An anime studies bibliography

This blog is meant both as a way for me to express my thoughts about anime, and as an introduction to academic writings on the subject. However, direct reading is always preferable ; this is why I believe it useful to include a general introduction to what books and articles have been written on anime in English. For another, more comprehensive list, you may look here. But I will here only include works that I have read, to be able to provide a short presentation. This means that this bibliography is NOT exhaustive and will be regularly updated ; moreover, all the presentations and critics of the works cited here are personal and must not be taken for granted. The books are ranked by topic and (perceived) value and importance.

Online resources and blogs

Sakuga Blog – – This well-known blog, one of the central online places of the sakuga community, is an always useful help if you want to know more about the industry now.

Wave Motion Cannon – – While now dead, this is another central website of the sakuga community. Apart from the always interesting translations, it has some very interesting theoretical articles about sakuga and more technical write-ups about the way animation is made.

Full Frontal – – Taking the succession of Wave Motion Cannon, this blog also contains interviews, translations, and fascinating analyses. I also write there from time to time, so check them out !

Anipages – – Now dead, this blog is an essential resource for whoever is interested in sakuga and the history of Japanese animation. The site’s forum also contains some very interesting discussions and topics.

Anime and Manga Studies – – More of a set of resources (bibliographies, databases, etc.) than a blog posting content, this is one of the most interesting places to look at if you’re interested about the developing field of academic work about anime and manga.

Zimmerit – – If you’re interested in the history of anime, or 70-80’s anime, this is the place. This extremely well-documented website provides analysis, historical accounts, translations and documents from the era and is a very valuable source.

Vox Artes – – An extremely interesting project, which in part inspired me to start this blog : an anime analysis website that aims to comment shows from an anticapitalist and feminist perspective.

Anime Feminist – – Another critical perspective, this more well-established website provides both in depth-analysis and actuality about the industry. An essential read.

Lawmune’s Anime Page – – While I believe it is now dead, this blog contains a wealth of information about Gainax and otaku culture.

Schoolgirl Milky Crisis – – The official blog of anime scholar Jonathan Clements, this contains both a series of anecdotes about the industry and book reviews. It’s easy to get lost, and not everything is of equal value, but it’s nice to have.

327 Robots – – This blog is full of short-form but interesting texts about all subjects surrounding anime. The most insightful are probably the attempts at retracing some more technical details of anime productio.

Pause and Select – – If you want to be introduced to an academic look on anime, this YouTube channel is for you. It is what made me aware of the existence of anime studies and is an extremely precious resource, from its interviews to book reviews to individual works’ analysis.

Zeria – – While originally just an anime review channel like any other, this recently became a place for more in-depth critical leftist analysis of anime. The still starting series dedicated to the history of Yuri is especially a very welcome contribution to anime history online.

Non-academic books about anime

Galbraith, P. (2014) The Moé Manifesto. An Insider’s Look at the Worlds of Manga, Anime, and Gaming. Tuttle Publishing. – This series of interviews of Japanese researchers, artists and otaku is probably the best introduction to anime studies, otaku, and the concept of moe. However, it is quite short and may be thought to lack depth – but that is precisely its goal : to be but an introduction, a “Who’s Who” of sorts.

Miyazaki, H. (translation B. Carry and F. Schodt, 2009) Starting Point, 1976-1996 + Turning Point, 1997-2008. Viz Media. – These two books are a collection of essays, interviews and articles by Hayao Miyazaki. The first volume is undoubtedly the more interesting of the two : it includes accounts of Miyazaki’s early career and all of his theoretical texts, whereas the second one only includes interviews about his movies between 1997 and 2008.

Takeda, Y. (2005) The Notenki Memoirs : Studio Gainax and the Men who Created Evangelion. ADV Manga. – The autobiography of one of Gainax’s founding members is neither objective nor comprehensive ; however, it still remains a valuable document about the birth and development of otaku culture and some of its best works, from Daicon to Evangelion. An extremely well-made online edition is available here.

Clements, J. and McCarthy, H. (2015). The Anime Encyclopedia : A Century of Japanese Animation. 3rd Revised Edition. – As the title indicates, this is an encyclopedia registering anime series, movies, and principal personalities. The entries, always very concise, can be very informative, but that’s not always the case. Moreover, a new edition would be very welcome, especially considering some spectacular misreadings of then-recent anime (such as K-On !, presented as mere lolicon-bait, something that has now been proven false).

Academic books about anime

Condry, I. (2013) The Soul of Anime. Collaborative Creativity and Japan’s Media Success Story. Duke University Press. – Simply put, this is my favorite book on anime. Condry’s choice of an anthropological method and field study leads him to focus on anime’s production process and its social aspects. It offers a very diverse perspective, from textual analysis of Mamoru Hosoda’s early films to fansubs and moe theory. Moreover, the simple style and concise format (only 200 pages) make it an easy read and good introduction to anime studies.

Lamarre, T. (2009) The Anime Machine. A Media Theory of Animation. University of Minnesota Press. – The most important book written in English about anime. This seminal book offers a very powerful and systematical account of the moving image and of anime history : whereas many other authors favor the methods of media studies and social sciences, this is probably the only and most compelling philosophical approach to Japanese animation. However, this, associated with Lamarre’s dense style and huge erudition, do not make it the easiest of reads.

Suan, S. (2013) The Anime Paradox : Patterns and Practices Through the Lens of Traditional Japanese Theater. Brill. – While I am skeptical about some of the arguments made, this is without a doubt the best attempt at studying anime at the formal and structural level. A great book in anime studies, but also in art criticism that forms a good companion piece to The Anime Machine, as it complements the latter’s insights on medium with formal remarks.

Lamarre, T. (2018) The Anime Ecology. A Genealogy of Television, Animation, and Game Media. University of Minnesota Press. – This follow-up to The Anime Machine is an even more impressive, dense, and thought-provoking work. It is, however, much more complex than its predecessor. Moreover, if what you’re interested in is just a perspective on anime, this might not be the right place : here, Lamarre embarks on a history of television and video games in order to extend his ideas to a systematic theory of media.

Clements, J. (2013) Anime, a History. Palgrave Macmillan. – An essential book about Japanese animation, the title is however misleading : it seems to indicate that the content will be a comprehensive history of Japanese animated works. It is in fact more preoccupied with questions of production and distribution. This is not a default at all ; however, it is not the general history of anime that it seems to be, and that is still missing from the English-speaking world.

Denison, R. (2015) Anime, a Critical Introduction. Bloomsbury, Film Genres Series. – Another misleading title : this dense book is in fact more a history of anime’s distribution and reception, and the different ways Western fans, critics and scholars have tried to approach it.

Tze-Yue, G. H. (2010) Frames of Anime. Culture and Image-Building. Hong-Kong University Press. – This feels less like a single book, and more like a collection of equally interesting essays on Japanese culture, animation history, and studio Ghibli. However, precisely because they’re so short, I feel that many of these essays lack the depth that would make them that much more interesting.

Napier, S. (2005) Anime, From Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle. Palgrave McMillan. – This, right here, is a classic – the first academic book written about anime in English. It must be understood as such: it tries to bite off more than it can chew, and some analyses have not stood the test of time. It is, nevertheless, an interesting and insightful book, a good starting point if you’re a bit lost.

Steinberg, M. (2012) Anime’s Media Mix. Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan. University of Minnesota Press. – This now classic book discusses less anime themselves than the revolutionary marketing strategies that anime helped to establish. It is a very helpful source of information on the first TV anime, Astro Boy.

Jolyon Baraka, T. (2012) Drawing on Tradition : Manga, Anime and Religiosity in Contemporary Japan. University of Hawaii Press. – While this book has an interesting premise – studying the relationship between anime, manga and religion – it ends up just being an overview of how manga and anime represent religion and ends up not being that essential or groundbreaking.

Swale, Alistair D. (2015) Anime Aesthetics – Japanese Animation and the « Post-Cinematic » Imagination. Palgrave McMillan. – To be quite honest, I wouldn’t recommend this book – it is more an essay in philosophy of art than in anime aesthetics, and I don’t really know if it’s a really interesting one at that.

Academic books about otaku

Saito, T. (translation J. Vincent and D. Lawson, 2011) Beautiful Fighting Girl. University of Minnesota Press. – One of the most important books about otaku, this essay adopts a psychoanalytical method and approaches otaku from the perspective of their sexuality and relationship to fiction ; while compelling, the most interesting aspects were for me the more sociological aspects and dialogues with actual otaku.

Azuma, H. (translation J. Abel and S. Kono, 2009) Otaku. Japan’s Database Animals. University of Minnesota Press. – This is probably one of the most well-known books about otaku. Despite its very dense and philosophical content, it is quite the easy and capital read.

Galbraith, P. (2019) Otaku and the Struggle for Imagination in Japan. Duke University Press. – Probably the best book about otaku culture and history available in English. Galbraith speaks with expertise and nuance, and his account is essential for anyone interested in subcultures and anime history.

Galbraith, P., Huat Kam T. and Kamm, B.-O (2015) Debating Otaku in Contemporary Japan. Historical Perspectives and New Horizons. Bloomsbury Academic. – The essays collected in this anthology are not all of equal interest, but this is nevertheless an essential book on otaku culture and history. The most valuable essays are probably the translations of Toshio Okada’s texts, even though they are regrettably not yet fully available in English.