Anime a History Review


Melanie Bigler

Art 335

Book Review

Anime: A History. Clements, Jonathan.  (London: Palgrave Macmillan on Behalf of the British Film Institute, 2013. 256 pp.).

Johnathan Clements’ Anime: A history showcases an in depth look of the evolution of anime while highlighting eras that have been overlooked by many. Anime, a style of animation in Japan that has influenced many over the years and has become a big topic to many as well. Anime is a growing subculture in American and in other countries as well. Clements explores the world of anime by going giving an in depth look on the process of anime.

Clements breaks up his content in ten chapters going in chronological order. Clements starts off in the early 1910’s with pieces like circa. He continues through to the twenty first century with animes like spirited away. By breaking up the content in chronological order it makes the text clean and easy to follow. He heavily focuses on the animation in the early years to show the true origin of anime.

There are few anime history books that have been published. Many of them refer to Astro Boy and Akira as the classics and origin of anime instead of the pre-animation back in the early 1900’s. An example of this is from a book called Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation by Susan J. Napier. This book starts off with Akira being one of the first animes and moves up to more recent films, however Akira and Astro Boy are not the true beginnings of anime. Pre-animation was the beginning of anime as it evolved with more modern technologies and practices it could turn into the anime we know today.

Clements starts off with the early animations in chapter 1 called kid deko’s new picture book. These animations are from the years 1912 – 1921. The board becomes strange is one of the early Japanese cartoon films that he talks about. Clements also incorporates the influences of Western films that have been introduced to Japan; such as The Haunted House in the Ruins of Napoleon’s palace. He shows this film even though it is not truly an animation, but consists of stop motion. By incorporating stop motion, it shows the process on moving from film to stop motion to animation. Clements choice of early films is very meticulous. Many have forgotten these early works and by reincorporating them in his book people then can begin to remember and appreciate these old animations. The early adaptation The New Adventures of Pinocchio had come out with episodes that were 12.5 minutes long half that of Astro Boy.

Clements still incorporates Astro Boy as a beginning for anime. Astro Boy can be considered as a beginning for anime because it was what sparked the want for more similar cartoons. It was one of the first animes ever to be broadcasted overseas. This anime also has a style that is unique in comparison to other animations. It is a great milestone in anime history and he chose to still incorporate even though he wanted to showcase the pre-animation. We can further appreciate Clements work with how he incorporates every little detail even ones where he isn’t to keen on.

Clements incorporates tables throughout his book. These tables showcase a chronological order of set films as well as other data used in his arguments. One of the data tables that he used in an argument is table 9.1 (183 pp). This table shows the ten most viewed Japanese films at the US box office. The table is in the Pokémon Shock chapter which he highlights on the foreign market. Clements argues that these films have a limited success within the cinema exhibition community which indirectly relates to a smaller subculture. The anime subculture is predominant in America it ranges from 15 to 20 million anime fans while those who just watch films are over 1 billion. It is true that there is limited success due to sheer numbers of people interested in it.

In conclusion, Clements focuses on the origin of anime as well as the creator and their influences that helped shaped the anime. He also explores how they transformed the nature of subsequent productions. He doesn’t focus primarily on anime itself, but focuses more on the behind-the-scenes of the creators of these animations while also hitting at the industry and subculture of anime. Clements provides accurate and detailed information on the creation of anime as while as highlighting the industry behind such anime. He provides more information than many anime history books that are out there.




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