in 2011. Japanese comics have changed a good deal even in the last decade, and how we understand Japanese comics has also changed quite a lot. And while several authors have recently written (or contributed to) in-depth studies such as Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture, and Community in Japan, Manga and the Representation of Japanese History, and Manga Cultures and the Female Gaze, what we haven’t had is a general survey that would try to explain, or at least summarize “Japanese comics” in a neat and comprehensive package. And this is precisely the task that Manga: A Critical Guide sets out to accomplish – the book’s goal is to serve as both an introduction to the art form of manga, and to its impact and influence around the world, and as a summary of how critics and scholars approach manga and the questions they ask. Accordingly, its focus is on “manga” (exactly what is meant by the term is itself one of the points the book addresses) as a whole, rather than not on particular titles or creators, and while this book is not aimed purely at a scholarly audience, it’s also not designed for fast and casual reading like something like the now out-of-print The Rough Guide to Manga, or the just-released (and translated from French) A History of Modern Manga.

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2022 in Review in Anime and Manga Studies

The start of the new year implies many things, but for websites that deal with news, the start of a new year often implies “year in review” articles summarizing some of the previous year’s major trends and highlighting major events. And, surprising as it may be, when we look back at 2022 in terms of developments related to anime and manga studies, there were several that are worth pointing out specifically!

2022 Highlights

34th Annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards – Best Academic/Scholarly Work winner: Comics and the Origins of Manga: A Revisionist History (Eike Exner, Rutgers University Press)

Marking a high point in the development of manga studies as an academic field, 2022 saw the first time that the Eisner Award in this category went to a book on Japanese comics, although volumes on manga have received nominations before. Exner’s study, based on extensive fieldwork he conducted in Japan, working primarily at the National Diet Library, makes the case that American comic strips played a key role in the development of Japanese manga because they were widely translated, available to both readers and authors/artists, and introduced the Japanese market to potential new storytelling and visual techniques. This does not in any way mean that manga “rips off” American comics; nonetheless, some Japanese Twitter commenters have attempted to accuse the author of racism and cultural appropriation. Interviews with Exner are available on this site and on the New Books Network.

Qualitative Research publishes, then retracts “Using masturbation as an ethnographic method in research on shota subculture” paper after media outcry.

This absolutely unprecedented sequence of events started on April 26, with the OnlineFirst appearance of a research article with the full title “I am not alone – we are all alone: Using masturbation as an ethnographic method in research on shota subculture in Japan”. Nothing of interest happened until early August, when the it began picking up Twitter attention from both other academics and even some politicians, leading, predictably, to media coverage in The Telegraph, Vice.com, and other venues. And an opinion piece in Times Higher Education that presents the original article as an example of “insanity of ethnography’s turn towards introspection and other postmodern research methods that place little value on objectivity” is that paper’s most-read article of the year! (more…)

Interview with the Author – Comics and the Origins of Manga

On July 22, Comic-Con International announced the winners of this year’s Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. And, for the first time in the history of the Eisners, the award in the Best Academic/Scholarly Work category went to a book on sequential art in Japan – Comics and the Origins of Manga: A Revisionist History, by Eike Exner. Anime and Manga Studies extends ours congratulations to the book’s author. We are particularly excited to be able to ask several questions about the book, the challenges of actually conducting the research that went into writing it, and the kinds of reactions both publishers and readers have had.

Japanese comics, commonly known as manga, are a global sensation. Critics, scholars, and everyday readers have often viewed this artform through an Orientalist framework, treating manga as the exotic antithesis to American and European comics. In reality, the history of manga is deeply intertwined with Japan’s avid importation of Western technology and popular culture in the early twentieth century.

MK: Just for an introduction, can you give us a bit about who you are and your background?

Eike Exner: I’m originally from Germany and like most Germans grew up with the works of Wilhelm Busch, so it was wild to learn during the research for my book that Busch’s work was quite popular in Japan as well. I started studying Japanese because my German high school offered classes in it (no Italian, no) and I liked languages, so I took every language class available. Without that I probably would have never started studying Japanese and hence would have never written this book, which is strange to think about. I came to the U.S. for college and grad school, with several years spent in Japan in between. Since leaving academia I’ve been financing my research with translation work for the most part.

MK: Along the same lines, how would you describe or promote the book that you just wrote to someone who is not really familiar with the subject?

The book explains (with plenty of images) how comics – as in “stories told via successive panels that include dialog between characters (usually in speech balloons)” – took root in Japan in the 1920s. Many manga histories try to establish some kind of connection between Japanese comics and centuries of older Japanese art but the biggest origin point of modern manga was American comic strips hugely popular in Japan between 1923 and 1940. There’s also a chapter on how and why those comics came about in the U.S around 1900 and why it took two decades for them to become popular in Japan as well. If someone wants to really understand how manga started, they’re going to enjoy the book. I spent two years going through early Japanese comic strips in newspapers and magazines at the National Diet Library in Tokyo, so everything is carefully documented with lots of evidence.

MK: What inspired you to study this particular topic, and to write the book?

I always thought it was odd that “comics” and “manga” are basically the same medium but supposedly evolved from two completely different traditions. That never made sense to me. I started out mostly interested in the translation of visual media more broadly but when I saw how many translated comics there were in Japan in the 1920s and how the first Japanese comics looked like a direct reaction to them, I realized I had stumbled on something really interesting. Because the idea that manga and comics are actually the same thing, with the same origins, is so different from the established narrative – Japanese public schools literally teach middle schoolers that manga is an ancient Japanese tradition – I knew I had to be very thorough and specialize in manga history to make my case as convincing as possible.

MK: How did you go about conducting your actual research?

80% of it was sitting in libraries and archives and scrolling (using a literal hand crank) through microfilm reels for hours, looking for comic strips. Newspapers were the primary vehicle for comics back then, but they didn’t index them or anything, so you basically have to go through newspaper pages one by one to stumble upon them, which is a big reason why this history was lost. There’s an excellent book by a Chinese scholar who wrote her dissertation on children’s manga and who documented a lot of them, but she focused on just five newspapers, so there was still lots to do. There probably still is a lot more material to be found, but I had to stop at some point once I had more than enough evidence. A big chunk of the other 20% was reading autobiographies by people active in cartooning back then, scanning for relevant bits, like a mangaka casually mentioning that he started drawing comics because of Bringing Up Father (the most popular of the American comics in Japan back then and the longest-running prewar manga period).

MK: Were there any things you learned during your research that you were not expecting to find?

Eike Exner: The biggest holy **** discoveries for me were just how popular and long-lived Bringing Up Father was in Japan, how frequently its characters showed up in ads and popular culture more generally, and how many foreign comics were read by Japanese people at the time (I almost screamed when I came across Krazy Kat in Japanese), plus various random finds like coverage of the Japan tour of a circus from Hagenbeck’s Zoo in Hamburg, which I used to go to as a child, or a Japanese comic strip about Babe Ruth. It was also interesting, though perhaps not that surprising, to witness the shift in content from cosmopolitan and liberal towards fascist and militaristic over the course of the 1920s and 1930s. The most popular children’s manga of the 1930s, Norakuro, explicitly taught children that it would be noble to die in a suicide bombing for their country, very different from the more lighthearted comic strips of the mid-1920s.

None of the major academic publishers was interested, one publisher focusing on comics lost interest for unspecified reasons and another took so long to complete the peer review process that I withdrew the manuscript. One peer reviewer tried to sabotage the book by grossly misrepresenting its content, probably because it contradicts something they’ve written.

MK: Did you have any difficulty finding a publisher who would be interested in the project?

Definitely, yes. None of the major academic publishers was interested, one publisher focusing on comics lost interest for unspecified reasons and another took so long to complete the peer review process that I withdrew the manuscript. One peer reviewer tried to sabotage the book by grossly misrepresenting its content, probably because it contradicts something they’ve written. In retrospect it’s funny that a senior academic really wrote “this manuscript does not fulfill minimum standards for publication as a scholarly work,” now that the same manuscript has won an award for “Best Scholarly/Academic Work,” but at the time I was genuinely worried that I might never get the book published because it contradicts too many established academics. I’ve definitely learned from the process how petty and childish academics can be. But everything went smoothly after I approached Rutgers. My editor there, Nicole Solano, thought the book had potential and got it through peer review in record time.

I’ve been branded as anti-Japanese by a Twitter mob of netouyo (Japanese online right-wingers) that called my book racist and cultural appropriation, including the cover image of Bringing Up Father, which they assumed was Japanese in origin.

MK: What kinds of reactions have you received in Japan, from your colleagues, or from others in the comics studies community?

Eike Exner: I’ve been branded as anti-Japanese by a Twitter mob of netouyo (Japanese online right-wingers) that called my book racist and cultural appropriation, including the cover image of Bringing Up Father, which they assumed was Japanese in origin. Their relentless tweets actually helped sell a few copies of the book that very day on the Japanese Amazon site, so apparently it’s true that any publicity is good publicity.

A group of Japanese comics scholars who had already helped me a lot with my research have been very supportive and have organized a Zoom event to talk about it later this month. People familiar with pre-1945 manga generally know that the history of manga as an ancient tradition is nonsense, but given that that narrative is actively promoted in schools and elsewhere (don’t get me started on a recent tech company project), it’s been difficult to correct. Kinokuniya started stocking the book in Tokyo after it won the Eisner and I hope there’ll be a Japanese translation some day.

In general the reaction has been positive, but you can often predict someone’s reaction based on whether they like manga for being Japanese or for being comics. Comics scholars around the globe have been overwhelmingly supportive and I’ve received some extremely kind feedback, whereas some Japan studies people familiar with the book are either ignoring it or have been openly hostile to its core argument.

MK: Do you have any personal advice you could give to someone who is interested in studying either comics or manga, or Japanese literature/culture in general.

Eike Exner: Always look at primary sources as much as possible!

Double-check fundamental assumptions, don’t take conventional wisdom for granted. Look up footnotes; they sometimes don’t support what they’re cited in support of.

Other researchers are often your greatest resource. Don’t be afraid to contact them out of the blue if there’s something you cannot find out on your own. Likewise, if you come across something that might be useful to someone else, share it.

Language skills are essential. One peer reviewer suggested I should include more English-language scholarship but virtually all original scholarship on early manga was in Japanese.

If you’re working on something that runs counter to the Japanese government’s preferred narrative, hide that in your applications for funding from the Japan Foundation (or any other organization that might be ideologically opposed to your research; I learned this the hard way).

If you’re doing a PhD, look for alternatives to a career in academia. Academia is an absurd rat race already and the dwindling jobs are getting worse, with no improvement in sight.

If you’re just starting, consider what kind of department would be best suited to the research you’re interested in. There are extremely few comics studies departments in the world, and expectations will vary greatly between an art history department and a literature department, for example.

2022 Eisner Awards – Manga Studies Nominee

This coming weekend, the organizers of Comic-Con International (returning as a live event after a two-year hiatus) will announce the winners of the 2022 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, established with the goal of “bringing attention to and highlighting the best publications and creators in comics and graphic novels”. For a number of years now, the awards have included one for Best Academic/Scholarly Work, and this year, for the first time ever, one of the titles nominated in this category is a monograph on Japanese comics – Comics and the Origins of Manga: A Revisionist History (Eike Exner, Rutgers University Press).

Exner’s basic goal in this study is to go beyond the simple statement that Western comics were introduced into Japan along with other Western cultural products, and present an in-depth examination of how Japanese audiences consumed Western comics. He is able to demonstrate that Western comics directly influenced the form and shape of Japanese visual culture, in part simply by examining the extent to which Japanese readers were exposed to translated comics.

When I started studying the history of comics and manga, I found it odd how two things so similar could have developed independently of each other

– Eike Exner, p. xi

So far, I have not seen any formal reviews of this book. But it has received extensive praise from the comics/manga studies community – Henry Jenkins praises the author for “groundbreaking archival research”, John A. Lent calls the book “a history-altering masterpiece!”, Gennifer Weisenfeld points out the “meticulous and comprehensive” scholarship. An audio interview with the author is available on the New Books Network.

Ed. note: In previous years, two other titles on Japanese comics received Eisner nominations – Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture and Community in Japan in 2016 and Women’s Manga in Asia and Beyond: Uniting Different Cultures and Identities in 2020. Several other essay collections that have been nominated for the award did not focus on manga, but included chapters that did.

Thoughts and Comments – 100 Animated Feature Films

Over the years, the British Film Institute (BFI) has established itself as one of the leading publishers in the field of anime studies, with Akira, Grave of the Fireflies, and Spirited Away in its BFI Film Classics line, 100 Anime in the BFI Screen Guides, and Anime: A History, Jonathan Clements’ in-depth examination of how animation was actually produced in Japan from the early 1900’s to the present, and how the animation industry developed and evolved over the years. In 2010, BFI published 100 Animated Feature Films, by Andrew Osmond (the author of BFI Film Classics: Spirited Away, as well as other writing on anime, going back to 1998’s Nausicaa and the fantasy of Hayao Miyazaki, in the journal Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction – one of the earliest English-language scholarly articles of any kind on Japanese animation). And now, Osmond and BFI have decided it’s time for an update, with 100 Animated Feature Films, Revised Edition.

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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!

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.

[Last Updated: February 13, 2022]

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.

Orbaugh, Sharalynn. Sex and the single cyborg: Japanese popular culture experiments in subjectivity. Science Fiction Studies, 29(3), 436-452.

2004

Redmond, Dennis. The World is Watching: Video as Multinational Aesthetics, 1958-1995. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

“Evolving rapidly from the movie screen to the television screen to the computer screen, video culture has blossomed from its origins as an obscure spin-off of the 1960s Anglo-American media culture into one of the leading art forms of the late twentieth century. And as such, video culture has grown from being the dominion of small but dedicated cult followings to becoming a near mainstream cinematic interest. The World Is Watching: Video as Multinational Aesthetics, 1968–1995 explores the origins and implications of this powerful visual medium which crosses national, cultural, and political boundaries to present provocative tales of the highest quality. Dennis Redmond’s probing study is rooted in close readings of three stylish and highly successful video efforts – The Prisoner (1967), The Decalogue (1988), and Neon Genesis: Evangelion (1995).”

[Ed. note: This title, largely ignored by both film/video scholars in general and by anime scholars in particular, is the only in-depth comparative discussion of Evangelion in a full-length scholarly monograph that I am aware of.]

2005

Sanders, Leonard. Virtual ephemeralities: Idoru and Evangelion, popular visual cultures in Japan.
In Martin Heusser, Michele Hannoosh, Eric Haskell, Leo Hoek, David Scott, & Peter de Voogd (Eds.), On verbal/visual representation (pp. 137-149). Amsterdam: Rodopi.

2007

Malone, Paul M. My own private apocalypse: Shinji Ikari as Schreberian paranoid superhero in Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion.
In Wendy Haslem, Angela Ndalianis, & Chris Makie (Eds.), Super/heroes: From Hercules to Superman (pp. 111-126). Washington, DC: New Academia.

Ortega, Mariana. My father, he killed me; my mother, she ate me: Self, desire, engendering, and the mother in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Mechademia, 2, 216-232.

Redmond, Dennis. Anime and East Asian culture: Neon Genesis Evangelion. Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 24(2), 183-188.

2008

*** OPEN ACCESS ***
Ashby, Madeline. Ownership, authority, and the body: Does antifanfic sentiment reflect posthuman anxiety? Transformative Works and Cultures, 1.

“This essay examines three Japanese anime texts – Ghost in the Shell, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Serial Experiments: Lain – in order to discover metaphors for female fan practices online. In each of the three texts, women overthrow corporate, governmental, or paternal control over the body and gain the right to copy or reproduce it by fundamentally altering those bodies. These gestures are expressions of posthuman anxiety and “terminal identity.” In addition, they involve confrontation with an uncanny double in some way. But how can they provide models for cyborg and fan subjectivity in an era in which bodily and textual reproduction, especially among females, is such a hotly contested issue? And how is the antifanfic backlash related to the phenomenon of the uncanny?”

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Vuckovich, Rob. Evangelion and existentialism: The case of Shinji Ikari.
In M. Berman (ed.). The Everyday Fantastic: Essays on Science Fiction and the Human Being (pp. 73-86). Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

2009

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Thouny, Christophe. Waiting for the Messiah: The becoming-myth of Evangelion and Densha Otoko. Mechademia, 4, 111-129.

2010

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Bryce, Mio. Cheung, Paul, & Gutierrez, Anna Katrina. Clones, hybrids and organ transplants in manga and anime. International Journal of the Humanities, 8(5),279-290.

“Manga and anime are commonly regarded as media products geared primarily towards entertainment and merchandising opportunities. However, some are capable of offering critical commentary on society, humanity and more broadly, life itself. Following the lead taken by the ‘God of Manga’ Tezuka Osamu in “Seimei-hen” in “Hi no Tori” (“Life” in “Phoenix”, 1980), a number of manga and anime have produced unsettling images of clones and hybrid beings, particularly those resulting from organ transplantation. These works question, typically ahead of the technology of the time, the value of life, the integrity of its form, and its immunity from commodification. In spite of their fictionality, these narratives are associated with a great sense of reality and immediacy, due in part to rapid developments in biotechnology, computing and engineering. At the same time, humanity itself appears to have changed along with these developments and the fictional narratives can be said to embody fears, hopes, and dreams concerning life and its significance. They deal with a range of pressing social and ethical issues, especially those related to the self and its multiple boundaries, whilst entertaining their readers and viewers. Using several narratives as exemplars, this paper will explore the use of biotechnology in manga and anime as devices in envisioning ‘life’ – what it may be, how it is formed and how it could be dealt with, at the individual as well as collective level. In doing so, the paper will demonstrate how these manga and anime narratives and others like them are relevant in a wide range of contexts despite their apparent linguistic and cultural specificity.”

2013

Li, Carl, Nakamura, Mari and Roth, Martin. Japanese science fiction in converging media: Alienation and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Asiascape Occasional Papers, 6, 1-15.

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Ruh, Brian. Producing transnational cult media: Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell in circulation. Intensities: The Journal of Cult Media, 5, 1-23.

2014

Ballus, Andreu, & Torrents, Alba G. Evangelion as Second Impact: Forever changing that which never was. Mechademia, 9, 283-293.

DiTommaso, Lorenzo. Apocalypticism and popular culture.
In John J. Collins (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of apocalyptic literature (pp. 473-510). New York: Oxford University Press.

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Savoy, Katherine. The artificial restoration of agency through sex and technology in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, 14(3).

“In this article, I will discuss the origin and limiting factors of identity in the series Neon Genesis Evangelion and the relationship between the individual and the community. I will examine the process of outsourcing one’s identity and, in doing so, relinquishing agency and responsibility. To elaborate on these points I will dissect the show’s patriarchal structure, looking first at the role of women and then sexuality as it applies to the struggle between free-will and imposed external regulation. I will follow the growth of identity through the presence of technology, and question the assumed binaries between man and machine as well as how the series challenges such concepts. Finally, I will look at denial as the internal control of identity, contrasting with the use of self-awareness for social domination within the community.”

2016

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Tsang, Gabriel F. Y. Beyond 2015: Nihilism and existential rhetoric in Neon Genesis EvangelionJournal of International and Advanced Japanese Studies, 8, 35-43.

“Generally categorized as low art, Japanese manga and anime draw insufficient overseas critical attention, regardless of their enormous cultural influence in East Asia. Their popularity not simply proved the success of cultural industrialization in Japan, but also marks a series of local phenomena, reflecting social dynamicity and complexity, that deserve interdisciplinary analysis. During the lost decade in the 1990s, which many scholars studied with economic accent (Katz 1998, Grimes 2001, Lincoln 2001, Amyx 2004, Beason and Patterson 2004, Rosenbluth and Thies 2010), manga and anime industry in Japan entered its golden age. The publication and broadcast of some remarkable works, such as Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, Crayon Shin-chan and Slam Dunk, not only helped generate huge income (nearly 600 billion yen earned in the manga market in 1995) that alleviated economic depression, but also distracted popular focus from the urge of demythologising national growth.

This paper will focus on the TV-series version of Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995–1996), a well-received anime broadcast after the Great Hanshin earthquake and the Tokyo subway sarin attack perpetrated by terrorists of Aum Shinrikyo, both happening in 1995. I will base my discussion on someimportant concepts of Jean-Paul Sartre, such as le pour-soi (the for-itself) and bad faith, to illustrate how Hideaki Anno represents his protagonists as figures emancipated by existentialist morality. His frequent use of monologue in latter episodes individually enquiring the meaning of personal existence, following the dystopian fall of Tokyo-3, echoes the nihilistic context of both post-traumatic Europe and over-capitalized
Japan. I argue that the subjective bonding between given existence of self-consciousness and innate search for fixing the purpose of being has pre-universalized relevant reflection. It sustains the celebrity of Neon Genesis Evangelion until now, especially when Japan has not yet recovered from the 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, which carried unresolved economic challenges.”

2021

Afanasov, Nikolai. Messiah in depression: Religion, science-fiction and postmodernism in Neon Genesis EvangelionState, Religion and Church7(1), 47-66.
[original version in Russian]

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Jose Andres Santiago Iglesias & Ana Soler Baena (eds.). Anime Studies: Media-Specific Approaches to Neon Genesis Evangelion. Stockholm: Stockholm University Press.

Anime Studies: Media-Specific Approaches to Neon Genesis Evangelion aims at advancing the study of anime, understood as largely TV-based genre fiction rendered in cel, or cel-look, animation with a strong affinity to participatory cultures and media convergence. Taking Neon Genesis Evangelion (Shin Seiki Evangerion) as a case study, this volume acknowledges anime as a media form with clearly recognizable aesthetic properties, (sub)cultural affordances and situated discourses.”

2022

Galbraith, Patrick W. The Evangelion boom: On the explosion of fan markets and lifestyles in Heisei Japan.
In Noriko Murai, Jeff Kingston, & Tina Burrett (eds.). Japan in the Heisei Era (1989-2019): Multidisciplinary perspectives (pp. 234-244). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

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Hoffer, Heike. Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ikari Shinji, and J.S. Bach: Using music to define the Japanese yūtōseiHistorifans (August 4, 2022).

Lamerics, Nicolle. The emotional realism of anime: Rewriting characters and affective reception in Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time. Mechademia: Second Arc, 15(1), 81-102