The Soul of Anime

Collaborative Creativity and Japan's Media Success Story

The Soul of Anime

Experimental Futures

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Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 32 illustrations Published: February 2013

Author: Ian Condry

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies > East Asia, Cultural Studies

In The Soul of Anime, Ian Condry explores the emergence of anime, Japanese animated film and television, as a global cultural phenomenon. Drawing on ethnographic research, including interviews with artists at some of Tokyo's leading animation studios—such as Madhouse, Gonzo, Aniplex, and Studio Ghibli—Condry discusses how anime's fictional characters and worlds become platforms for collaborative creativity. He argues that the global success of Japanese animation has grown out of a collective social energy that operates across industries—including those that produce film, television, manga (comic books), and toys and other licensed merchandise—and connects fans to the creators of anime. For Condry, this collective social energy is the soul of anime.


The Soul of Anime offers intriguing theories as to the unique appeal of anime, with the concepts of transmedia storytelling, collaborative creativity, and social energy. While I would argue that twenty-five percent of what Condry is talking about here applies to all fandoms, not just anime, it’s a good look into the medium’s specific charms.” — Clare McBride, Literary Omnivore blog

“Get this if you’re interested in the depth of anime, the pioneers and renowned figures within the anime movement (yes, of course including Miyazaki), and significant anime milestones. . . . For the serious anime lover who wants to move from fan to expert . . . this is a must.” — Gini Koch, It's Comic Book Day blog

“The critical essays in The Soul of Anime, each of which could stand as its own case study, dissect the genre at its most basic level to explore the interplay between the creative texts and the social contexts, with an emphasis on the collaborations between the artists and filmmakers who create the characters and worlds and the fans who devour them. . . . An ethnographic study on how the makers of Japanese anime and its fans work together to promote the art form on a global level. — Nancy Powell, Shelf Awareness for Readers

(Starred Review) “This book is highly recommended for all lovers of Japanese history, Japanese culture, anime, manga, and animation.” — Sally Bryant, Library Journal

“It’s a pleasure to have Condry guide us through the complex and ultimately rewarding world of anime.” — Animation

“An anthropologist by training, Condry bases his arguments in part on fieldwork consisting of interviews with studio personnel and direct observation of working practices.  One may question (as the author himself does) how representative these anecdotes are, but they stimulate numerous intriguing interpretations. . . . Condry writes thoughtfully and occasionally displays wry wit. His book contains much of value to scholars of Japanese popular culture.” — Alexander Jacoby, TLS

“Condry is no armchair theorist – there can be few Westerners who’ve explored the industry as energetically as he has. . . . For readers who do like amassing anecdotes, The Soul of Anime offers oodles of them, often gained first-hand by the intrepid author, ploughing through the anime multiverse.” — Andrew Osmond, Manga UK

“Condry is true to his role as a cultural anthropologist, creeping Attenborough-like through the jungles of the anime industry. . . . [A] welcome book that offers a genuine insider’s view of the anime industry at work.” — Jonathan Clements, School Girl Milky Crisis blog

“If you like reading about movie/television production or ethnography you’ll really enjoy the book. Fan boys, anime people and any J-Pop friends need to read this book.” — Trey Burley, Daddy Mojo blog

"For students and teachers who wish to gain a full understanding of the inner workings of the world of anime and to do serious research of their own in this area, a careful reading of ... Condry's ... book is definitely a must."  — Michael McCaskey, Journal of Japanese Studies

“Superb critical, historical, and ethnographic study of the anime phenomenon; a model of cross-media analysis.” — Science Fiction Studies

“Wonderfully accessible and lively. . . . To read Condry’s book is to become excited about these social worlds and creative collaborations, and the “open space” that he creates within the study of Japanese – and global – forms of popular culture demands further exploration and debate. His book will endure as a landmark publication in the field for precisely this reason.” — Brian Bergstrom, Mechademia

The Soul of Anime could easily be used for discussion in a Japanese culture class, but it could also interest any anime fan looking to learn more about the industry from an academic point of view.” — Sheila Burt, JQ Magazine

The Soul of Anime is fun and well written, easily comprehensible by talented undergraduates, and features helpful conclusion sections at the end of each chapter.” — Matt Thompson, Savage Minds

“Condry’s The Soul of Anime comes highly recommended as an immensely readable work that provides an impressive overview of the important phenomenon of Japanese animation, with broader implications for media studies, gender studies, global studies, internet research, and other areas. It addresses the challenges facing Japan studies and cultural anthropology in general, demonstrating that globalization is not always driven by major Western corporations, and highlighting the importance of grassroots efforts—‘globalization from below’ (p. 215).” — Sarah E. Pasfield-Neofitou, The Australian Journal of Anthropology

“[A]n excellent addition to the growing literature on one of Japan’s most prolific cultural products: animated series and movies. . . . Although the focus of this volume is anime in Japan, the book ends up having a great deal to say about shifting modes of cross-cultural media engagement in today’s convergent media world.” — Mark McLelland, Asian Studies Review

“What makes Ian Condry’s ethnographic theory very different from canonical literary and cultural history is that he chronicles the emergence of ‘soul’ from the collective production of anime. . . . The Soul of Anime is a good introduction to the discipline of fanthropology. What intrigued me most were the moments when the author could not keep his critical distance from his subject. . . . At such moments of emotional reaction, Condry transgresses the boundary between ethnographer and subject, ending up becoming part of the story himself. He thus not only deploys the theory of Collaborative Creativity but also performs its ‘Soul.’” — Takayuki Tatsumi, Science Fiction Studies

The Soul of Anime an indispensable intervention into the fields of anthropology, media studies, and Japanese studies. The notion of collaborative creativity, as Condry develops it, ‘hinges on a social understanding of value’—suggesting that the cultural anthropologist’s most important task, in adapting to globalization in the twenty-first century, may well be to locate and understand the creative social networkswhose contours are not confi ned by geography or ethnicity, and that forcefully blur the lines between production and consumption." — Noah Tsika, Journal of Anthropological Research

“This book remains an excellent resource for those interested in Japanese media culture and the animation industry more broadly. Its ethnography of the anime studios, in particular, adds a new and welcome perspective to the field, offering important examples and case studies for further research or debates in the classroom.” — Dario Lolli, Animation

“Ian Condry’s The Soul of Anime is in many ways the culmination of interdisciplinary scholarship on anime and popular culture in Japan over the past twenty years. It navigates smoothly between historical, textual and ethnographic analyses—making it a fine example of what contemporary ethnography can achieve. It is also refreshingly up to date, with personal interviews and accounts from the production teams of several recent anime. This will make it not only of interest to academics within the fields of media, Japan and popular culture, but also fans of anime itself.”  — Jamie Coates, Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology

“Ian Condry’s new book, The Soul of Anime, is an excellent addition to the growing literature on one of Japan’s most prolific cultural products: animated series and movies. …[It] ha[s] a great deal to say about shifting modes of cross-cultural media engagement in today’s convergent media world.” — Mark McLelland, Asian Studies Review

“The book is written in an engaging, approachable style, and should appeal to both specialists and those without a background in anime studies or Japanese studies. This accessible style also makes the book a useful addition to undergraduate courses on anime.” — Deborah Shamoon, Social Science Japan Journal

"[A] fascinating examination of the creative and cultural energy associated with anime. It is both expansive and focused, offering numerous case studies and examples while engaging robustly with contemporary thinking about popular culture, the circulation of media and national and global cultures."  — Susan Bye, Media International Australia

"Ian Condry’s The Soul of Anime is an excellent addition to this field and is particularly notable for being one of the few works on anime that does not have as its focus anime as text....[T]his book provides a significant viewpoint onto the scholarship of media and popular culture, within and beyond anthropology. Equally important is the book’s usability for college-level courses covering Japanese popular culture." — Tomomi Yamaguchi, American Anthropologist

"While providing lay readers with a good introduction to anime with many interesting findings, the book would also serve as a helpful reference point for academic researchers who study anime, media, media production and distribution, cultural globalization, fan culture and copyright. The author skilfully combines his insights into these issues and neatly interweaves them throughout his narrative." — Hye-Kyung Lee, Pacific Affairs

"A valuable contribution to studies of Japanese animation (or anime) and of the globalization of popular cultural media products more broadly."  — Morisawa, Asian Ethnology

“With its equal attentiveness to the industry and to its fans, Condry’s book is a timely addition that helps elucidate how the ‘collaborative creativity’ that characterizes producers and consumers alike lies behind anime’s success.” — Matthew Fraleigh, IIAS Newsletter

“Part of the appeal of the book is the many popular assumptions about anime it disavows and the new information it provides. … In addition, his work underscores the fact that the production process has really only begun with an animation’s release: fans’ ‘consumption’ of animation is inherently productive as they draw existing characters into storylines of their own invention, compete to produce the best subtitles of their favorite shows, and do innumerable other creative things with animated worlds and characters that ultimately determine not only their success but also their global reach.” — Elise Edwards, American Ethnologist

"The Soul of Anime provides ample ethnographic detail about the different contexts of Japanese animation and will thus be of great interest to anime scholars." — Eitan Wilf, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Does anime have a soul? In The Soul of Anime, Ian Condry explores the lives and work of the creators and consumers of one of Japan's great contributions to popular culture. Condry shows how the genre has moved from the margins to a place of respect and influence. This is a book that will appeal to all the otaku out there, as well as to those with a more moderate love of anime in all its forms." — Eric Nakamura, President, Giant Robot

"Through an exploration of multiple dimensions of the anime object, from studio production to fan production, piracy, remix, and virtual idols, The Soul of Anime issues a bold challenge to our understanding of the social side of media. Ian Condry's attention to the singularities of this universe takes us far from the normative horizon of analysis of fans and commodities, highlighting how intimacy arises from impersonal affective life. The social side of anime is the soul of anime, and the dark energy of fans is nothing other than the psychosocial stuff, the vibrant matter, of this emerging constellation." — Thomas LaMarre, author of The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ian Condry is Associate Professor of Comparative Media Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Note on Translations and Names ix

Introduction. Who Makes Anime? 1

1. Collaborative Networks, Personal Futures 35

2. Characters and Worlds as Creative Platforms 54

3. Early Directions in Postwar Anime 85

4. When Anime Robots Became Real 112

5. Making a Cutting-Edge Anime Studio: The Value of the Gutter 135

6. Dark Energy: What Overseas Fans Reveal about the Copyright Wars 161

7. Love Revolution: Otaku Fans in Japan 185

Conclusion. Future Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Cultural Action 204

Acknowledgments 218

Notes 221

References 227

Index 237

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