Interpreting Anime

2018
Author:

Christopher Bolton

Interpreting Anime

interpretinganime.org

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For students, fans, and scholars alike, this wide-ranging primer on anime employs a panoply of critical approaches

Interpreting Anime is a thoughtful introduction to Japanese animation for anyone eager to see why this genre has remained a vital, adaptable art form for decades. It reveals what makes anime unique as a medium: how it engages profound social and political realities while also drawing attention to the challenges of representing reality in animation’s imaginative and compelling visual forms. 

"A remarkable book, Interpreting Anime explores how to approach this genre in an intelligent, insightful way. Christopher Bolton's readings are sophisticated without being overwrought or turgid—they are well argued, but leave room for the reader to speculate, contest, and take them further." Michael Dylan Foster, University of California, Davis 

Well-known through hit movies like Spirited Away, Akira, and Ghost in the Shell, anime has a long history spanning a wide range of directors, genres, and styles. Christopher Bolton’s Interpreting Anime is a thoughtful, carefully organized introduction to Japanese animation for anyone eager to see why this genre has remained a vital, adaptable art form for decades.

Interpreting Anime is easily accessible and structured around individual films and a broad array of critical approaches. Each chapter centers on a different feature-length anime film, juxtaposing it with a particular medium—like literary fiction, classical Japanese theater, and contemporary stage drama—to reveal what is unique about anime’s way of representing the world. This analysis is abetted by a suite of questions provoked by each film, along with Bolton’s incisive responses.

Throughout, Interpreting Anime applies multiple frames, such as queer theory, psychoanalysis, and theories of postmodernism, giving readers a thorough understanding of both the cultural underpinnings and critical significance of each film. What emerges from the sweep of Interpreting Anime is Bolton’s original, articulate case for what makes anime unique as a medium: how it at once engages profound social and political realities while also drawing attention to the very challenges of representing reality in animation’s imaginative and compelling visual forms.

Interpreting Anime

Christopher Bolton is professor of comparative and Japanese literature at Williams College. He is author of Sublime Voices: The Fictional Science and Scientific Fiction of Abe Kōbō, coeditor of Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction from Origins to Anime (Minnesota, 2007), and a founding member of the Mechademia editorial board.

Interpreting Anime

A remarkable book, Interpreting Anime explores how to approach this genre in an intelligent, insightful way. Christopher Bolton's readings are sophisticated without being overwrought or turgid—they are well argued, but leave room for the reader to speculate, contest, and take them further.

Michael Dylan Foster, University of California, Davis

Having just completed Interpreting Anime, I come away convinced that Christopher Bolton is simply the best scholar writing on anime at the current moment. His readings apply a gamut of approaches, from postmodernism to gender studies to individual texts, but they remain accessible and consistently fascinating, inspiring a deeper appreciation of this protean medium. The book is an intellectual joy to read.

Susan J. Napier, Tufts University

In his brilliant, acute, and always accessible Interpreting Anime, Christopher Bolton applies deep knowledge of Japanese aesthetic traditions, global media culture, and posthumanist theory to close readings of some of the most artistically ambitious and culturally significant works of the artform. Showing anime fans the beauties of theory and scholars the profundities of anime, Bolton recounts a specifically Japanese history of cyborg art, while offering insights into that most neglected and ubiquitous category of experience, fiction itself. Interpreting Anime is destined to become a classic study of anime and the cyborg imagination.

Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, DePauw University

Bolton has crafted a meaningful contribution to the scholarship of reading, one able to transcend its subject matter—anime—and speak to readers everywhere, those who seek as full, as complete an engagement with their texts as possible.

Japanese Studies

Bolton, with his careful elucidations of differing theoretical perspectives and approaches, followed by the application of those theories to specific anime works, provides an excellent illustration of the way in which theory can be utilized in the analysis of anime.

East Asian Journal of Pop Culture

There is no doubt that this book will find a home in the reading lists of most courses on anime, and provide both students and teachers of the subject with encouragement and stimula- tion.

East Asian Journal of Pop Culture

It will prove highly stimulating in Japan studies courses on popular culture and anime.

The Journal of Japanese Studies

Even as the anime industry evolves to encompass new platforms beyond television and cinema, so, too, does the critical theory that helps us to understand and analyze these changes.

Monumenta Nipponica

Interpreting Anime responds to challenges from current anime scholarship and successfully proves the ongoing significance of literary methodology as a means of interpretation.

Science Fiction Studies

Bolton’s book feels more like a summation of a position rather . than a new take on anime, and is none the worse for it. Many of the chapters have been modified from previously published journal articles, and have been significantly expanded in the process.

Screen

Bolton’s book is written with a professor’s optimism that everyone can and should learn how to interpret and evaluate Japanese anime.

Journal of Film and Video

Christopher Bolton’s Interpreting Anime is an impressive book that displays a knack for close reading and careful, elegant writing that offers in-depth readings of classic anime films.

Pacific Affairs

Very useful and enlightening reading for many scholars and students of literature and media.

SFRA Review

“In introducing readers to critical approaches to studying anime, Bolton’s Interpreting Anime works quite well.”

Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

Bolton has created many entry points for anime fans to better explore and understand the format.

Film Matters

Interpreting Anime

Contents


A Note on the Text


Introduction. Read or Die: Reading Anime


1. From Origin to Oblivion: Akira as Anime and Manga


2. The Mecha’s Blind Spot: Cinematic and Electronic in Patlabor 2


3. Puppet Voices, Cyborg Souls: Ghost in the Shell and Classical Japanese Theater


4. The Forgetful Phallus and the Otaku’s Third Eye: 3x3 Eyes and Anime’s Audience


5. Anime in Drag: Stage Performance and Staged Performance in Millennium Actress


6. The Quick and the Undead: Blood: The Last Vampire and Television Anime


7. It’s Art, but Is It Anime? Howl's Moving Castle and the Novel


Conclusion: Summer Wars


Chronology


Acknowledgments


Notes


Moving Image Sources


Bibliography


Index