Published on August 25th, 2015 | by Laura Robbins
Anime Encyclopedia Review
The Anime Encyclopedia
Authors: Jonathan Clements, Helen McCarthy
Publisher: Stone Bridge Press
It’s been nine years since the last edition of The Anime Encyclopedia was published. The third fully-updated edition came out in March 2015 and was looked for eagerly by fans. New anime series are created and broadcast so quickly now that it is interesting to see how well the authors have kept up in this latest edition. The goal of The Anime Encyclopedia is to provide a comprehensive resource to anime films and series that can be used by fans, libraries, and scholars to find, discover, and learn more about Japanese animation produced from 1917 through 2014. For those who are unfamiliar with the topic, this resource provides a wonderful starting point.
This updated volume contains over 1,000 new entries. The majority of new entries focus on anime produced since 2006, but some earlier works have been included as well, such as Momotaro’s Sea Eagles. Additionally, over 100 corrections have been made, and 5,000 entries have been updated. New thematic essays have also been added on terminology and genres. If a reader spots an error or notes that an anime is missing, the publishers welcome comments and corrections at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The authors are both well-respected experts in anime. They have a depth of knowledge about the topic that is amazing and covers decades. Helen McCarthy established and published the first British anime magazine in 1991. Additionally, she has published several books on anime, including Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation, The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga, and most recently A Brief History of Manga. Jonathan Clements is a well-known writer, respected translator, director, and voice actor on various anime productions. Some of his essays on what goes on behind the scenes of an anime production were republished in Schoolgirl Milky Crisis, an eye-opening and thoroughly enjoyable read. For those who truly wish to delve into the history of anime, Mr. Clements recently published Anime: A History through the British Film Institute which is a substantial look at the development of Japanese animation.
The word encyclopedia denotes a specific kind of publication, and some have wondered if this book is more of a film guide than a true encyclopedia. If the book contained only film synopses, that might be the case. However, the inclusion of the thematic essays beginning in the second edition makes this a truly scholarly resource. The thematic essays provide context and history that a straight film guide would not. There is also a bibliography of materials that the authors used to compile this tome. The anime entries contain more than a simple synopses. They contain criticism, and in some cases, comparisons to other anime. Additionally, there are biographical entries on animators, directors, and composers, as well as studio entries that would not be found in a film guide. This is a well-researched, thorough encyclopedia. It might not have as scholarly a tone as would ordinarily be expected, but that is because the authors have a love for the topic that they are seeking to share with their readers, and it is aimed more toward the fans than to the academics.
The thematic essays demonstrate the thorough knowledge of anime history that the authors have. They provide information that readers are not likely to stumble across elsewhere. They supply background information on the growth of the industry and place landmark animations in their historical context. Not everyone will agree with everything that is written in these essays. For example, within the essay on Argon and Jargon, the authors define moe as a “fetishistic obsession with a particular topic or hobby, entering modern parlance as a replacement for otaku.” They then go on to discuss it as “an intense attraction” to young innocent girls. It is this last definition that tends to be the most common and recognizable one in fandom with several articles and a book dedicated to that definition. The essay on stereotypes delves into the history of character development and their archetypes back to kabuki theater. The essay on puppetry reminds readers that animation evolved in some part from another form and that some of the earliest animations combined the two forms. The essay on translation is enhanced by Mr. Clements’ experience in the field and references one incident that he describes more fully in Schoolgirl Milky Crisis. Entries on wartime anime, documentaries, technology and formats, and gaming and digital animation provide historical perspective, illustrate how changes over time have impacted anime, and introduce younger viewers to the breadth of anime history. For those interested in particular genres, such as sports, science fiction, romance, or horror, those essays provide an excellent introduction and include anime that are exemplars of each.
Though the thematic entries are important, it is the film and series entries that are the heart and soul of this encyclopedia. These entries indicate when there are legal English-language releases, though there is no guarantee that a reader will be able to obtain one. As could be expected, entries are listed alphabetically by the most well-known English title and include year of production, director, lead animators, composers, scriptwriters, designers, studios, its Japanese name, and length and episode count. Thereafter is a synopsis, some evaluative commentary, and mentions of comparable titles. The evaluative commentary may strike a nerve with some readers. Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Clements are not always kind in their evaluations and do not mince words. For example, within the entry for “Rave Master,” the authors state “but take our word for it rather than spending 24 hours of your life to find out.” Obviously, the authors did not like the anime, but they tell you why and give specifics. As well, they write with humor. The authors also never give short shrift to those entries that merit discussion, and their love for the subject is apparent throughout. Taking into account that some readers may be looking for anime suitable for home viewing with their family, the authors include a “guide to content” at the end of each entry that indicates language, violence, and nudity.
The studio entries are generally brief, but include the most pertinent information, such as when it was founded, who by, and the major films or series produced by that studio. Knowing that Gainax was founded by fans and had produced some of the best anime of the 80’s, it was surprising to see how short the entry was. The entry on Studio Ghibli, was much longer and more in-depth, which is not surprising considering the passion that Ms. McCarthy has for some of the anime produced by that studio. Creator entries are concise biographies that focus on education and include the most significant anime worked on by that individual. Finding entries on Yoko Kanno and Joe Hisaishi, composers whose work and style are intimately familiar to fans of Cowboy Bebop and anything done by Studio Ghibli, was a very welcome surprise. Some may be disappointed that these types of entries are not longer, but keep in mind that this is an introductory resource. There are animators, studios, and composers whose work deserve greater study, but this book is just meant to familiarize and establish the topics and people involved in anime.
The encyclopedia interweaves all of the different types of entries and arranges them alphabetically. In the print version, this makes finding the entries on creators, studios, and even the thematic essays cumbersome. In the future, if it continues as a print publication, the publishers might be better served to break it into two volumes and to separate the film and series entries from the other types. In fact, this edition contains a note from the publishers noting that they were forced to increase the page size to the maximum to be able to print it as a single volume.
The Anime Encyclopedia is also available in electronic versions. To their credit, the publishers have released it in more than one electronic format, so that readers can have a choice between Kindle, Nook, and the unrestricted epub version. The advantage of the electronic version is the use of hyperlinks. Cross-references are linked making it easy to jump from one entry to another. Anime titles are linked to entries on either Wikipedia or the Anime News Network’s encyclopedia, which might be considered more authoritative. It is also easy to search the text of the electronic version making it simiple to find every reference to a particular anime, director, or other creator. But, due to the size of this publication, searching is not instantaneous. The ability to search the electronic version replaces the comprehensive index that is in the print publication, of course. The bibliography also contains hyperlinks to those articles that are freely available online as well as to the online sites they consulted. The publishers might consider including links to Open Worldcat in the future so that readers can find any of the publications in their local libraries.
The Anime Encyclopedia is a truly unique resource. There is no other print publication that provides a comprehensive index and introduction to anime. Though it is possible to browse and search Anime News Network’s encyclopedia or Wikipedia for information on an anime, the possibility of serendipitous discovery that a reader can get from simply opening a print book to a random page is greatly reduced. That is one of the true joys of reading this encyclopedia, knowing that whatever page a reader lands on there will be something there to catch his interest. It may incite anger, curiosity, or laughter, but each entry will leave him with the desire to read more. This book is written by two authors who are intimately familiar with the field on many different levels and who have a passion for it. It is a must for any library that has an anime collection, and it is an invaluable resource and asset for any dedicated fan to own.