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The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917
545 Pages
Jonathan Clements
Helen McCarthy
Stone Bridge Press
The Anime Encyclopedia is the best place to look for anime titles. The only word that can be used to describe this book is enormous.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917
By Ridwan Khan

Creating an encyclopedia for something as vast as Japanese animation seems, at best, an exercise in obsession. Japan is the world's largest creator of animation, with lineage tracing back, according to the text, as far as 1917. Thus, Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy embark on a never-ending journey, with The Anime Encyclopedia.

The Anime Encyclopedia should have been have been given the more accurate (though less grand) title of The Anime Buyer's Guide; the text is mostly geared towards the Western anime scene, in choice selection and in presentation. In addition, the text makes a lot of value judgments within its entries.

In presentation, The Anime Encyclopedia lists titles by their most common Western release name (i.e., Tonari no Totoro is listed under My Neighbor Totoro). This can be confusing for those of us familiar with Japanese titles (I couldn't find Laputa: Castle in the Sky looking under Laputa, or Raputa. I ended up stumbling across it as Castle in the Sky). Perhaps unreasonable in the print medium, the book would have benefited from cross-references (Finding under the entry for Tonari no Totoro "See My Neighbor Totoro). The book also uses the initially disconcerting "alphabetize-by-word" system of order. Despite this, it is relatively easy to find entries. (For me, Laputa was the most difficult entry).

The book's back cover blurb purports that the text boasts over 2,000 titles. I don't doubt this one bit. The book is exhaustive, especially with "modern" anime (defined as those titles released from 1979 forward). For the most part, earlier anime is covered in two large entries, "Early Anime" and "War-time Anime." With modern anime, the only title that I know of that I could see missing from the text was the early 90s Yu Yu Hakusho recently broadcast on The Cartoon Network. In fact, the book covers a number of anime released in the U.S. during the 80s and 90s (which I, when I was a kid, assumed were American, including The Nozzles and the delicious Manxmouse).

After reading a few entries it is easy to spot a bias; in this text, that covers such diverse titles as The Rapeman and Hello Kitty, it is apparent that the authors sincerely dislike hentai anime; it seems that the pornographic titles are included for completeness's sake (or, additionally, as a warning). Not that I don't agree with the authors - much of the disgust McCarthy and Clements exhibit is probably more reflective of hentai itself. This text could have taken two paths; one of a straight compendium of anime, without personal bias, or this, much more useful opinionated text.

The largest entries in the book tend to go to the fan favorites; Gundam, Urusei Yatsura, Ranma 1/2, and Macross, for example. The length of the particular series (longer TV series tend to get longer entries) and the impact of the series tend to dictate how much coverage a series gets; though seemingly important details of some series' histories get the axe, presumably in the name of succinctness. The official cut off date for entries was 2000, many series from 2001 are added (usually with just a vague plot summary).

The entries themselves consist of lists titles, important creators, and whether there is a legal English release. The entries summarize the plot, offer an opinion, and often discuss points of interest, including similar anime or historical roots. Icons indicating the presence of bad language, nudity, and violence follow each entry. For many, including librarians, parents, and club leaders, this is potentially a very useful at-a-glance feature.

For a fan of anime, The Anime Encyclopedia is hard to put down. It's great for just flipping through, or jumping from entry to entry. I ended up reading most of the book in going from one entry to another, seeing what the authors had thought of my favorite series.

The book would benefit from a few changes. The entries for Early and Wartime Anime would be better presented as a preface to the dictionary. Though the book has many pictured sidebars, it could stand far more pictures.

For any anime fan, The Anime Encyclopedia is a solid investment. Even when you're done reading through the text, it is extremely useful for finding out about other series. As I mentioned before, anyone involved in showing anime to others (club leaders, librarians, and parents) needs to have a copy of this book. McCarthy and Clements have created a great text in this book, and the second edition can only be better.

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