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Book Review: 'The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917, Revised and Expanded Edition'

Anime expert Fred Patten checks out The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917, Revised and Expanded Edition to see if the authors have maintained its position as the go-to book for any questions on anime.

The Anime Encyclopedia, A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917, Revised and Expanded is almost 300 pages larger than the original 2001 edition. This is the go-to book for any questions on anime.

And I thought that the first edition of The Anime Encyclopedia (2001) was indispensable! This new edition (presumably called "Revised and Expanded" instead of "Second Edition" to emphasize that its differences are more than merely superficial) is almost 300 pages larger; a 40% expansion. Not only does this 2006 edition include new title entries for hundreds of anime releases since 2001, there are now entries for over a dozen thematic subjects, such as "Censorship and Localization," "Romance and Drama," "Science Fiction and Robots," "Translation" and "Tropes and Transformations," as well as entries for prominent individuals in the anime industry like Leiji Matsumoto, Hayao Miyazaki, Katsuhiro Otomo and Osamu Tezuka, and for major studios such as Tatsunoko Pro and Toei Animation -- more than a thousand new entries.

The older entries have been revised, too. "Early Anime" now discusses the 2005 discovery of three seconds of anime possibly produced as early as 1907, and why this does not, in the authors' opinions, change anime's startup date of 1917.

Anime fandom in America began as a tiny cult in the late 1970s. By the late `90s it had grown to a huge popular media interest supporting many specialized "anime for dummies"-type studies and "how to draw in the anime style" art-instruction books. Most of these have been aimed at the neophytes. The Anime Encyclopedia is for the anime veteran who wants detailed information about a particular Japanese animated TV series or feature film, as well as a generalized history of animation in Japan since 1917; although it is written clearly enough to be easily understood by neophytes as well.

To cite one entry as an example: "Maze. 1996. JPN: Maze Bakunetsu Jiku. AKA: Maze: Exploding Dimension. Video, TV series. DIR: Akira Suzuki. SCR: Katsumi Hasegawa, Satoru Akahori. DES: Eiji Suganuma, Masayuki Goto. ANI: N/C. MUS: N/C, Seikima-II. PRD; JC Staff, TV Tokyo. 30 mins. X 2 eps. (v), 25 mins. X 25 eps. (TV)." This presents its best-known title (Maze), year of first release (1996), Japanese full title and its literal English translation, release format (direct to video, followed by a TV series), the director(s), script writers, art/character designers, lead animators (no/credits, in this case), music, producers (animation studio and TV station that financed production), and release format (two video episodes of 30 minutes each, followed by a TV series of 25 25-minute episodes). Each heading is followed by Clements' and McCarthy's chatty entry describing the entry's plot, where it came from (a manga, video game, original concept), how popular it was in Japan (and in America, if it had an American release), and what the authors think of its quality.

Maze is actually one of the simpler entries. All of the entries have been made 2006-current. Those that were unchanged since 2001 are reprinted straight from the first edition. Those for which new information has become available have been expanded. Those that have had American releases since 2001 -- sometimes with new American titles that are not just translations of the Japanese -- are now listed under those new titles, with cross-references from the older ones. Some titles like Gatchaman, which have had several different American releases under completely different titles and new translations, as well as newer anime versions with their own differing American releases, have resulted in horrifyingly complex entries; but the authors skillfully guide the reader through the tangles.

The Anime Encyclopedia is designed for all readers; laymen and experts (fans and academicians) alike. It is meant to be the first reference book to which anyone who has any questions about anime should turn. It succeeds in this goal excellently.

The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917, Revised and Expanded, by Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press, 2006. 867 pages. ISBN-13 978-1-933330-10-5; ISBN-10 1-933330-10-4. ($29.95)

Fred Patten has written on anime for fan and professional magazines since the late 1970s. A collection of his writings, Watching Anime, Reading Manga: 25 Years ofEssays and Reviews, was published by Stone Bridge Press in 2004. He wrote the entries on Japanese and Chinese animation for Animation Art: From Pencil to Pixel, the World ofCartoon, Anime and CGI, edited by Jerry Beck (Collins Design, 2004). Donations can be made to a fund to help Fred Patten during the recovery of his stroke.