Otaku USA Magazine
Book Review – Anime: A History

Book Review - Anime: A HistoryAnime fans are often asked by non-fans about the anthropological, cultural and historical facts on anime, and Jonathan Clements’ latest book, Anime: A History, does a great job at telling anime’s background.

Clements writes in his introduction, “There is… no full-length history of Japanese animation available in English—an omission that this book seeks to remedy, articulating ‘anime’ as a succession of conceptual systems that form and change throughout the latter half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first…” And he does exactly what he promises, going into great detail about the history of anime, and also bringing up questions about the meaning and definition of anime that can even cause major otaku to scratch their heads.

Along with the introduction and epilogue, the book is divided into ten chapters: “Kid Deko’s New Picture Book,” covering early Japanese cartoons from 1912 to 1921; “The Film Factories,” about cartoon technology and technique from 1921 to the late 1930s; “The Shadow Staff,” dealing with Japanese animation during War World II and the periods just before and after; “The Seeds of Anime,” going into animation from the 40s through the 60s; “Dreams of Export,” talking about Tōei Dōga and MOM Production; “Warrior Business,” speaking about Osamu Tezuka and his work; “The Brown Screen,” detailing animation from the 1960s through 1980s; “The Third Medium,” discussing access and ownership from the 70s through the 90s;  “The Pokémon Shock,” exploring the globalizing of anime, starting in the 1980s and on; and “The Digital Engine,” talking about technologies and anime to modern day.

Previously I interviewed Clements for Otaku USA about his writing, with a concentration on his new book at the time, Schoolgirl Milky Crisis. While Schoolgirl Milky Crisis was written in a more quirky and colorful style, Anime: A History is written with a sophisticated, scholarly flair. This is the kind of book you want to show someone who thinks “Anime is just silly squiggles with silly storylines and not something to be taken seriously.” Yes, this book will more than prove that person wrong.

There are some images in the book, including some really nice full-color pages right in the middle. The real pull, of course, would be Clements’ excellent detail and knowledge. This book is definitely a must for fans who want a scholarly look into the history of their favorite medium.

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Written by: Jonathan Clements