Anime has become a part of American popular culture. Japanese animated motion pictures have captured our imaginations, and a growing block of television broadcasting time. Saturday morning "cartoons" were revolutionized by the Pokemon craze, but also by programming such as the Cartoon Network's "Toonami" which introduced anime serials such as Dragonball, Yu-Yu Hakusho, Inu-Yasha and Naruto.
Kid stuff? Maybe, but these programs familiarize millions of American viewers with the look, style, and themes of anime, which is a much deeper and richer art form. Anime and manga (Japanese comic books and graphic novels) have a continuing influence on popular culture, American animated features such as The Iron Giant, and live action motion pictures such as The Matrix.
Anime feature films now often have limited theatrical releases here in the U.S., such as Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime), the Academy Award winning Spirited Away, and Paprika by director Satoshi Kon.
There are well-established anime clubs at dozens of universities across the country. There are a growing number of annual conventions devoted entirely to anime, with several such as OTAKON drawing over 20,000 fans. Few other categories of motion pictures generate this sort of intense interest and fan devotion; they deserve recognition and a place in academic library collections.
Historically, there were a small number of academic courses which included the study of anime. Dr. Susan Napier of the Asian Studies Center at the University of Texas at Austin taught a course titled "World of Japanese Animation". She is also the author of a book mentioned below.
Dr. Pamela Gossin at University of Texas at Dallas is an active member of the Advisory Board of Mechademia, the world's first academic journal devoted to the study of anime and manga, published by University of Minnesota Press.
The latest trend is towards MOOCs, "massively open online courses," including offerings for the study of anime and manga. FutureLearn offered a course titled Introduction to Japanese Subculture with emphasis on themes in anime and manga.
There are a growing number of english-language books in the Bertrand Library collection that attempt to analyze Japanese animated motion pictures, allowing us to study anime as film.
The following are a good start on a library collection supporting the study of Japanese anime. As of June 2017 all of these titles are available through Amazon. The encyclopedia by Clements and McCarthy is particularly helpful as a selection aid. Clements offers synopsis and commentaries for over 2,000 anime movie and TV series titles. Drazen, McCarthy, Napier, and Poitras also provide background and information for the study of anime as art form. The Cinema Anime collection is particularly interesting, but a challenging read.
Librarians planning to build an anime library should keep in mind some of the distinct types or genrés of these films. There are commonly understood categories such as fantasy and science fiction, mystery, and even gothic horror. But there are also motifs unique to anime, such as "mecha" anime which feature giant robots. More importantly, there are anime genré and motifs that reflect their origins in Japanese culture and artistic expression. Fighting robots and the motivations and ideals explored in mecha seem to be accessible to even young American audiences. The exploration of the samurai code and Japanese legends in a complex series of anime episodes such as the Hakkenden make for more challenging viewing.
James A. Van Fleet
Updated: June 5, 2017
Portrait by John Van Fleet
artist for the Marvel Comics series Typhoid,
and DC Comics Batman: the Chalice
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