The Anime Companion 2
When the first volume of The Anime Companion was released in 1999, flopped volumes of manga were commonplace, VHS tapes ruled supreme and DVD was still struggling to catch on with the masses. For a reference book, The Anime Companion was the must-own book for any fan wanting to gain some insight into Japanese culture without actually dropping everything and moving to Japan.
As with any type of reference book, though, countless entries tend to be overlooked and, often, the author isn't able to correct their omissions until later printings. It may have taken a lot longer than author Gilles Poitras wanted, but the follow-up volume, The Anime Companion 2, has finally arrived.
For those familiar with the first volume's layout, The Anime Companion 2 is pretty much identical. The book opens with a series of introductory pages dedicated to explaining what is new in the volume and how newcomers should use the book. From here, there are roughly 123 pages of alphabetical listings for everything from Adachi-ku to zomen. If you don't know that the former is a ward in northeast Tokyo or that zomen is a paper mask, then chances are good that you'll need to brush up on your Japanese culturalisms with this book.
While this follow-up volume has fewer picture references than it's predecessor, the volume does feature one much-needed addition--kanji and kana. It's doubtful that the book will help you learn Japanese, but having the Japanese and English words in one place is always a welcomed touch. There is even a reverse look-up glossary at the end of the book. However, this addition does make me hopeful for a future release that includes both volumes in one with all the entries listed alphabetically.
Making a welcome return are Gilles Poitras' insightful and fun sidebars. Some sidebars are commentaries about fandom while others are interesting factoids like, for instance, how the Japanese using fire as weapon to lure people to their deaths. There is even a sidebar that includes the dates for when each Tokugawa Shogan was in office. The final additions are three maps of Japan. The first shows the prefectures of Japan as they appear today, the second has the provinces of Japan from 824 to 1868 and the final map showcases the wards of Tokyo.
While individual experiences will vary, The Anime Companion and The Anime Companion 2 are essential volumes for any aspiring otaku's library that rank right up there with The Anime Encyclopedia, Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics and Dreamland Japan. Trust me, if you thought you knew all there was to know about your favorite series, then think again!