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Finally, spring! It took a while to come, but nice weather has arrived in Ontario and my sap is rising too. After a hectic end to the term, I'm finally feeling energetic and ambitious (enough to blog) again. So here's what I'm working on right now.

Project 1: the thesis book!
I've been revising my PhD thesis into a book on and off throughout the the fall and winter terms using materials I gathered in Japan last summer. Now I'm happy to say that I've finished enough to take that first step and send off a book proposal to the University of Minnesota Press! The revised project is titled "Frictive Pictures: The Animation of Transcultural Fan Communities, 1906-2012," and as the title suggests it uses the concept of "friction" rather than global "flow" to discuss connection-across-difference in anime fandom.

In case I've condensed that so much it makes no sense at all, here's the opening blurb from my proposal )

Fingers crossed the acquiring editor likes the chapters I've sent!

Project 2: conferences
I'm also working on next year's round of conference papers now, in order to get proposals in on time. I've been invited by the University of Miami's amazingly-connected Daisy Yan Du to take part in a panel on East Asian Animation at the 2014 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Seattle. For SCMS I want to do something new, so I'm going a more media-studies route and examining how animation creates "haptic visuality," or the sensation of tactile and embodied experience, especially weight and weightlessness. This one is tentatively titled "Weighing Imbalance: Haptic Visuality in Japanese and South Korean Cinematic Animation"

If you'd like to read that proposal, have a look under the cut )

Finally, I am also planning to go to the Mechademia conference at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design again in Sept. 2013. (Fourth year running, I think? How time flies!) I was going to present the above paper there too, but the conference theme is "Fanthropologies," while my haptic visuality paper has almost nothing to do with fans. I'm thinking of going back to the thesis/book again and presenting my chapter on child fans of sci-fi tv cartoons like The Jetsons and Astro Boy. We'll see!

For now, I hope to start posting again with reviews of books I've been reading and shows I've been watching (including Eden of the East), energy levels depending. Til next time!

Book Binge

Sep. 11th, 2012 11:24 am
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Fall has fallen! The air is getting cool at night, the leaves are starting to kindle, and yesterday a line of geese flew over my head talking loudly among themselves, probably about the sweet timeshare they've got lined up in Florida.

Because I've been a student for over a decade, Fall always means book-buying time. I'm not even teaching this term, but I can't resist the urge to hoard some books. So in case you're looking for any good reads on animation, anime, or Japanese film this Fall, here are my must-have, just-ordered picks:

Bukatman, Scott. The Poetics of Slumberland: Animated Spirits and the Animating Spirit. University of California Press, 2012.
-Bukatman has written some interesting books on sci-fi (especially his "Terminal Identity"), so his take on Western animation history starting from Winsor McCay, with chapters on things like "Disobedient Machines," is something to look forward to.

Ito, Mizuko et al, eds. Fandom Unbound: Otaku Culture in a Connected World. Yale University Press, 2012.
-This book contains a mix of new studies and translations/excerpts from major Japanese authors like Azuma Hiroki (Database Animals) and Morikawa Kaichiro (Otaku and the City: The Rebirth of Akihabara). I wonder why Lawrence Eng and Mizuki Ito are both in there twice -couldn't they have gotten some other authors? But it seems useful to anime fan studies.

Perper, Timothy. Mangatopia: Essays on Manga and Anime in the Modern World. Libraries Unlimited, 2011.
-Mangatopia is expensive -the paperback runs nearly 60.00CAD- but with articles on biopolitics in Barefoot Gen by Tom Lamarre, cosplay by Frency Lunning, and other interesting things on GLBTQ readers and masculinity in manga, I'm thinking it'll be worth the cover price.

Tze-Yue, G. Hu. Frames of Anime: Culture and Image-Building. Hong Kong University Press, 2010.
-I'm not sure about this one. The table of contents makes it look like a broad overview of animation history in Japan. What I skimmed of the intro seems reasonably well-written. But I hadn't heard much about this book, though it seems to have been published two years ago. Is there a reason it's being overlooked, or is it a hidden treasure, just recently available in Canada? We'll see...

And a couple of Japanese film catch-ups:

Gerow, Aaron. Visions of Japanese Modernity: Articulations of Cinema, Nation, and Spectatorship, 1895-1925. University of California Press, 2010.
-A brilliant exploration of early Japanese film history. I don't know why I haven't ordered my own copy before now!

Phillips, Alastair. Japanese Cinema: Texts and Contexts. Routledge, 2007.
-An auteur-based essay collection with articles on all the major directors from early Ozu up to Kitano Takeshi and Miyazaki Hayao. It wouldn't work as a textbook, but it is very useful to have on hand if you're teaching a Japanese film course -which I am, in the Winter!

I am also looking forward to:

Condry, Ian. The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Japan's Media Success Story. Duke University Press, 2013.

Wada-marciano, Mitsuyo. Japanese Cinema in the Digital Age. University of Hawaii Press, July 31 2012(??) (Must be delayed in Canada, it's still in preorder here!)

Happy reading!
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Now that teaching is done and professional service is almost done, I'm finally getting back into concentrated anime research. And at the top of my pile (along with Mechademia 6, review coming eventually) is Marc Steinberg's new book Anime's Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan. I have to say off the top that this book is mainly targeted at those interested in the history and media theory of the anime industry, not at a general reader or even fan community audience. Examples from shows are few, endnotes are many. But if you are interested in the marketing and transmedia aspects of anime, and you want to know how the current system of manga/anime/gaming/light novel integration came to be, this is a ground-breaking book based on some impressive archival research.

Mini Media Mix )
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In the year 2000, Saitou Tamaki published Sentou bishoujo no seishin bunseki, an early attempt at (psycho)analyzing Japan's budding otaku culture. I read sections of it in Japanese in 2010, but, frustrated by the psychoanalytic terminology, ended up working more off of others' critiques (notably Tom Lamarre's in The Anime Machine). From that exposure, I came to the conclusion that I did not like Saitou's general attitude towards otaku or fujoshi. Not at all. I thought it was condescending, pathologizing, heteronormative, and universalizing, in the way the worst psychoanalysis often is.

In 2011, the book was translated as Beautiful Fighting Girl by J. Keith Vincent and Dawn Lawson at the U of Minnesota Press. And reading the whole thing in English has changed my opinion, a little. I was surprised to find some ideas that I think do have value for creating a more nuanced and flexible idea of otaku, especially regarding the relation between image, reality, and sexuality. But these ideas are not things Saitou brings out well himself, and he often falls back on frustrating Freudian/Lacanian analyses that foreclose the potential of his own earlier suggestions.

Under the cut is a shorthand list of quotes and ideas I thought were helpful, and others I thought were rage-inducing.

Quotes and thoughts )

In conclusion, there are lots of interesting things to be found in the book, including long excerpts from letters written by Japanese and American anime fans and a comprehensive lineage of the beautiful fighting girl figure from 1958-99, with examples from dozens of series. There are also a few good concepts hiding like diamonds in the rough of lamentable psychoanalysis. It's not a long book or a very difficult one, if you've got some critical theory under your belt. Anyone who wants to study otaku should read it -if mainly as something to move on from.
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Another quickie post, I'm afraid, but I have a question for anyone who actually has time to do more than skim the Anime News Network in the mornings. What's looking good in the fall anime season? Any promising Noitamina shows? Anything that looks a little different from the usual genre/otaku-bait shows? I've moved away from my RL anime friends and miss their casual advice!

I am also open to recs for North American/live-action shows with fannish potential. Is "Once Upon a Time" any good?
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I have to say right from the start: I am conflicted about Madoka Magika. So much so that I wrote only personal notes on it when I first watched it several months ago, and decided not to review right away, to give it time to sink in. But given that it was the season's biggest otaku hit, I suspect that it will be a topic of conversation at this year's SGMS con. So I want to go on the record now and say: this is clearly a groundbreaking work in the magical-girl genre, in terms of narrative structure and visual style. But there are a few things about it that are...troubling. To say the least.

More magical girls )

Thesis Link

Aug. 8th, 2011 09:53 am
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Hey, now that there's no chance of compromising my rl identity (because I did it myself) I can post this link freely.

Here you can read or download my PhD thesis, "Animating Transcultural Communities: Animation Fandom in North America and East Asia from 1906-2010." The language and references are pretty academical, but I hope that anyone who likes animation and wants to know more about its history and current fandom might find it interesting. It's committee-approved and chock-full of animated goodness!

I'll post the abstract under a cut as well.

Thesis Abstraction )
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There are a whole lot of popular anime and manga out there with cross-dressing or gender-switching themes. From Princess Knight to Ranma 1/2, Revolutionary Girl Utena to Ouran High School Host Club, we can trace this theme so clearly that it's practically a sub-genre. I love shows like this dearly. But here's the thing that piques me: when cross-dressing or gender-bending scenarios come up in anime, they're almost always treated at best as allegorical fantasy, and at worst as mindless gags.

Wandering Son is something different: a quiet, thoughtful, gently-paced show about gender identity issues, as lived in contemporary Japan. No epic battles. No magical powers. Not even a lot of slice-of-life wackiness. Just confused kids trying to grow up, to grow into themselves as best they can.

Wander on )


Jan. 15th, 2011 01:17 pm
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When Kuragehime (“Princess Jellyfish”) debuted on Japanese television back in Fall 2010, my first thought was: oh my god, they made an anime about me. Ok, not exactly about me. I’m not an 18-year-old NEET living in a Tokyo apartment full of female otaku, like the heroine, Tsukimi. But a jellyfish-loving virgin geek girl? Yes indeed! And it’s cool to see a story about someone like that.

Well, that was my gut reaction to the premise. I’ve been following the series online since then, and really it’s not much like my life or the lives of any fangirls I know. But as far as the fall season’s crop of “otaku meta-anime” went, Kuragehime did turn out to be one of the most enjoyable: a show about some eccentric people who like eccentric things, told with heart and humour, in a non-exploitative way.

Also, the opening credits are pretty fun!

Himitsu, himitsu! )
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This week I've been really enjoying reading the posts that starlady38 and marshtide have been serving up on 70s shoujo manga (most recent only linked here; check around!). I wanted to contribute too, but sadly I've read very little 70s shoujo manga beyond Rose of Versailles. Then I remembered: ah, Kaze to Ki no Uta! I've watched the anime, at least, I'll dig up my notes on that! I went to my files. There were no notes. So I decided to watch it again and write some. This the result.

The wind stirring my branches )
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Whoa, social life ahoy. I normally blog on weekends, but the past few weeks I've been out of the house before noon and back after midnight all weekend, meeting people, going for lunches and bbq's, and seeing the sights with new friends. I'm only free today because a planned reading group meeting has fallen through. So while I have an hour free, here's a quick review of Studio Ghibli's latest film, which I had the good luck to see in Tokyo last week.

Ghibli's Arrietty )
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Ever since I joined the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, I've been getting all kinds of tempting magazines full of obscure DVDs to drool over. One temptation I just couldn't resist was Kino International's "The Astonishing Work of Tezuka Osamu" (2009), a collection of Tezuka's short films from the 1960's-80's.

The last film in this collection, “Self-Portrait,” is a little 13-second visual gag on a slot machine. It shows three spinning panels of mixed face-parts that mismatch, mismatch, mismatch and then finally add up to Tezuka’s classic big-nosed, beret-clad self-caricature, who spits out money. This is the perfect image to sum up Tezuka’s short films: they're all a bit of a gamble, but in the end they generally pay off.

Spoilers ahead! )
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A week or two ago, I came across this link to an interview (in Japanese) with director Morimoto Koji and some of the Studio 4°C staff about the current state of 3D animation in Japan. It's interesting in light of Tom Lamarre's recent work on planar movements and movement into depth in animation, so here's a tentative translation. My clarifications are in [square brackets].

Cut! )

Personally, I still prefer flat cel-style animation. But I've seen some interesting juxtapositions of depth and planes lately, like the opening of The Tatami Galaxy, which makes me think that the intersection of these two ontological/stylistic approaches holds a lot of potential. (Tatami Galaxy's end credits are super-cool too, from a design perspective.) All 3D propagandizing aside, this is an exciting time for animation because of the sheer volume and variety of stylistic experimentation going on -and not just in Japan, as things like The Secret of Kells and Waltz with Bashir prove. Now, if only the writing can keep up...

Summer Wars

May. 9th, 2010 05:46 pm
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Woo, review time! Here’s how much I enjoyed Hosoda Mamoru's Summer Wars. I saw it this weekend at Winnipeg's Plastic Paper Animation Festival with my friend Adam, who brought along delicious chocolate raspberry truffles. I had one before the screening and he set the bag between us as the movie started...but I didn’t get to eat another truffle. That’s right. This film pulled me in so deep, so immediately, that I actually forgot about the existence of chocolate. It’s a rarer treat than truffles to see something so engaging that everything else in the theatre just goes away, leaving you purely in the world of the film. I think the key to Summer Wars’ success is its careful balance between easy, familiar anime comedy tropes and substantial questions about the role of technology and tradition in contemporary society.

Watermelon, )
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Well, it's back to Winnipeg and back to work with me. The temperature with windchill when I got up this morning was -39, and that's not even a really cold day. (The really cold days come with a five-minute frostbite warning.) Times like this, all you can do is curl up with a blanket and a long book -or at least write a review of one. So here are some thoughts on Tom Lamarre's The Anime Machine.

Now available in Exploded Projection )


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