I have…lots of thoughts on one of this week’s prompts.
Check out this Stack Exchange post: Why isn’t anime critically analyzed like other forms of literature or entertainment? Do you agree with this observation? What are some of your thoughts?
I have to disagree with the Stack Exchange post. Hugely.
See, I’ve mentioned on this blog things I’ve learnt in my humanities studies. See,
unless I stuffed up badly enough on my studies I have to stick around longer, I can basically already be called a scholar of international studies (specialising in Asian studies) and Japanese studies. The two fields have a lot of overlap, but aren’t the same – the latter has language and culture components, the former is culture-specific but obviously doesn’t just include Japanese contemporary culture.
Part of Japanese studies is of course its culture, but then some scholars of Japanese studies gravitate towards the field because of anime, so it makes sense that part of this cycle involves critical discussion of anime.
For the few years I’ve been maintaining this blog, I was also, at times, part of several Japanese and/or Asian culture classes, including one where the final essay was for a topic of your choice as long as it was within the scope of the class content. According to the lecturer, anime was a very popular topic of choice for critical analysis for said essay, to the point where they encouraged people not to choose an anime-based topic. Including that class, I’ve read academic articles on things like Death Note and femininity in shoujo and magical girl works (heck, I got to seriously discuss Boueibu and Mahou Shoujo Ore that time – I’d never forget it!). For class discussion, we got to talk about how Golden Kamuy was spreading awareness of Ainu culture, among other things. Regarding this blog specifically, I’ve read several academic books on anime, including at least one on Studio Ghibli and the one Moya mentions as a physical copy.
Certainly, anime academic research may not seem to exist outside a very niche sphere – the kind that would read Mechademia and similar journals – but as Moya points out, it does exist! It’s just hugely interdisciplinary, much like international studies itself, and so you can find anime articles in all sorts of journals if you can think of where to find them – you just need to dig a bit. “Scholar of anime” is a legitimate title for someone such as Frederik Schodt (although often they double up as translators/interpreters or professors of contemporary Japanese culture, as you do in this field) and there are anime critics in Japan as well (you hear about them on Anime News Network occasionally – see, for instance, Yohei Kurose).
The fast-moving nature of anime fandom and culture vs. the vetting process of academia means you can’t really talk about cutting-edge simulcasts in published academic theses until years after they’ve aired, but that’s one of the only possible downsides. Also, you’ve seen me churn out anime criticism right here on this very blog (see, for instance, this post regarding the racial and gender-based problems of Hypnosis Mic – even though the anime didn’t exist at the time, it does now, and most, if not all, arguments still apply) and if you’re here or if you’ve been trawling my round-up posts, you’ve read other pieces of criticism, some of them from very educated people on the subject.
Well, if I had to pick a counterargument, anime is generally considered something to “turn one’s brain off” to, even to critics of other media, and people like to keep it that way so as not to blur business and pleasure, but…the Stack Exchange topic was originally posted in 2016. With the current popularity of streaming services introducing people to anime and COVID introducing more people to streaming and blogging, there’s probably no better time than the present to look out for new critics…
Sidebar: The prompt only asks me to discuss anime, but some of this applies to manga as well, although you can find discussion about manga in journals concerning comics and other sequential art as well as Japan- and anime-related fields.
For instance, you know that manga library I mentioned I volunteered at? That place is kept for both people’s personal enjoyment and academic research.
I know…I’m an aberration to the norm who’s so hyper-focussed on Asian contemporary culture, most people won’t be like me (especially considering there are only so many future paths that can be taken by doing this, as opposed to the IT/humanities hybrid I was doing in the past), but on the other hand, it would mean a lot of people – myself included – would have lost opportunities related to their field of interest if it didn’t exist.
For more on controversies, you can check Moya’s post or the hashtag #controversed. You can also join Jon’s Discord (details on Moya’s post here).