“Anime has been hiding from the world”: How Orientalism works in contemporary Anglophone anime studies"

Presented By: Ryotaro MIHARA, SOAS University of London

This paper depicts the author’s preliminary thoughts regarding his research project to revisit Orientalism in terms of anime studies in English-speaking (Anglophone) academia. The argument of Orientalism – initiated by Edward Said in the late 1970s to criticise the way in which the ‘Western’ intellectual institutions theorise the ‘Orient – may appear irrelevant to anime studies. Some may even argue that Orientalism has already been overcome in the contemporary global anime-dom. However, is that true? Can we consider it trivial when an American anime writer tells his Japanese readers that anime ‘has been hiding from the world’, or a prestigious American University Press advertises an Anglophone Professor as ‘a leading voice in the field of Japanese animation’? Is Japan not a part of the ‘world’, and whose voice should ‘lead’ the field of anime? The paper argues that Orientalism is far from being a dead concept but rather a vividly acute perspective in critically understanding the way in which anime is studied in the contemporary ‘West’. The paper first outlines how Orientalism has been under-examined in relation to Anglophone anime studies. The author will then share his complex experience of having navigated himself through Anglophone academia as a Japanese researcher studying anime in English at Japanese studies’ departments in English universities. He depicts how he found that the Anglophone academic institutions implicitly (but systematically) silence the voice of the ‘natives’ in the field of anime in Japan in order to establish themselves as an international ‘leading voice’ of anime. In other words, this paper points out that the classical ‘representation’ issue highlighted by Said (i.e. who has the authority to talk about the Orient) is still at work in Anglophone anime studies.