If Japanese popular culture studies (and anime/manga studies) is now, in 2021, “a field in formation“, then it is no longer enough just to describe or even analyze. At this point, it is becoming more and important to start thinking about the contours and dimensions of this field, and about what this field encompasses. What topics are scholars who are working in anime and manga studies actually examining? What kinds of approaches are they using?
In this way, Jaqueline Berndt, in an analysis of “the interplay of anime research and the institution of Japanese studies outside of Japan” titled Anime in Academia: Representative Object, Media Form, and Japanese Studies makes the effort to point out that “the bulk of Japanese studies in the humanities pays attention to representations of Japanese culture and society in anime”.
Similarly, in A Coming of Age in the Anthropological Study of Anime? Introductory Thoughts Envisioning the Business Anthropology of Japanese Animation, Ryotaro Mihara has challenged the field with a straight-forward question: “Why do Anglophone anime studies, especially the anthropological studies on anime, show so little interest in anime’s business aspects and so much interest in its non-commercial activities?”
A related kind of approach would be to ask which particular creators – and even which particular works – is anime and manga studies emphasizing or centering, and the way this process can then affect the expected image or “meaning” of anime/manga outside Japan. I presented an example of this approach in an analysis of English-language scholarly publications on the work of Hayao Miyazaki, demonstrating that, as of the spring of 2018, Princess Mononoke was Miyazaki’s most-studied English film (34 publications, including an edited essay collection), followed by Spirited Away (32, including one full-length book), and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (21).(more…)