As the buzz surrounding the manga and anime subcultures deepens, more and more books are being published on these subjects. Whether you want to learn more about the culture to enrich your hobby, or to write an academic paper or article, the wealth of books available can prove helpful. However, since manga and anime come from the realm of popular culture, not all books written about them are equally valuable or informative enough to be considered constructive. As in all cases of popular media, the risk of encountering a book full of fluff and lack of useful content is high. Here are a few criteria that will help you find the best academic books on anime and manga:
Check the author
The most reliable books are always those written by experts. The first step after choosing a topic and presenting a list of books is to review the history of their authors. Was the book written by a professor or lecturer? If not, has he or she worked in the manga or anime industry? The importance of the author’s background should not be taken lightly. It is always preferable to learn from a knowledgeable person on any subject and quote later. Avoid books written by casual magazines, news groups, or enthusiasts. These tend to be superficial and lack relevant citations to back up their claims.
Avoid picture books
Whenever possible, flip through a book to see what the layout and written content looks like. Some books on anime and manga are informative enough but very image-heavy. Books that are packed to the brim with pictures at the expense of text will most likely not provide you with enough information and may prove counterproductive.
Buy specialized encyclopedias
The only exceptions to the above rule are encyclopedias. There are encyclopedias made specifically for anime, manga, and otaku fans. They often analyze specific products/phenomena and provide images at the same time. Encyclopedias typically offer no more than a page or two on each topic, but are great for discovering new topics and expanding your research scope. They are also often supplemented with rare interviews and always have quotes. They are your reference books and point you to further books on the topic you want to research. There are surprisingly many encyclopedias about Japan and Japanese culture, but the best place to start is by reading the basic (but valuable) manga, anime, and otaku encyclopedias.
Read in the mother tongue
If you are proficient enough in Japanese and are writing an academic paper, you may decide to add a few Japanese books to your research stack. Japanese manga and anime experts have written many books on the subject and can provide invaluable information on how these trends are working in their home country of Japan. Writing about manga and anime quotes from Japanese books will greatly increase the credibility of your work and give you priority over researchers who have chosen to only include books written by western experts.
Finally, to find the best academic books on manga and anime, you should familiarize yourself with the names of the leading experts in the field and always check that the book has enough text and a good amount of citations. Specialized encyclopedias tend to offer less information but broaden your horizons, while available and accessible books in Japanese can be wonderful resources and give you an important advantage.
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