Japanese animation came to the U.S. in the summer of 1961, with the theatrical release of Alakazam the Great (Saiyuki), Magic Boy (Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke), and Panda and the Magic Serpent (Hakujaden). It took over 30 years for the first English-language books on anime – Helen McCarthy’s 1993 Anime!: A Beginner’s Guide to Japanese Animation and Antonia Levi’s 1996 Samurai from Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation to appear
another thirty-five years for the first English-language book on anime – Antonia Levi’s 1996 Samurai from Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation – to appear.
But over 50 more books on anime have been published since those first ones.
Obviously, these books are diverse in their styles, approaches, and purposes. Some, like Anime Classics Zettai!: 100 Must-See Japanese Animation Masterpieces, Anime Explosion: The What? Why? and Wow! of Japanese Animation, and The Rough Guide to Anime are general introductions, intended for the casual reader. Others, such as Understanding Manga and Anime are essentially tools, meant specifically to aid public and academic librarians. And of course, there are the scholarly monographs and edited essay collections – Anime from Akira to Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation; Anime’s Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan, Cinema Anime: Critical Engagements with Japanese Animation, and many more. But, almost all of these books, regardless of their differences, have one thing in common – straight-forward, descriptive titles that almost always include the word “anime”. And what that means is that a reader who is trying to access these books, whether on Amazon or in a library catalog, should be able to locate them without too much difficulty simply by searching for the word. (more…)
Anime, as anime scholars will never tire of repeating, is not a genre, it is a “form” or “mode” of animation, and anime films and television series can include a wide variety of genres. At the same time, it is also true that anime’s stereotypical genre is science fiction. The two films that first really got anime noticed outside Japan, Akira and Ghost in the Shell – are the epitome of science fiction cinema. And so, one of the most common approaches to anime that scholars take it to focus on anime as science fiction.
For example, the only anime director (in fact, the only animator) profiled in Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction (“a collection of engaging essays on some of the most significant figures who have shaped and defined the genre”, Routledge, 2009) is Ghost in the Shell‘s Mamoru Oshii. “Manga and anime” is a section in the Routledge Companion to Science Fiction (2009). Among the chapters in Science fiction film and television: Across the screens (Routledge, 2012) is one on Cowboy Bebop. And some of the most seminal scholarly essays on Japanese animation to be published in English – among them, Carl Silvio’s Reconfiguring the radical cyborg in Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell (No. 77, March 1999), Michael Fisch’s Nation, war, and Japan’s future in the science fiction anime film Patlabor II (No. 80, March 2000), and the three articles by Susan Napier, Sharalyn Orbaugh, and Christopher Bolton in the special issue on Japanese science fiction (No. 88, November 2002 – appeared in the journal Science Fiction Studies – these include).
With this in mind, ever since Liverpool University Press launched the journal Science Fiction Film and Television, the only peer-reviewed scholarly journal I am aware of with that specific focus, I have been looking forward to the kind of scholarship on Japanese animation the journal would feature. Until now, it was limited to reviews of books (and edited collections containing chapters on) anime, as well as one review of a particular anime film. And now, “science fiction anime” is the specific theme of the journals’ new Autumn 2014 issue. (more…)