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Anime from Akira to Howl's Moving Castle: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation Paperback – November 24, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; Second Edition, Revised edition (November 24, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403970521
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403970527
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for the first edition:
"...A thoughtful and carefully researched account."--The New York Times
"Napier draws a rather complete picture of Japanese animation as a legitimate art form, and uses anime as a key to the culture that creates it."--Entertainment Weekly
"This worthy addition to the burgeoning literature on Japanese popular culture will stand the test of time."--Choice
"This is a riveting and inspiring book, one that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and from which I have learned a great deal. As a source of concrete information about Japanese animation it is invaluable."--Sharon Kinsella, Cambridge University
"Informative, well-written, and yet entertaining...both generous and critically insightful."--Sharalyn Orbaugh, University of British Columbia

About the Author

Susan J. Napier is Professor of Japanese Literature and Culture at the University of Texas, Austin.

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Customer Reviews

Napier is not academic enough for serious students or anime fans and she gets too much wrong for a cursory study or for pop cultural interests.
Ellen E.
Even in chapters not called for it, she can't seem to resist making a sexual reference or mention phallic imagery, and it does get quite tiring after a while.
JAB
Unless it's required by your curriculum (or you just want something to be angry about, as an anime lover,) you really, really shouldn't buy this book.
Dee

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Vick on May 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
Susan Napier's book Anime from Akira to Howl's Moving Castle, Updated Edition: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation is a noble attempt at bringing an academic lens to a topic that is so often marginalized. Napier's thematic approach to anime and manga holds promise, but it is her flagrant disregard for accuracy that ultimately makes it impossible to seriously consider this work as truly informative.

Napier structures her book around themes that she contends are central to the medium of anime and manga, specifically: the apocalypse, Japanese victim mentality, and the challenge of gender identity. In doing so, Napier succeeds in identifying common themes in anime and manga that, through analysis, can reveal a deeper meaning of many of the works discussed in the book.

Particularly convincing is Napier's focus of apocalyptic settings combined with Japan's national mentality of victimization. The author makes a moving case for the freedom that a post-apocalyptic setting allows creators to comment on social issues that take place in modern day Japan. It would be hard to deny that the image of Neo-Tokyo with its mass of urban metropolis contrasting with a large atomic crater is one of the most engrossing parts of Akira. Equally, it is only against the bleak backdrop of utter destruction that Grave of the Fireflies could tell such a moving story about two children attempting to live during the firebombing of Japan during World War II. Thematically, understanding not only the value of apocalyptic settings for storytelling, but the history and mentality that help Japanese animators imagine such settings gives readers a deeper appreciation of anime as a reflection of culture.

This book deals with gender and sexuality in a less successful, if equally interesting, manner.
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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful By L. Sanchez on May 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
Whether it is still relatively new to us, or as Westerners we are close-minded to accept what the overwhelming world of Japanese popular culture has to offer--nevertheless there are not a lot of texts published (academic or otherwise) on the topic. While it is nice to see anime and manga recognized as valid art forms, personally, I don't find Susan Napier to be the one to write about these sorts of things. I was forced to read this book for a class on the visual pop culture of Japan, and although I am not entirely familiar with many of the series she mentions, I still know the difference between a good and bad argument in academic writing.

Although she means well and brings up relevant points (like the three types of series: elegiac, festival, and apocalyptic plotlines) and has the occasional interesting and original interpretation or idea (though scarce), the book soon becomes chapter after chapter of Freudian thought and it's not only tiresome, but it makes me question if she is doing this for shock value and sex appeal, or if she truly believes InuYasha's sword is a phallic symbol or the blood smeared on San's ("Princess Mononoke"'s) face is reflective of her menstrual cycle, which Napier uses to instantly suggest she is feminine and fertile, while immediately countering it with counts of San's masculine acts, constantly in this wishy-washy pattern that makes the book hard to comprehend. It was amusing the first time, but it just becomes ludicrous how often she thinks of characters and symbols sexually, instead of for what they are or other possible interpretations, and sees gender as a black-and-white issue, and has to bring it up for every series, regardless of its demographics.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By JAB on May 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
I recently read this book as a textbook for a college course on Japanese visual culture, and I must honestly say that it was not as informative as I had hoped. I am quite surprised that Napier is one of the very few "experts" on anime, as I am sure that there are many fans out there who could have written a more thorough and well-written book.

While there were some shortcomings, I'll address what I thought were the strengths of this book first. Napier does a very good job covering the broader topics and themes, and then relating them to contemporary issues of what was going on in Japanese society at the time, such as the declining birth rate, changing gender roles in society, the economic bubble and its aftermath, and so on. I must say, though, that she is quite thorough on the apocalyptic themes and themes relating to the atomic bomb and its aftermath. The chapters focusing on these themes were the most interesting to read, and she makes very good points on all fronts.

However, I think the shortcomings were a little too blatant. While Napier does a good job covering many themes, I think she might be a little too thorough when it comes to sexual themes and undertones. Even in chapters not called for it, she can't seem to resist making a sexual reference or mention phallic imagery, and it does get quite tiring after a while. Most absurdly, she does approach this from the other way around--she attempts to dissect a pornographic anime (Legend of Overfiend) in relation to societal issues and such, however I doubt that those watching this series, and those who created it had/have such things in mind. It would have been much easier on the readers had she put them all in a separate chapter, as it seemed as though each chapter was its own theme plus sexual imagery.
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