Going through the history of academic publications on anime and manga, it is no particular surprise that the sheer numbers of such publications have generally increased over the years. This is consistent with the results of most recent studies of trends in academic publishing, across many different fields (although of course, occasionally, such studies do find topics where publications are stagnating or even decreasing). Or, to say it differently, the farther back I go, the fewer publications there are for me to locate and record – from dozens, to really just a few per year.
But, having said that, although only thirteen publications on anime/manga appeared in 1996, these thirteen included several that were ground-breaking then, and still continue to remain important. One is Frederik Schodt’s Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga – an update, and in the author’s own words, “a sequel, or companion volume of sorts” to his 1983 Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics – and to this date, probably the best general introduction to manga as a particular form of Japanese visual culture.
Another, Samurai from Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation, by Antonia Levi, was the first book on anime written by an academic author with PhD-level training in Japanese history and extensive teaching experience. Although not an academic title in of itself, and primarily just a survey of major thematic elements (among them, gods and demons, heroes and villains, death, the roles of women, and depictions of relationships and gender issues) that are frequently present in Japanese animation, it nonetheless also addressed several questions that have since come up time and time again – the complex and multi-directional relationship between anime and American media, anime’s ways of both depicting and avoiding depictions of different races, and even, ultimately, the basic question of what exactly makes anime so appealing to American audiences. It introduced readers to these questions – and to the potential ways of answering them, and served as a demonstration of how an author could write a full-length book on anime. It is also no surprise that scholars have been referring to it, both for its seminal place in English-language anime/manga studies, and for many of its specific arguments, examples and points, ever since.
Beyond these two books, the 1996 list also includes several early articles on anime written by Japanese scholars, but in English, and a series of fascinating pieces on the manga markets in Europe and the U.S., as well as the history of manga criticism, that were published in issues of the Japan Foundation’s Japanese Book News newsletter.
English-language books, book chapters, and academic articles on anime/manga: 1996