Thursday, January 22, 2004

So you'd like a public library anime collection

ORIGINALLY POSTED IN EARLY 2004, now three years out of date... watch for update!

General considerations

Public libraries should include anime (Japanese animation) in their video collections. As with other materials, there's a need to balance popularity with quality, but with the current popularity of anime, it’s not difficult to have both. As many DVDs contain soundtracks in more than one language (serious fans prefer the original Japanese language with subtitles) and as series can be collected more economically as DVDs, this format is generally preferable to VHS.

There is anime produced for all age levels and it comes from a variety of sources. There are TV series such as 'Cowboy Bebop', or the ubiquitous POKEMON and DRAGONBALL. There are also feature films for children ('My Neighbor Totoro (Full Screen Edition)') and adults ('Ghost in the Shell'). Another form often seen is Original Video Animation (OAV or OVA), which is a direct to video release. Many films and series are adapted from Japanese comic books known as manga.

Cultural differences are an asset but can pose occasional challenges. The Japanese have a more casual attitude toward nudity and some sexual humor and homosexuality that may seem jarring at first. But titles such as Ranma, a teen sex comedy, while they feature some nudity and sexual humor, are actually relatively innocent. Other titles, such as CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO or the APPLESEED movie, have their English dubbed soundtracks laced with extra profanity not necessarily found in the original or subtitled script, as their distributors seems to be trying to appeal to teens who want more sophistication and edginess.

Recommended for Children & YA

While the bulk of anime available in the U.S. seems aimed at teens there are some very good titles for children; those from Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki are particularly recommended. 'My Neighbor Totoro (Full Screen Edition)' is great for all ages (though some people may be disturbed by an innocent family bath scene). 'Kiki's Delivery Service' is a delightful coming of age story about a young witch. 'Castle in the Sky' is an adventure partly inspired by Gulliver’s Travels, and 'Spirited Away' tells of a girl separated from her parents in a magical world.

The extensive POKEMON and DRAGONBALL Z series should at least have representative samples included; collect for demand. Widely seen as the inspiration for Disney's LION KING is 'Kimba Boxed Set' and 'Jungle Emperor Leo' from manga god Osamu Tezuka. 'Sherlock Hound - Case File 1' is the first of six volumes of an animal version of Sherlock Holmes. For older kids 'Nadia, Secret of Blue Water - The Adventure Begins (Vol. 1)' begins a 10-volume Jules Verne pastiche adventure.

Recommended for YA & Adults

'Grave of the Fireflies (Collector's Edition)' is a widely acclaimed and moving anti-war film. 'Lupin the 3rd - The Castle of Cagliostro', by contrast is a light-hearted romp with a fun anti-hero, while 'Princess Mononoke' is an involved ecological fable. All are from the widely admired Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata of Studio Ghibli. Disney is scheduled to release several more Ghibli titles in 2004 and 2005.

'Royal Space Force - Wings of Honneamise' was an early and influential SF feature, with some adult moments and more appeal for fans than for casual viewers; 'Metropolis' is based on an Osamu Tezuka manga and partly inspired by the 1927 classic film. Director Satoshi Kon is developing a strong reputation: his 'Millennium Actress' explores history and the impact of movies through the memories of an actress, while 'Perfect Blue' is an adult, Hitchcockian thriller and 'Tokyo Godfathers' is an acclaimed gritty drama. Prominent director Mamoru Oshii created the technological and philosophical explorations of 'Ghost in the Shell', made films based on the popular PATLABOR series and helped develop 'Jin-Roh - The Wolf Brigade', a dystopian drama with some twists. Definitely not for kids is 'Ninja Scroll', considered a classic despite (or perhaps because of) considerable gory violence and some sexuality. And most collections should include 'Akira (Special Edition)', a breakthrough classicof style and mind-bending SF.

'Cowboy Bebop - Session 1' is a very popular and acclaimed series that bends genres with space-going bounty hunters seeking meaning in their lives as they careen from adventures to capers to a driving jazz score. 'Serial Experiments Lain - Boxed Set' explores the meaning of identity in a computerized world and challenges the viewer’s perceptions. 'Ranma 1/2 - The Digital Dojo - The Complete First Season (Box Set)' is a fun tale of a teenage boy who frequently changes gender and several other characters whose identities change on short notice: comedic chaos ensues. 'Neon Genesis Evangelion - Perfect Collection' is a landmark series from Hideaki Anno (NADIA, HIS AND HER CIRCUMSTANCES) about 14-year-olds who have to fight in giant robot suits to save the world, but who they’re fighting and why they’re saving the world becomes increasingly murky. 'Escaflowne - The Series (Limited Edition Boxed Set)' and 'Fushigi Yugi - The Mysterious Play - (Boxed Set 1, Suzaku)' are good examples of confused teenager girls magically transported into another world or dimension where they must play savior. Larger collections with serious fans may want to include titles which satirize anime and fandom, including 'Otaku No Video', or 'Martian Successor Nadesico - The Complete Chronicles'.

Newer series include the high school romance 'His And Her Circumstances 1-5', the SF adventure 'Last Exile - First Move (Vol. 1)', the sweet mysterious fable 'Haibane Renmei - New Feathers (Vol. 1)', and 'Witch Hunter Robin - Arrival (Vol. 1)'. More extensive series, which might be sampled rather than acquired fully, except by those with large budgets, include the historical adventure 'Rurouni Kenshin Wandering Samurai - Premium Box 1', the fantasy adventure 'Inu-Yasha - Special Limited Edition (Vols. 1-3)' and the romantic comedy 'Maison Ikkoku Collector's Box Set, Vol. 1', the last two are adapted from the best-selling manga author Rumiko Takahashi, who also created RANMA 1/2.

Guidebooks and Collection Development Tools

This list only scratches the surface and there are other good sources for recommendations. I’ve found all the following useful to some extent. Perspectives includes critical, library, academic and fan. Take with as many grains of salt as needed, your mileage may vary:

* 'Anime Essentials: Every Thing a Fan Needs to Know'
* 'The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917'
* 'Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke : Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation'
* 'Hayao Miyazaki : Master of Japanese Animation'
* 'Anime Explosion! The What? Why? & Wow! of Japanese Animation'

In addition to the anime information here at Amazon, the websites: "The Librarian's Guide to Anime and Manga", the “Anime News Network” and “” have good information, and there are several other websites that include creditable reviews.