Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Anime Encyclopedia
Third Revised Edition
A very thorough and not entirely unbiased listing of anime titles for screens of all sizes, companies, important personages, and other bits of anime trivia and terminology, now expanded through 2014.
There is one thing that we can all agree on, hands down – The Anime Encyclopedia is one impressive piece of work. Co-written by Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy, this tome attempts to chronicle and catalog a century's worth of Japanese animation while also including content warnings, terms and jargon, notable people, and genre distinctions. Chances are that if you want to know something about any given obscure or popular anime title, you will be able to find it in this book.
It may be, however, important to consider precisely how or why you want to use this encyclopedia. From an academic perspective, there are some serious issues here. The tone tends towards the sarcastic in many cases (“The prospect of schoolgirls and vampires proved suitably irresistible...” from the entry on Blood: The Last Vampire”), and the entries are liberally sprinkled with the authors' opinions, such as an entire paragraph in the entry for Black Butler lauding the Japanese approach to the Victorian era, which adds no information about the actual show to the section. As an academic, I find this troubling in an encyclopedia, as it drastically reduces the volume's usefulness in a scholarly setting. The fact that the author then fails to take into account the anime's tendency to confuse servants' roles, prominently displayed in Black Butler, is also an issue, given the subject of the praise, as it shows a very clear bias. This is less of an issue when the entry in question is about a term or a particular facet of animation; in those cases, the tone makes a decided switch to a more academic and clear-cut one, often providing an exhaustive history and analysis of the issue at hand. Many readers may find the entry on censorship fascinating - that four page segment discusses censorship in Japan, Europe, and the United States, giving a clear idea of how censorship has and hasn't changed and what it can do when a title is released on foreign shores. If the tone for the entire book were thus, it would be much more useful overall.
On the other hand, very few people, regardless of how much of a fan of anime they are, are likely to pick up and simply read through an encyclopedia. And this is a very readable book in many ways. The sarcasm and personal opinions that make it unhelpful to an academic audience make The Anime Encyclopedia fascinating and fun for the anime fan. Entries range from a little less than a paragraph for shows like The Day I Bought a Star to three full pages for Sailor Moon. Obviously more popular titles have more information, as do longer series, or historically significant ones, such as Cream Lemon or Evangelion. Regardless of length, each entry manages to feel complete, with every possible incarnation of anime covered, with a random etiquette lesson show from 1984 (Dontaba's Modern Manners) sharing space with 2014's Engaged to the Unidentified or a hentai show from 2002. There are also a number of entries that function as essays on a variety of topics related to anime; the entries for “False Friends” (about translation) and “Fandom” are particularly interesting. These essays tend to maintain the more formal style of writing noted above, which lends credence to the material. All entries contain cross-references (clickable in the digital edition) to other articles within the encyclopedia, from terms to suggestions of similar titles; for example, the entry for Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet directs readers to Gunbuster for a similar story. Naturally not all of these suggestions will be to the taste of all readers, but for the most part it is hard to fault a link to Wedding Peach in the entry for Sailor Moon.
Each entry for a specific title includes the date the show was released, alternate titles it may be known by (each show is listed by its best known title, so the alternate may be the original Japanese or a different translation), the director, producer, screenwriter, and other major jobs, number of episodes, and a run-time for each. If there are any content warnings, those are in small graphics at the end of the entry. Since the encyclopedia does not omit hentai titles, these warnings can be very useful for those looking for something new to watch or investigating a title for showing children or inclusion in a library or other collection. Nudity, violence, and other similar concerns are among the warnings given. There are no images whatsoever in the entirety of the book, which may not please some readers, particularly when the art style is mentioned as being significant to the show, as it is with The Flowers of Evil and Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt. The text itself, opinions aside, is largely error-free, but I did notice two cases where a show produced in 2013 was listed as being produced in 2005. (Blood Lad and The Severing Crime Edge for those who are curious.) Otherwise, the research appears impeccable.
The Anime Encyclopedia's third revision is an impressive achievement, steadfastly chronicling anime shorts, films, and series from 1917 through 2014. It suffers academically from a surfeit of opinion and sarcasm, and it might have been more useful to divide the book into three separate sections, anime, terminology, and people, for ease of use, but on the whole this is amazingly readable, genuinely interesting, and possibly the only reference book you might ask for as a gift. While I am generally a fan of print editions, the clickable nature of the digital version does make it very easy to cross-reference, but however you manage to access it, Clements and McCarthy have produced a work worth examining.
Overall : B+
+ Exhaustive, plenty of useful cross-references. Every entry feels complete regardless of length.
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