The Rough Guide to Anime: a nostalgic trip through anime from beginning to never-ending
Writer: Simon Richmond
What They Say
The Rough Guide to Anime provides a comprehensive overview of the diverse and amazing world of animation from Japan. Combining a critical approach with all the essential background information " from history and short biographies of the key people in the industry to the different genres, themes and cultural references of anime" this is the ultimate guide to Japanese animation. The book introduces the creative talents behind the major anime movies, TV series and OVA (original video animation) " from the Oscar-winning Spirited Away to classic works like Howl''s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, and the iconic shows Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, Speed Racer and Robotech. Written by anime expert Simon Richmond, features include the Top 50 must-sees, with details on the most influential directors and creative artists. There''s an exploration of the art form''s history, plus information on the anime conventions and manga-related attractions in Japan. Newcomers will love the glossary of all the anime slang and jargon, while devoted fans will relish the fresh exploration of themes, genres and obsessions in the colourful anime universe.
The Rough Guide to Anime explores the best of the prolific genre of anime in today''s popular culture.
Like a lot of anime fans I discovered this phenomenon by word of mouth. In grade school there was a kid who came running into homeroom to tell all of us all about “a cartoon that wasn’t really a cartoon.” Most of the kids ignored him, but I was one of the few who went home, turned on the television late at night, and discovered a talking mouth attached to a man’s hand.
Vampire Hunter D. Still a classic.
Soon I was watching any “Japanimation” I could find. I would stay up at night with the TV turned down so I wouldn’t wake my parents as I watched a very censored version of Wicked City. I followed a young, monkey-tailed Goku as he searched for seven dragon balls. I watched a clumsy blonde haired girl transform into Sailor Moon -- and later learned that the two overly affectionate cousins were actually lesbians.
Anime has been a huge part of my life and I’ve watched it go from being $30 hard to find VHS tapes to something that plays religiously on Cartoon Network. But anime goes back further than that, much much further, and “The Rough Guide to Anime” goes in depth from the very beginning back when anime looked like an old Mickey Mouse cartoon.
It’s easy to see all the work that has gone into Simon Richmond’s book and I can’t help but wonder how many nights he has stayed up doing research, watching series, reading manga, and trying to figure out how to pull all of this together. The series, the pictures, the footnotes, everything is packaged nicely together and its easy to follow along with the narrative whether you want to sit and read all of it or skip to one of the seven chapters featured in the book.
If only this book had been around when I was writing college research papers.
The book starts with an introduction that explains what this book is about and what readers can expect from it. The introduction also has two quotes that I absolutely love and really, really wish I would’ve been able to use back when I started this craze years ago. One addresses anime as a medium, NOT a genre, and explains how it can be as cute as “Hello Kitty” and as messed up as “Perfect Blue” all in one breath. The second quote mentions how, occasionally, the “extreme pornographic” end of anime will cause a scare and everyone will assume the worst. But, again, anime is a medium that has many faces, just like cartoons and movies here in the West, and just because it has duchesses with busty mounds doesn’t mean that it’s only good for the hentai.
Mr. Richmond. Can we please rewind to ten years ago and have this conversation with my parents?
Each chapter makes for an interesting read and I could probably spend quite a bit of time gushing over all of the information. There’s history, there’s the production of anime, there’s even a chapter that talks about cosplay and other fan-based forms of anime appreciation. But the chapter I love the most is chapter two: the canon. In this chapter Richmond lists off and reviews fifty must-see series and there are lots of new surprises (Gankutsuou, Full Metal Alchemist), some “not too much of a surprise but still good” choices (Cowboy Bebop, Evangelion, almost anything Miyazaki), and, of course, some old school hits (Mobile Suit Gundam, Astro Boy, Akira). Fans new to anime should definitely take a peak at Richmond’s picks… or at least let their friends gang up on them and force them to watch “Ghost in the Shell.” I love this chapter for many different reasons. It re-awakens that feeling I got when I was ten years old and watching anime for the first time, stumbling over the phrase “Japanimation” (Japan-nimation, Jap-animation, Ja-PAN-nimation) when trying to explain what it was that I, for some reason, couldn‘t stop watching. It’s a lot of fun going through the list with friends who have been watching anime as long as me, remembering the first time we watched “Cowboy Bebop” before Cartoon Network started to repeat it religiously.
I also enjoyed the first chapter: anime chronicles, where we get a history of anime. It’s not a new thing to see a book about anime start from the very beginning, but Richmond goes through a pretty in-depth timeline from the 1920s to today. As a person whose been into anime for many years I appreciate this book for showing me how all of this craziness began. There’s something charming about a book that can take you back to the roots of something you’re passionate about.
I also love that he considers the 1980s as the “Golden Age of Anime” since I’m a child of the 80s. Rock on.
The chapter about “the manga connection” brings to light an issue that lots of anime fans have to suffer through: the TV adaptation outpacing the manga, therefore, anime studios find different ways to stall for time. Any Dragonball Z fan has sat through several episodes of “powering up” while Naruto fans discovered made-up villages as they watched nearly 100 episodes of “filler” before Shippuden started.
What’s also nice about this book is the long list of resources that get listed off at the end. Websites, magazines, books, Richmond gives a detailed list of places where anime information can be found. Surprisingly, fansubbing and bittorent are also mentioned, and while we’re told that fansubbing is illegal we’re not told that its right or wrong: it just exists as another large part of the anime world.
Sometimes I feel burned out by the anime craze. I remember it being much more difficult to find and it felt like everything I watched was awesome (though looking back a lot of it certainly was not). Now that its everywhere I sometimes feel overwhelmed, not knowing what to watch or read and, unfortunately, feeling “too old” for all of this. But books like this remind me how I fell so hard for those series that came on late at night on the sci-fi channel and why I find myself in a fabric store a few times a year to try and find the right shade of pink for Princess Peach’s dress. And after reading how anime started and how far its come along I feel proud to be a part of this phenomenon. I’ve seen it go from being something very small and only known for the tentacles to being something you can find at any major retailer, be it videos or keychains and even baby clothing with Pikachu’s face plastered all over it.
The one downside to this book -- which isn’t really a downside -- is that there is a lot of information to take in so it’s definitely not something to read in one sitting. It’s not only the history of anime, but the production, the fandom, the resources, almost anything you can think of. And each chapter is huge. Not only will a chapter go through the production of anime, but it will list off important studios, voice actors, and music. The chapter about decoding anime goes through each genre of anime from sci-fi to romance to fantasy, giving examples of each. Even the chapter that lists off different books and websites goes into magazines, videos, bootlegging, and even anime conventions and websites for each one.
This. Is a long. Book.
But this is also a must have book to have in your collection. Whether if its to read for enjoyment or curiosity, to use it on that anime thesis you‘re writing, or if you just want a book that tells you a good starting point in this huge, crazy medium known as anime.