Tag: journal articles

Special Feature – The “I Am Not Alone” Controversy

On April 26, the academic journal Qualitative Research published a “research note” by University of Manchester Japanese Studies PhD student Karl Andersson with the title “I am not alone – we are all alone: Using masturbation as an ethnographic method in research on shota subculture in Japan“.

For the next several months, the paper sat there largely unnoticed. Until, August 8, when it began attracting the kind of attention on Twitter that rarely if ever attaches itself to an academic paper.

And this does not even go into editorials, quick write-ups in tabloids, and, inevitably, social media outrage.

For two weeks, starting August 9, Qualitative Research conducted an investigation into the circumstances that surrounded the publication of the article. On August 22, it issued an official Retraction Notice, and deleted the original article from the journal’s website. It is also not available via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, and so, for all intents and purposes, has been removed from existence.

On reflection, due to the potential for significant harm caused by the publication of this work compounded by ethical issues surrounding the conception and design, the Journal Editors have made the decision to retract and remove the note.

Needless to say, the controversy surrounding “I am not alone…” raises a number of interesting and troubling questions. And for answers to these questions, Anime and Manga Studies would like to turn to Dr. Casey Brienza, a qualitative sociologist with a record of peer-reviewed academic monograph and journal article publications on both manga and scholarly publishing. Dr. Brienza is the editor of the essay collection Global Manga: “Japanese” Comics without Japan? (London, Routledge, 2015), and the author of Manga in America: Transnational Book Publishing and the Domestication of Japanese Comics (London, Bloomsbury, 2016), as well as journal articles such as Activism, Legitimation, or Record: Towards a New Tripartite Typology of Academic Journals (Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 2015), Sociological Perspectives on Japanese Manga in America (Sociology Compass, 2014), and Opening the Wrong Gate? The Academic Spring and Scholarly Publishing (Publishing Research Quarterly, 2012).

Ed. note: Regardless of the specifics of Dr. Andersson’s research, under U.S. law, receiving “a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting” that “depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct” and is obscene is illegal and may lead to prosecution. Recent cases where individuals were convicted for violating this provision include U.S. v. Whorley, 550 F. 3d 326 (2008), U.S. v. Handley, 564 F.Supp. 2d 996 (2008), and U.S. v. Eyechaner, 326 F.Supp.3d 76 (2018).

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MK: How common are retractions?

Casey Brienza: They’re not common at all, for any reason! You sometimes hear about them in the biomedical field, where findings based upon flawed of falsified data could literally mean the difference between life or death, but the retraction of Andersson’s article is the first that I can ever recall having encountered in any of my areas of interest.

They’re not common at all, for any reason! You sometimes hear about them in the biomedical field, where findings based upon flawed of falsified data could literally mean the difference between life or death

MK: Did Qualitative Research follow common or typical procedure in making the decision to
retract this article?

The Journal Editors stated that they were following COPE (Committee on Publishing Ethics) guidelines. The COPE guidelines for article retractions are publicly available to read (https://publicationethics.org/retraction-guidelines), and I would highly recommend anyone interested in this subject read them themselves. My personal conclusion, from my own reading of those guidelines, is that, no, Qualitative Research did not do a great job of following the procedure they claimed to be following.

MK: What kinds of problems or issues can you point out in how the retraction was announced and implemented?

First off, speaking as someone who has worked on multiple edited collections, I thought the Journal Editors’ lightning-fast capitulation to viral outrage was shameful.

Casey Brienza: First off, speaking as someone who has worked on multiple edited collections, I thought the Journal Editors’ lightning-fast capitulation to viral outrage was shameful. They’re the ones who published this article and, by implication, believed it had merit. The author is just a first-year PhD student, and this article was his first ever peer-reviewed publication.

As an editor I always go out of my way to provide extra support to student writers. Yet the Journal Editors never mounted even a half-hearted public defense either of him or their journal’s overall editorial discretion.

But the biggest problem, in my view, is their decision to remove the article from publication. They did this about a week prior to their formal retraction, which is not in keeping with COPE guidelines, and they decided not to republish it after retraction either, a decision which should be reserved for “extraordinary” circumstances only. Under normal circumstances, the original text of a retracted article would remain freely available, for transparency’s sake. Removing the article from publication makes it more difficult to “check their work,” as it were. And by extension, the Journal Editors seem to be suggesting they believe the article is too dangerous to be read! In the absence of clear evidence of the article’s potential to cause harm, this strikes me as overkill.

Removing the article from publication makes it more difficult to “check their work,” as it were. And by extension, the Journal Editors seem to be suggesting they believe the article is too dangerous to be read!

MK: In your opinion, were there any issues with the methodology that the author used, with how they presented their work, or with the overall publication that would merit a retraction?

Casey Brienza: There are aspects of the article I thought were great and aspects I thought were less great. This is just par for the course; ask two different academics about one journal article, and you’re bound to get a minimum of three different opinions on it. There is nothing about Andersson’s article that I thought merited a formal retraction, never mind a removal from publication.

MK: Do you think the negative reactions to the original article (including both on Twitter and in media) influenced the Journal Editors?

Casey Brienza: Absolutely. Close inspection of the timeline makes it nigh impossible to believe otherwise.

MK: Do you think this particular situation can occur with other journals, such as those not based in the UK?

Casey Brienza: It does seem possible, yes.

MK: How will this retraction affect research on anime/manga (and qualitative research in general) going forward?

The implications for anime/manga studies are positively chilling. Obviously, shotacon is going to be effectively off-limits to many researchers going forward.

Casey Brienza: The implications for anime/manga studies are positively chilling. Obviously, shotacon is going to be effectively off-limits to many researchers going forward. But also, it’s important not to overlook the wider problem areas: People unfamiliar with the visual conventions of Japanese cartoons often have trouble correctly identifying the intended age, race/ethnicity, and/or gender of the characters- meaning that any sexually explicit anime/manga could be rendered criminally suspect.

In addition to the article retraction, as if that weren’t bad enough, Andersson is currently suspended from his university pending the outcome of an internal investigation, and he’s being investigated by UK law enforcement on top of that. Who would want that kind of professional and personal hassle?

Comment/Response – The contradictions of pop nationalism in the manga Gate

A key feature of scholarly writing as a “genre” is that a new contribution to scholarship on a topic does not just stand by itself, but builds on previous contributions, and in a way, engages in a conversation with them. This feature can be seen in the literature review sections of new scholarly articles, as well as in formal reviews of newly-published books. But while book reviews are common in scholarly writing in many different fields, in-depth commentary on previously published articles and book chapters is not common at all. And I think that anime and manga studies as a field that is relatively new and very much evolving would benefit from these kinds of conversations in the form of response pieces to specific recent articles/book chapters.

In the future, I hope to be able to publish response pieces of this kind that are submitted by other readers/scholars. But, right now, I would like to share my own thoughts on a recently published journal article.

[note: I do not know how common the practice of writing commentary/reflection essays on published articles is in other academic programs, but I had to complete assignments of this type in both undergraduate and graduate classes]

Martin, Paul. The contradictions of pop nationalism in the manga Gate: Thus the JSDF fought there! Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics11(2), 167-181.

“Though Japan’s post-war constitution forbids maintaining the means of waging war, the Japanese Self-Defence Force (JSDF) is one of the most powerful militaries in the world. This contradiction has become increasingly important in recent years as the JSDF has expanded its role and public profile, and as the state has moved closer to re-writing the constitution to allow for a more robust military policy. Alongside this military contradiction is a nationalistic one. The hyper-nationalism of the Pacific War left a general suspicion of overt nationalism amongst Japan’s population, but in recent years casual forms of nationalism have emerged that decouple pride in national identity from political commitment. This article focuses on the manga Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There! to unpack the relationship between nationalism and the JSDF’s ambiguous position. In this manga, Japan is invaded through a mysterious portal from a fantasy world, allowing the manga to depict the JSDF in combat. While the manga hews close to official JSDF self-representations, in attempting to show the JSDF at war, the manga’s images, characters and narrative foreground contradictions inherent in the JSDF and in Japanese forms of nationalism.”

One common criticism of Japanese popular culture products is that too often, they rely on the same few basic story set-ups that are then explored with only slight modifications and little in the way of innovation. This is why those comics and shows that do significantly buck the expected structures attract so much attention and praise. But every once in a while, a title comes along that doesn’t just “buck” or subvert the expected, but goes in an entirely new direction. An is Gate: Where the JSDF Fought, first a novel series, and then adapted into a manga and a 26-episode anime. (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.

(more…)

Highlighting New Publications – Japanese Manga in Translation and American Graphic Novels in Academic Libraries

Do academic libraries include comics broadly defined, including graphic novels and manga, in their collections? The basic idea that they can – and should – is long past being controversial to any extent. In 2006, the co-authors of Graphic novels in academic libraries: From Maus to manga and beyond were able to highlight both the benefits of including graphic novels in academic library collections and some of the conceptual/theoretical and practical challenges of doing so, from convincing faculty, staff, and students of the appropriateness and value of such a collection to simply deciding how to best approach cataloging a graphic novel. 2010’s Japanese manga in translation and American graphic novels: A preliminary examination in 44 academic libraries presented an actual survey of how specifically academic libraries collect graphic novels/manga, or rather, which particular titles they collect.

And now, Japanese manga in translation and American graphic novels: A re-examination of the collections in 36 academic libraries ten years later updates that survey’s results.

Abstract:

Ten years ago, this journal published an article comparing the collection rates of Japanese manga in English translation and American graphic novels (“American” defined as graphic novels published in North America and originally written in English) in 44 American academic libraries in 2007 and 2008 (Masuchika & Boldt, 2010). The results showed that American graphic novels were being added to American academic libraries at a faster pace than translated Japanese manga. With the growing popularity of both manga and graphic novels, it was time to revisit this phenomenon and see if any changes had occurred in collection rates within the last ten years. This study revealed that while graphic novels were being added at a significantly faster pace, manga showed no increase in the rates they were being added ten years ago.

Author:

Glenn Masuchika is an Information Literary Librarian at Penn State University Libraries, where his responsibilities include serving as an “advisor to selectors in the field of graphic novels and comics”. In addition to the original Japanese manga in translation and American graphic novels paper, he is also the author of Japanese cartoons, virtual child pornography, academic libraries, and the law (Reference & User Services Quarterly, 2015), and, earlier this year, Considerations for collecting anime for academic libraries (Collection & Curation).

Summary:

The approach the author of the survey uses is fairly straightforward – it is based on developing a “checklist” of graphic novels and manga, and searching for the titles on the list in the library catalogs of a selection of major academic library systems. But, in any given year, there are now easily several hundred graphic novels and manga published in the U.S. – so actually selecting the titles to search for becomes key. Here, the author decides to focus only on titles included on various Best Of lists (such as Amazon’s, Booklist’s and Entertainment Weekly’s for graphic novels, and Anime News Network’s, ICv2.com’s and Comicbeat.com’s for manga, and select only those titles that appeared on at least 3 lists of graphic novels and at least 2 for manga. Equally key is the second part of the survey design – the academic libraries whose holdings would be searched. Here, a key factor, as in the original 2010 study, would be “major groupings based on geographical locations” – as with 12 major Midwestern universities, 12 in the Western states, and beyond that, 12 with prominent Asian, Asian American, and Japanese Studies programs, to see whether it would be possible to determine any relationship between the existence of these programs, and the libraries’ collection development practices. The graphic novels Best Of lists generated a total of 14 unique titles; the manga ones accounted for 17. (more…)

Highlighting New Publications – Considerations for Collecting Japanese Anime for Academic Libraries

Masuchika, Glenn. Considerations for collecting Japanese anime for academic librariesCollection and Curation, 39(2), 53-56.

The idea that academic libraries can include Japanese animation in their collections of films and television series is neither new nor controversial. The purpose of an academic library is to serve its user community, and to facilitate effective teaching and research – and providing access to Japanese animation, such as, for example, to support the students enrolled in a class like “Anime: Masterworks of Japanese Animation” (Middlebury College, Fall 2018) or “Anime Cinema” (University of North Florida, Spring 2019) absolutely fits into this purpose. But, with literally thousands of anime films and series available for purchase, how can an academic librarian actually go about selecting particular anime to add to a particular collection? (more…)

Publication Trends in Anime and Manga Studies – 2019

Let’s say, you are someone who wants to take the next step, beyond just thinking about anime, and beyond writing about anime for a personal blog or a fan website, and would like to actually publish your writing about anime (or manga, or a related topic) an academic journal, the kind that college professors would read and would assign to their students to read, the kind that would be included in journal databases, the kind that could potentially be referred to in other scholarly articles and even in books! So, where do you go with your writing? Is there such a thing as a “Journal of Anime Studies” – or something similar? 

As it turns out, “sort of”: the first issue of a Journal of Anime and Manga Studies is set to be published this spring. But, another way to approach this same topic is by thinking about the “publication trends” of anime and manga studies more broadly. In general, what journals does scholarly writing on Japanese animation and Japanese comics actually appear in? It is also useful to consider whether are there any particular titles that dominate the field. The actual usefulness of asking these questions is not hard to understand. The answers to them are useful for anyone who is interested in learning about opportunities to publish their research on anime/manga, as well as to scholars who would like to identify specific journals to be aware of to learn about new trends and directions in research. And in a more abstract sense, it is also possible to use the journals that support anime and manga studies as an academic field to get a sense of the field’s overall identity.

Previously, I examined “publication trends in anime/manga studies” for the years from 1993 to 2015 (identifying a total of at least 965 articles), and from 2015 to 2018 (369 articles). For both periods, I also listed the ten journals that carried the largest number of articles. And now, with the list of English-language journal articles and other scholarly publications on anime/manga that appeared in 2019 largely complete, I can extend the analysis to one more year.

Publication Trends in Anime and Manga Studies – 2019 (more…)

New Special Issue – Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance

A key feature of Japanese visual popular culture, and especially anime and manga, is the extent to which creative works exist in different forms or formats. A work can – and frequently does – first appear as a manga, and may then serve as the basis of an anime series, a novel, video games, and the driver behind a wide range of merchandise and consumer goods. And even manga and anime are often based on other sources, such as non-Japanese novels. This process has already attracted significant scholarly attention, such as Anime’s Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan (Marc Steinberg, University of Minnesota Press, 2012), as well as more specific studies (“Animating the fantastic: Hayao Miyazaki’s adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle“, “Manga, anime, adaptation: Economic strategies, aesthetic specificities, social issues”, The essence of 2.5-dimensional musicals? Sakura Wars and theater adaptations of anime).

Now, the Journal of Adaptation in Film & Performance has published a full special issue with the theme of “Adaptation in/and Japan“, based on papers originally presented at the Adaptation, or How Media Relate in Contemporary Japan symposium that was held at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Culture in June of 2018. The issue’s editor, Prof. Amanda Kennell (University at Buffalo, The State University of New York), who also organized the original symposium, has herself studied the process and practice of adaptation extensively, with a particular focus on how Alice in Wonderland has been adapted in different contexts in Japan. The majority of the articles in the issue deal with anime/manga – although each of them approaches what exactly can be meant by “adaptation” in a different way.

Nobuko Anan, in Theatrical realism in manga: Performativity of gender in Minako Narita’s Alien Street, highlights “different conceptions of realism in theatre and manga” through a close reading of a classic manga about a “male actor who plays female roles”. Adaptation in Japanese media mix franchising: Usagi Drop from page to screens is Rayna Denison’s effort to shift the focus in studies of Japanese popular culture studies away from centering on anime films and major franchises, and to consider how the adaptation and media mix process plays out with regard to lesser known – but far more common – works. With this, Prof. Denison is able to address directly Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano’s call for scholarship on the kind of “domestic and mass-produced anime TV series” that actually constitute the overwhelming majority of what is meant by “anime”. This article also expands the approaches to the concept of the “media mix” to consider a full range of “media texts”, including manga and live-action films. Kouno Fumiyo’s Hi no Tori (‘Bird of the Sun’) series as documentary manga: Memory and 3.11 analyzes another aspect of adaptation – the way that elements such as “drawings, prose, poetry, statistical data, maps and commentary by the artist” can be integrated into a fictional text and into the medium of comics/manga. Interpretive negotiation with gender norms in shojo manga: Adaptations of The Changelings is a comparative study, addressing the ways in which adaptations of the same source text – even into the same format, but made in different years differ from each other. And closing the issue, Prof. Kennell draws on her major research interests for a study of adaptations of Alice in Wonderland in the work of Japanese “avant-garde sculptor, painter and novelist” Yayoi Kusama.

Taken together, as Kennell notes in the editorial that opens the issue, the five articles stand as a “superb introduction to the diverse media ecology of contemporary Japan and the implications of contemporary Japanese media production for the wider world.” And, beyond that, they really can also easily be seen as cutting edge of anime and manga studies, and a great example of the diversity and wide scope of this emerging field. 

“What do we study?”: A content analysis of recent anime and manga studies

In “Global and Local Materialiaties of Anime”, her contribution to the essay collection Television, Japan, and Globalization (Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan, 2010), Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano presented what I still think is one of the sharpest criticisms of “anime studies” as it comes together as an academic field:

With anime studies as a forming discipline, discussions often center on the visually more complex anime “films”, but not on the domestic and mass-produced anime TV series. Big budget anime films such as MetropolisPrincess MononokeGhost in the Shell, and Akira are frequently discussed, along with their contemporary critical themes of technological alienatation, environmental issues, cyborg feminism, and postmodernity, while the majority of TV anime series have been neglected, since an analysis would require an examination of anime’s connections with local audiences and the complex popular culture of Japan.”

Global and Local Materialities of Anime, p. 245

But, does this statement – made in 2010 – still hold today, in 2019? That is, as scholars are making their contributions to anime (and manga) studies right now, what films and TV series and comics are they actually discussing? The same ones over and over again, or new and different titles?

A comprehensive list of English-language scholarly publications on anime/manga that have appeared this year so far would be able to provide at least some of the answers to these kinds of questions. And the Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies, 2019 is just such a list! (more…)

Highlighting New Publications – Mechademia: Second Arc

One of the most powerful steps in the development process of a new academic field is the launch of a journal to collect and present new scholarly writing in the field. If nothing else, a journal means that enough scholars are interested in a particular topic area or on a particular subject to support the existence of one – and thus, can signal that the area or subject is supported by an actual community. In this way, publications such as Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, International Journal of Comic Art, and Journal of Fandom Studies help support the idea that animation studies, comics studies – and, recently, fandom studies do, in fact, exist as actual academic fields.

In 2006, the idea of approaching Japanese animation as a subject of academic study was certainly not unheard of. Susan Napier first introduced it in 2001’s Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation – followed by titles such as Roland Kelts’ Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S. and Brian Ruh’s Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii. There were at least several classes on Japanese animation and Japanese comics at various colleges/universities around the U.S., and a small but active and growing community of scholars interested in the topic. So, when the University of Minnesota Press announced plans to launch an full-scale ongoing scholarly publication on anime, manga, and related topics, the announcement was seen as exciting and welcome – but not unexpected.

The first volume of Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga, and the Fan Arts set the tone for the publication with several unique features. Its contents were structured around a common theme – in that case, “Emerging World of Anime and Manga”, and included both original articles with titles such as The Japan Fad in Global Youth Culture and Millennial Capitalism, The Werewolf in the Crested Kimono: The Wolf-Human Dynamic in Anime and Manga, and Assessing Interactivity in Video Game Design, translations of materials that had already previously been published in Japanese, shorter commentary pieces, reviews, interviews, and artwork. Nine more followed, with subtitles such as Limits of the Human (2008), User Enhanced (2011), and Origins (2014). Mechademia consistently attracted submissions from leading academics, but also welcomed work from graduate students and independent scholars, the volumes were easy to access electronically via JSTOR and Project Muse and widely available in academic libraries, and many of the individual essays received frequent citations in subsequent scholarship.

However, following 2015’s Volume 10, World Renewal, Mechademia‘s editorial team made a decision to expand its scope to encompass more broadly “scholarship on media cultures and texts from across Asia”, and thematically, “topics of current interest to scholars of Asian art, animation, literature, film, comics-manga-manwah, video games, merchandise, digital storytelling, and other ever-emerging media”. To underline this change, the journal would be formally retitled Mechademia: Second Arc, and, going forward, would be published twice a year. The call for papers for the initial volume – “Childhood” – was distributed in the summer of 2016. An “extraordinary series of delays on the publication side” followed, but Mechademia: Second Arc – “Childhood”, numbered as Volume 11, Number 1, and with a Fall 2018 cover date, is finally now available, though at this point, only online, through JSTOR and Project Muse (according to a notice on the University of the Minnesota Press website, the issue “is not in stock and the estimated shipping date is not available at this time”). (more…)

“Where do I start?”: Anime/Manga Studies in Major Multidisciplinary Databases – A Preliminary Study

A few days ago, I received an e-mail from a graduate student asking for suggestions about “an area in the field of anime & manga that deserves more exploration or doesn’t have enough research at the moment”. Not an uncommon question by any means, especially in the middle of a fall semester – and one I would be glad to answer. But once I started actually considering the question and the possible answers to it, I realized that these answers themselves lead to a whole set of further questions. (more…)