Understanding Manga and Anime

Louise Ellis‐Barrett (Librarian, Downsend School, Surrey, UK)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 27 June 2008




Ellis‐Barrett, L. (2008), "Understanding Manga and Anime", Library Review, Vol. 57 No. 6, pp. 460-461. https://doi.org/10.1108/00242530810886742



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The terms Manga and Anime have recently become a part of the English language, although this does not automatically imply an understanding of their meaning. Many people, not only librarians, have probably been at a loss to understand what young people – for it is invariably them – are talking about when they use these terms. Brenner sets out to explain the meaning, dispel the many myths and provide a greater understanding of this burgeoning genre.

Aimed primarily at the librarian, Understanding Manga and Anime is a step‐by‐step guide to the materials that are described and defined by these words. In summary, Manga is a Japanese word describing print comics. These comics range from the 300‐page magazines printed on a weekly and monthly basis to the bound volumes that are available at book shops and Manga stores. Anime is also a Japanese word, one that describes animated films made in Japan. Anime encompasses all animated titles including feature film, television shows and original video animation for the home market. There is considerably more coverage of Manga in the book than Anime although he does touch on the subject.

Associated with young people, in both America and the UK, Manga and Anime titles are aimed at every kind of reader, male and female. In Japan it is not uncommon to see businessmen and women reading the comics on their daily commute to work in much the same way as adults in the UK might read a book or the newspaper. Yet, generally, they struggle to find a general acceptance, along with graphic novels and other material in this format because they are not considered to be “real” or “quality” literature. America has taken the lead in accepting the validity of Manga featuring reviews of titles in the New York Times Book Review Weekly.

However, as Brenner says, the struggle faced by these titles is not a recent one,: in fact it dates back to the 1950s when the US Senate wrongly blamed comics for causing juvenile delinquency. This caused a backlash against comics which have only recently found a reacceptance in popular culture. Manga, however, being a foreign import, is therefore automatically regarded with suspicion, both in America and Europe. Many of the references in the comics are obscure, relating to a different culture; adults are automatically switched off from this. Children on the other hand are fascinated. Brenner's book then is for the adults, the librarians who might be able to bring Manga and graphic novels to a wider audience if they are given a better understanding of the genre for themselves.

Manga and Anime are positive role models for encouraging reading among young people. They offer the opportunity for the reader to develop both visual and textual literacy skills. Brenner discusses in considerable detail the history, language and layout of Manga titles. He explains what many of the very obscure references mean and why they appeal to readers. Common themes and practice are illustrated through the use of numerous text boxes and each chapter contains an annotated list of recommended titles either for further Manga and Anime titles or for further reading relating to the subject. In his chapter on “fans”, Brenner attempts to explain the obsession and provides some very helpful ideas for creating interest in other readers through the use of display and promotion of titles. He includes tips on building a collection such as where to look for reviews and awards along with an annotated list of recommended titles with which to start the collection, Brenner is a great advocate of taking every opportunity to embrace the genre.

There are two appendices – the first a glossary of vocabulary is very useful as a point of quick reference whilst reading through the book, and the second a collection of frequently asked questions, with their answers! The bibliography of print, online and Japanese Manga series is comprehensive and guides the books reader towards further recommended reading. The two indexes, by Creator and Title/Subject are particularly useful once the book has been read and a greater understanding formed.

This is a very thorough and well‐researched book that librarians serving a youthful client base would be recommended to read. Dispelling many of the myths surrounding the graphic novel genre, it explains to the uninitiated much of the reason for the appeal and presents a very strong case for including more of it in library collections.

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