Friday, February 4, 2011

The Notenki Memoirs, Anime Classics: Zettai!, The Anime Encyclopedia, Anime From Akira To Howl's Moving Castle & Robot Ghosts And Wired Dreams

The lovely cover of the anime collection of essays Robot Ghosts And Wired Dreams.
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As many of you are keenly aware, my hope is to bring you a thorough analysis of Neon Genesis Evangelion in 2011. It is a deep, dense work and to do it justice I've been researching and reading a number of anime books and Internet resources in preparation of my third viewing of the series. Viewing it several times certainly doesn't hurt. My plan is to bring you my own personal Sci-Fi Fanatic analysis sprinkled with the occasional outside resource where appropriate and conclude with some additional commentary from various other annotated resources. It's an effort, but it is enjoyable.
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There are a number of wonderful books out there to discover and certainly these books are wonderful reading for anyone interested in anime. They cover a wide array of opinions and analysis from different writing perspectives with a look at series as far flung as Akira [1988], Gatchaman [1972-1974] and Ghost In The Shell [1995] to Neon Genesis Evangelion [1995], Princess Mononoke [1997], Space Battleship Yamato [1974-1975] and Yukikaze [2002-2005].
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First, The Notenki Memoirs by Yasuhiro Takeda is a wonderful historical recollection tracing the birth of Studio Gainax and the men who created Evangelion, Gunbuster [1988], Royal Space Force: The Wings Of Honneamise [1987], Nadia: The Secret Of Blue Water [1990], His And Her Circumstances [1998] FLCL [2000], Diebuster [2004] and much more. It's a quick read, but a straightforward, honest [as far as I can tell] accounting by an insider who grew up a sci-fi geek and remains to this day one of the men behind the studio. It's really quite insightful with a fantastic look at the makings of one of the hottest and most unique animating studios in Japan today. With no axes to grind Takeda lays it out there warts and all without the need for sensationalism. If you're a geek like me you'll love it and you'll learn a lot about what makes Gainax tick.
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Second, Brian Camp and Julie Davis bring us an amazing, in-depth look at 100 of the very best anime titles in Anime Classic Zettai!. Camp and Davis call their covered titles "100 Must See Japanese Animation Masterpieces." I haven't seen them all, but Camp and Davis select the appropriate best as far as I could see. There was a significant percentage of the works covered that I have seen and they would easily qualify for this book. Camp and Davis are not new to the genre. Both writers hail from the now defunct, and missed, Animerica magazine, one of the finest anime trades at one time. Camp currently works for Otaku USA or at least I've seen coverage by the writer there. This is an exceptional book that delves into a number of key headers including: summary, style, comments, sequels, personnel notes, highlights, notes and viewer discretion as well as the important credits associated with a project. You really can't go wrong with this book as a general starting point in anime. The very best are covered here in great detail, not cursory looks, and many of them will eventually make it to Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic. A tremendous amount of meticulous effort was poured into these thoughtful reviews.
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The Anime Encyclopedia, by Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy, is precisely what it aims to be, an encyclopedic reference book. It is chock full of anime titles and names of importance involved in the writing, directing and animating process. This is easily the anime equivalent to the likes of a quality reference guide like The Star Trek Encyclopedia. Another fine example of a labor of love. A lot of hard work went into this publication and it shows.
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Author/ Professor of Japanese literature and culture Susan J. Napier delivers a hardcore analysis of the anime genre and its themes in Anime From Akira To Howl's Moving Castle: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation. This is a dense, collegiate level text and not the easiest of reads. Napier certainly has a firm handle on anime. She clearly embraced the study of the genre later in her life, but has made it her mission to fully grasp the complexities of the genre overt and subtle. I've never been able to sit through the book in one sitting, opting instead to step away from it from time to time, but it is a studied and deeply thoughtful perspective on anime beyond the surface of those amazing visuals.
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Finally, Robot Ghosts And Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction From Origins To Anime promises to be an equally difficult work to fully comprehend, but I look forward to tackling it shortly. As a big fan of reference books filled with essays and pieces penned by assorted writers like Serenity Found or Stepping Through The Stargate, Robot Ghosts And Wired Dreams looks right up my alley. Susan J. Napier contributes an essay to the collection if that's any indication of the level of difficulty ahead for me. Her essay, When The Machines Stop: Fantasy, Reality, And Terminal Identity In Neon Genesis Evangelion And Serial Experiments: Lain, as suggested will offer further analysis into the world of Evangelion. I'm quite intrigued and expect her to offer a perspective by also implementing a discussion of Serial Experiments Lain. In her aforementioned book, Anime From Akira To Howl's Moving Castle, she spends a good chapter, Waiting For The End Of The World, on the theme of apocalypse in anime utilizing Evangelion [1995], Akira [1988], Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind [1984] and Legend Of The Overfiend [1987]. Napier certainly doesn't strike me as the type to retread material, so I do look forward to her latest, challenging perspective whether I fully agree and comprehend or not. Further, the collection of essays also offers a piece entitled The Mecha's Blind Spot: Patlabor 2 And The Phenomenology Of Anime. As a fan of Mamoru Oshii and especially Patlabor this promises to be an exciting, informative read as well. Pretentious, maybe a bit. Patlabor coverage will be forthcoming right here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic. Other topics in the collection include: Otaku Sexuality and Invasion Of The Woman Snatchers: The Problem Of A-Life And The Uncanny In Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
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These are all amazing, thoughtful, intelligent looks at the anime genre. I certainly try to do my homework and these were book selections I felt worthy of my limited time. It turns out I wasn't wrong. Like anything in life, you can't know it all, if anyone would like to recommend a book to me please take the time to do so. I welcome your anime suggestions. Zettai!

2 comments:

le0pard13 said...

These look like some fantastic books about the genre, SFF. Looking forward to whatever you choose to write about them. Thanks.

p.s., let me say, I absolutely love the Wonder Woman banner pic for the blog, my friend.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks as always L13. Yes, I agree, that is one voluptuous Carter shot up close! TKU! Best, SFF