The Anime Trivia Quizbook:
Fun Fan Fare or More?

book review by Fred Patten

Fannish party fluff or a serious reference book? The Anime Trivia Quizbook Episode 1 does not aspire to be any more than the former, but it has enough aspects of the latter that libraries looking for primers on Japanese animation as related to current American popular culture may find this a handy purchase.

Ryan Omega has been active in anime fandom in the Berkeley, California area all during his college days. He began writing these questions as the host of an "Anime Game Show" at the annual Fanime Convention in San Jose each winter. The book reflects this TV game-show format; full of snappy patter and wisecracks. But it is also designed for the full spectrum of fans, from the neophytes to the veterans.

The Quizbook is divided into seventeen categories covering such themes as Boys' Anime, Girls' Anime, Video Games, Romance, Science Fiction & Mecha, Cultural, Gender Confusion, and the like. Each has five sets of five questions of increasing difficulty.

The Japanese animation covered in these questions are generally those movies and TV programs most popular in the American anime fan community during the past five years. This does not mean only anime titles released in America. Fans are notorious for obtaining video copies of new anime directly from Japan and spreading them around to their friends, and for keeping up with the latest news in the untranslated Japanese anime fan magazines. Most of the easy questions are based upon the most popular titles in American TV and video releases. The harder questions are as likely to require a knowledge of the differences between the original Japanese and the American releases of these same programs (such as referring to rice balls as "doughnuts") and to popular new titles in Japan which have not been released in America at all, as to more obscure titles. Or to news from the Japanese fan magazines about the most popular anime artists and voice talent.

Anime has developed a stereotype in America as pandering to adolescent obsessions with sex and violence. Since this trivia quiz is aimed toward those mostly-adolescent fans, some of the questions are a bit risqué or show a fascination with some of the more bizarre (to Americans) aspects of Japanese culture. An example is a question about a popular voice actress, Kikuko Inoue, which identifies her as having told her fans she believes that she was a fish in her past life, and whose roles include Boku no Sexual Harassment, an adult office comedy in which she plays an office employee who is frustrated because all the handsome men are gay and dating each other.

To help make this Quizbook more informative for neophyte fans, Omega has scattered numerous brief explanations of Japanese cultural aspects that are often puzzling. For example: "When biographies of anime characters are made, one of the things that is always mentioned is the character's blood type. Why? Americans could care less that dedicated Street Fighter Ryu has blood type O, but the Japanese use blood types (ketsueki-gata) to analyze personalities. If you knew nothing about Ryu except his blood type, you would at least know he is inclined to be a determined young man with a strong sense of purpose [...]. This blood-type trait assessment [...], like horoscopes, is used in Japan to determine a person's disposition and personality." (pg. 82)

For anyone with an interest in anime, neophyte or knowledgeable fan, the Quizbook is fun to browse through. For those who want to actually use it to organize party anime trivia contests, there are speed rounds and a rating scale. There is a good title index so all the questions related to any specific title may be easily located. Anyone looking for a basic primer on anime should go first to Dr. Antonia Levi's Samurai from Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation (Open Court Publishing Co., 1996), or Gilles Poitras' The Anime Companion: What's Japanese in Japanese Animation? (Stone Bridge Press, 1998), but Anime Trivia Quizbook Episode 1 is a worthwhile additional title.

Anime Trivia Quizbook Episode 1: From Easy to Otaku Obscure, by Ryan Omega. Illustrated. Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press, 2000. 176 pages. ISBN: 1-880656-44-2 (trade paperback $14.95).

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Fred Patten has written on anime for fan and professional magazines since the late 1970s.

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