- Posted by Johanna on March 25, 2010 at 4:43 pm
- Category: Books and Prose
- CREDITS: edited by Josef Steiff and Tristan D. Tamplin
- PUBLISHER: Open Court; $19.95 US
(In case you’re curious, my blurb said “Thought-provoking and mind-blowing! Anime fans will gain new insight into their film favorites through readable commentary and analysis of animation classics.”)
I’m leery when it comes to these kinds of books. I have a masters degree in popular culture, so I’ve read my share of academic writing about popular subjects, and I’ve come to greatly prefer those who favor readability over citations and jargon. I was pleased to see that this book definitely went in the former direction. More, I could read articles about films I hadn’t seen (many of them, since my anime experience is limited compared to the contributors and core audience) and still follow the points and description.
There were a couple of places with room for improvement. The introduction, by someone who used to work at anime import pioneer Manga Entertainment, makes the mistake of talking more about her life than the subject at hand. She raises good points about the struggles anime has faced in gaining acceptance, and conflicts between business needs and fan desires, but they get lost in trivia about company projects.
I also wish that there were a lot more illustrations, but copyright makes that difficult. The only significant art is on the section dividers, which are manga-influenced fan drawings that should have been better designed for black-and-white reproduction. The dark shading makes some of them seem cluttered and hard to read. But then comes the meat of the book, chapters about
- body transformation and cyborgs and the definition of humanity (especially Gunslinger Girl and Ghost in the Shell)
- an analysis of the end of Akira in light of definitions of identity
- a script for a hypothetical sequel to Magnetic Rose
- an appreciation of community and cultural history as shown in Spirited Away
- portrayals of religious symbols and theology in anime
- civilization collapse as shown in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
- what Mobile Suit Gundam says about just war theory
- competition and advancement in shonen anime such as Dragon Ball and One Piece
- the heroic archetype reflected in Fullmetal Alchemist; another piece uses that story to examine the economics of capitalism
- what Astro Boy says about the nuclear bomb and the atomic age
- an introductory survey of adult anime (hentai)
As well as other topics. I appreciated that many of the examples used were well-known films, enough so that I’d heard about them before, giving me a familiar entry point into the philosophical points under discussion. There’s also a short glossary at the back, cutely labeled “Subtitles” — although you won’t know it’s there until after you need it — and bibliographies of sources both philosophical and anime.
Coming this summer from the series: Manga and Philosophy! (The publisher provided a complimentary copy.)