“Historicizing Anime: Historical Methods and the Creation of Anime History"

Presented By: Rayna Denison, University of East Anglia

In this paper, I reflect on how methodologically-oriented studies of anime’s history inside and outside of Japan have been shaping our views and interpretations of anime (Clements 2013; Denison 2015; Tsugata 2005; Takahashi and Tsugata 2011). My own work has sought to expand these conceptualisations of anime to see it discursively, as a concept that shifts and changes in response to those who use it. Further, my work has attempted to engage with the transcultural variations in anime’s meanings, and to see these as a product of the differential flows of anime through global culture. As a consequence of these sometimes disrupted and disruptive flows of anime texts, anime’s history varies around the world. The meanings, associations, audiences and even the platforms or media involved in anime consumption have been highly changeable depending on context, granting anime ever-changing associations. In trying to demonstrate how diverse and contingent the historical interpretations of anime are, in this talk I will explain my own current working method for studying the industrial history of Studio Ghibli. I argue, in doing so, that not only are gaps appearing in the theorising of anime inside and outside of Japan, but that similar disciplinary gaps are visible in the methodological differences between Japanese area studies and film history in English. I will also provide a case study from the company’s work in advertising to show how methodologically-informed historical work can be used to reveal and analyse these gaps. In so doing, my aim is to reconsider how we might engage with Japanese anime producers on their own terms and through their own statements. Further, I argue that by returning to the discourses around textual creation and consumption, we can open up whole new histories of Japanese anime that have the potential to extend the reach of both Japanese and English language conceptualisations of anime itself.