The first thought that runs through the mind of a potential otaku faced with the wealth of Anime films that are available is, frankly, "Where do I start." It doesn't take a great deal of time to sniff out the Evangelions and Princess Mononokes, but beyond the great successes are many lesser lights that all promise pleasure and entertainment if one only knew which they were. Of course, part of the challenge is that coming to understand anime and manga requires reaching some level of understanding of the Japanese culture that underlies them. However, the simple truth is that, lacking a guide, the effort is always in danger of becoming fruitless.
'The Anime Encyclopedia' is the answer to need. While it really isn't encyclopedic, it provides summaries, data, and even some analysis of over 2,000 anime films. The authors confess that there are probably another 2,000 films that could have been included, and a complete failure to touch on interactive (game) animation. Nevertheless, 2,000 titles covering the period from 1917 to 2001 is a lot. While the writers are rarely excessively judgmental, there is enough information to identify both films of interest and films to be avoided.
Occasionally, the reader finds a lengthy discussion, but most of the descriptions are 100 to 200 words. One will find dates, formats, key translations, creative staff, and length listed. Some indication of the appropriate audience where needed, and indication of whether English productions are available. In short, enough to navigate one's way to the winded path of an otaku's apprenticeship. The writers have a dry, witty style that makes this more than a simple catalog, but far less than a treatise. The book does exactly what it promises to do, competently and clearly. Lacking a command of Japanese, this is the best resource available for US viewers.
on March 30, 2003
It is difficult being an otaku (anime fan) when it comes to finding useful source material. Most of the good information is in Japanese, and only reaches the Western viewer in a trickle-down fashion.
So, on the face of it, this would seem to be a crucial book, telling you what is out there. Alas, while this book does try to be informative and useful, it is filled with so many errors and embittered opinions, that I would not recommend using it as an authorative source. Whether it is a simple error of claiming that the anime classic "Otaku no Video" was created in 1985-- which was two years before the creator of this anime (Gainax) was founded; or the embittered opinions of attacking one series (Fushigi Yugi) merely on the grounds that it wasn't as good as another series (Escaflowne) there are many pieces of unreliable information. Series are given the wrong year, wrong number of episodes and frequently plot descriptions that are so distorted that one wonders how closely the authors followed the series in question.
on December 29, 2003
While it may be the best and more thoroughly thought-out book about anime so far, it is not quite as relevant as one first hopes. I bought it to have a reference guide, and for this it has proven useful. It is a great tool for finding various animes by a specific directors, or, on the flip side, finding out who produced which shows. However, this is almost the extent of its usefulness.
If one is searching for a comprehensive guide to themes in anime (say the theme of reaching maturity or of encountering alien life or of the woes of war), one will be completely disappointed. The only way to search for anime is by title or producer. If one seeks factual information about anime, like which Mangas or comic strips the animes are based on, one will be disappointed. Even basic terms, plot tools, cliches, genres, and so on are completely overlooked. Japanese culture and language are apparently never consulted by the authors. All that matters to the writers is what the title of the anime was, usually the basic plot, and who made it (and in some instances influences). And that is greatly disappointing for something called an "Encyclopedia." Also, if you seek any form of information on a spin-off or a sequel series to any anime, you are at a loss-- the only references to such follow-ups (often more important or popular than the antecedent), if at all existent, are to be found only within the entries to the original released series. As if that wasn't enough, one must also sustain insult while the author shows disdain and disregard for certain animes which may happen to be some of the most popular and loved (Evangelion comes to mind).
Of course, it is a first edition. And it is already very dated, with much important anime being too recent for any real inclusion (for example, the world-shaking Spirited Away is mentioned as an upcoming Hayao Miyazaki film). Therefore, if one seeks a comprehensive guide to what anime has been out there for a while, it is a crucial and necessary book to own, but not if one seeks to understand a particular anime better, or if one has questions about anime in general. "The Anime Reference Guide" is a title better suited for this book. Definitively buy it if such a book is what you seek, but do not expect an encyclopedia.
on February 11, 2002
When I first got this book, I thought I'd stumbled upon a wealth of information. As an amateur anime reviewer, I had wanted a more comprehensive guide to anime than the books that had been previously released, and I was convinced this should be it.
For a first-time anime fan, this seems like the way to go. But for the experienced fan who has seen even a tenth of the anime listed here, the luster fades rather quickly.
Unfortunately, the Anime Encyclopedia is plagued with factual errors, occasional Anglocentric comments, and an often acerbic tone hardly befitting the word "encyclopedia". Review guide, perhaps. But impassive reference material? Hardly.
Often, the authors come up with completely new (and erroneous) title translations such as "Chancer Princess" and "Heart Mark" for anime not released in the West, whereas some shows within the time period stated (Risky Safety) are omitted outright, or hidden under discussion of nominally related titles (Gensoumaden Saiyuuki). Japanese names are misspelled or mistranslated with abandon, whether it be anime titles or creators, like Yoshizumi Wataru, here transliterated incorrectly as Yoshizumi Ayumi, and not even listed as the creator of her major anime work!
The worst part is that, as in Helen McCarthy's previous works, the authors here attempt to review and cast judgment on titles they obviously have not seen, which is reprehensible for anyone who claims to be a serious reviewer of any genre of art. The informal (and obviously British) tone of the book meshes poorly with the fact that this was released for a primarily American audience, with the authors poking fun at American distributors where there ought not to be any poking of fun at all.
While a lot of the basic information in fact is, in fact, solid, and this is currently the most comprehensive work on anime published in English to date, the Anime Encyclopedia certainly is not perfect, and could use a lot more revision ... and a lot less speculation.
on November 13, 2001
I thought I knew about anime until I saw this book. It's only now that I'm starting to appreciate just how big and broad a medium it really is. Unlike so many others, the authors do not patronise anime or indulge its weaknesses. They are happy to admit when something is of poor quality, making this book invaluable for the non-fan who genuinely wants to know which shows stand up on their own merits.
They point out both the shortcomings in supposed "fan favourites" (the inane Tenchi Muyo gets a long-deserved drubbing) and the forgotten merits of unpopular shows (the much-derided Fist of the North Star nevertheless contains innovative animation techniques in its later episodes). There is a massive index (bigger than some other *books* on anime itself) listing all title variants, but the main text sensibly files anime by their English-language names. Synopses are highly detailed and criticism is sternly, ruthlessly objective -- the authors describe the English release of Beast Warriors (produced by McCarthy herself) as a "failure" and the subtitling for Salamander (translated by Clements) as "the worst in anime history." Best of all, the book is packed with witty comments laying into bombastic press releases, pretentious fans, and daft production decisions without fear or favour.
I can think of no other reference work that can actually be laugh-out-loud funny, and some of the revelations are eye-opening -- the book introduces hundreds of new anime never discussed before. I'm sure there are plenty of fans who will throw tantrums when their favourite shows are not forgiven their failings, but the Anime Encyclopedia effortlessly demonstrates that recent "hits" are mere dots on the landscape of anime in all its glory. Now at last, anime can grow up.
on June 11, 2002
I really wanted to like this book. After all, it is an supposed to be a guide to Japanese animation since 1917. Clements and McCarthy were editors of British anime magazines, which should lend creditablity to this encyclopedia. One of the problems that I had with this book is that it combines the reviews and descriptions of an anime series with its respective movies. For example, the three different Tenchi series are all listed in the same entry and very little information is given about the individual series. Instead the authors of this book would rather editoralize about how awful they think the Tenchi series is, and and compare other series to it, none of which far any better in the authors eyes.
Entries in this encyclopedia range from a paragraph to a few pages. The entries will either give very a very detailed history of the series/movie, or it will contain the authors opinion of the series, which is mostly negative and led me to question if Clements and McCarthy really like anime. Sometimes I had a hard time figuring out if they were reviewing the America dub or British dub, which could account for some of the inaccuracies.
You will either love this book or hate it. The authors opinions on many popular anime series are negative, and will not be welcomed by fans whose favorite series has just been trashed. Buy this book if you want detailed production staff information. Don't buy this book if you want information on anime.
on February 12, 2002
Understand this. I think that this book is a good idea and a noble undertaking. The execution leaves much to be desired. The authors take their opinions too far, relentlessly bashing shows that happen to have a large fan-base as if to prove their "experience" with anime. Look guys, you have to realize that these shows are popular for a reason. They have their share of detractors (and what doesn't?) but they also have legions of fans. More often then not, people who try Ranma, for example, like it. All that you are doing is scaring people away from things that they more than likely would enjoy. It doesn't stop there. There are errors in the "objective" information such as wrong production years. What's the point of giving us your opinions if you can't get the facts right? An "Anime Encyclopedia" should not be a review book. It should include the facts of production and a brief summary. If you must interject your opinions, don't simply pump out vitriol. Give balanced, supported reasons for them, and above all, ACKNOWLEDGE DISSENTING VIEWS AS BEING VALID. Don't generalize about public opinion (see Tenchi review for this) and finally, don't put spoilers in your summaries.
That said, I have to commend the authors for tackling a project of this magnitude. The scope of the time period and the exhaustive catalog of titles are the reasons why this book gets three stars. If you can ignore the elitist diatribes, it is a fairly valuable resource. Here's to a revised and edited version minus the digressions into personal bias.
on December 27, 2002
I was a bit disappointed in how this book is more a review guide and less of an encyclopedia. There are lots of personal opinions and bias in the articles about each series.
Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy also suffer from what I like to call "Otaku Elitism"... basically meaning that nearly all "older" series are fantastic (read: the ones they grew up with) and newer series that have brought 90% of people to anime in America are bad ...etc....
I gave this book 3 stars because of the depth and breadth of how many series are covered... but I could really care less what the authors thought or felt about the series.
on December 18, 2001
When I bought the Encyclopedia last month, I wasn't sure about all the hype about it being the most comprehensive anime book ever, etc. But after combing through it obsessively for the past few weeks, I have to confess that my initial hesitations were completely unfounded, and I am in love.
This is an incredibly complete, honest, detailed guide to anime... it lives up to the name of 'Encyclopedia.' Anyone who truly loves anime needs this book--as a reference to familiar shows, as a way of exploring new anime, as a way of testing your anime trivia knowledge. Yes, it's true--some anime fans WILL whine that their favorite show gets slammed (but it's usually deserved) and it's true that the authors aren't afraid of taking a stand and having an opinion.
But the best part (I think) is the very witty, funny, cutting writing style. You might think that hundreds of pages of entries about anime shows would result in a dry, boring, repetitive writing style unless you're a total otaku--BUT NO, it's really amusing and fun to read! Both authors obviously know how to write well--no, make that elegantly, beautifully, sexily, in a very British style--and I've just fallen in love with them, thanks to this incredible milestone of a book!
As Ms. McCarthy is a woman, she'll understand that I don't extend this proposal to her... but JONATHAN CLEMENTS, WILL YOU MARRY ME?
Thank you for writing this wonderful book!
on February 22, 2002
In general, I avoid anime books. They seem to fall into two camps: Those by people who know nothing, and those by people who think they know everything, but see no reason to tell you. Too many are timid slaves to fan opinion, happy to be big fishes in the little pond of the convention circuit. The authors of the Anime Encyclopedia have changed all that. They honour anime by treating it was just another part of the film and TV world, but do so with years of TV experience = she as the editor of my favourite anime magazine, he as the translator of many famous shows. The result is the best ever survey of the anime medium, dwarfing even Japanese books on the subject, and listing hundreds of new titles.
It is wonderful to read a book about anime that generally delivers the goods = the Anime Encyclopedia is an education, not just in anime itself, but in its cross-overs with manga, TV , film and even kabuki. Best of all, in refusing to cut bad anime any slack, the authors have done a service to fandom as a whole. Too many people give up (or grow out) of the medium because they start off on the wrong foot, but with the Anime Encyclopedia everyone now has the chance to comprehend anime in its historical context. A fascinating introduction to an incredible medium, but liable to break some fans' hearts by telling a few unwelcome truths.