The Librarian's Guide to Anime and Manga

Revised April 14, 2007

Image of Mayuka from the second Tenchi movie

Image of Mayuka from Tenchi the Movie 2 copyright by AIC and Pioneer LDC. Inc.

Introduction.

Anime and Manga Terminology

Titles Available in More Than One Format in the United States

Re-Dubbed vs Subtitled Anime.

Pirated anime & manga related goods.

Anime clubs.

Anime Conventions.

Finding Reviews

Recommended anime.

Recommended manga.

Books & periodicals about anime & manga.

Problematic Content in Anime and Manga

Special considerations for librarians

Note: All Japanese names are in Japanese order, family name first.


Introduction:

You may have had some very young, so cute from trying to look hip, library patron ask you, "Do you have any Gundam?" Or a serious student requesting the set of the Hakkenden, for a project on 19th century Japanese literature. Or had a club ask to use your meeting room to show anime. Or youngsters ask if you had books on how to draw manga. Or an adult who usually checks out foreign cinema ask for Millennium Actress? Or a peace activist ask for the Grave of the Fireflies.

Have you wondered what all of this was about?

In 1996 I decided that given the continuing increase in popularity of anime and manga in the English speaking world that it was perhaps time that a resource be created to help librarians understand these forms of entertainment and to aid in the selection of items for their collections. This guide is the result.

Many years ago I spoke with my young nephews, then in middle school, about what it was they like about anime, in comparison with American animation. They said that a major difference is that anime has a story and you can never be sure what the ending will be. It is not unusual for a major character in an anime or manga to die, to lose the one they love to another, or fail at what they are trying to do. Even in works aimed at little children these things happen, which is a little hard for Americans who are familiar with stories that consistently have a happy ending to deal with. Another thing my nephews liked was that the characters are more complex, villains can be understandable and even change their ways, heroes can show bad traits and even commit horrid acts. Of course the "little guy" also said he liked "cool robots". The same things that drew then to anime then still draw children and adults to the medium today.

Some Americans have trouble with what I call the "Shakespearean quality" of anime and manga stories. It is common in a serious anime for comedic moments to occur, or tragic moments in normally humorous anime and manga. For most people the comparison with the similar use of humor and seriousness in the works of Shakespeare makes this mix more understandable

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Anime and Manga Terminology


Titles Available both as Anime and Manga in the United States.


Re-Dubbed vs Subtitled Anime

One old controversy in anime fandom is over the preference between viewing anime that has been subtitled or re-dubbed into English. With the growing popularity of DVD this is less of a consideration as most discs include both a re-dub and a subtitled track. Be aware that some series are issued with a highly edited re-dubbed version and an uncut version on separately sold DVD discs, at times with different titles. An example of this are edited TV versions (usually re-dubbed only) and the unedited and uncut versions which are the same show. In some cases you can only get a title in a re-dubbed or subtitled version but not both the languages on a video still need to be a consideration be a consideration in buying titles.

It is a good idea to consider re-dubbed when the audience will be younger children. Subtitled anime is good for most other age groups. However I have seen grade school kids do quite well keeping up with subtitled anime but they were already fans by that point.

To aid in the selection process I have created lists of some recommended titles.

Recommended Titles - anime.


Pirated anime and manga goods

Anime and manga enjoy a wide popularity outside of Japan. This has resulted in a certain amount of shoddy pirated goods being available on the market. This is especially important to remember if you are planning a display or are creating a collection of anime soundtracks. Most commonly what one will see are cheaply made posters, music CDs on the Taiwanese Son May (SM) label and region free DVDs. These materials should be avoided in obtaining materials for your collection. Any goods made in Japan or released by companies in the US are likely to be legitimate. However some pirates make their discs with Japanese text on the boxes. A major clue with DVD discs is that many pirated goods include Chinese subtitles and are region free.

A good source of further information on such goods is the Pirate Anime FAQ.

See also my page on Reporting Pirated Anime and Asian Cinema

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Anime clubs

The growing popularity of anime and manga has resulted in a large number of clubs, usually on college and university campuses but increasingly at high schools and public libraries, devoted to this topic. Clubs usually do more than just watch anime. Many clubs produce newsletters, have video, and occasionally book, lending libraries for members, and organize special events.

It may be worth contacting a local club to see if they are willing to meet with librarians to discuss recommended titles and even screen some anime to help in the selection process. Such contact with a club can easily become an ongoing relationship providing your library with knowledgeable volunteer consultants and mutual publicity.

Be aware that clubs often show fan-subtitled releases of titles not commercially available outside of Japan which is a violatoion of copyright.


Anime Conventions.

More and more anime conventions are taking place across the US and other countries. The Anime Web Turnpike (http://www.anipike.com/) maintains links to convention related web pages around the world. Attending a convention is a good way to talk to dealers, distributors and representatives of US Production companies.

If a convention is taking place in your area you may want to co-ordinate an event at a library branch near the convention or at your main library. It may even be possible to arrange for the convention organizers to arrange for a Guest Of Honor to speak at such an event. A good time for such an event is before or after the convention takes place so you don't compete with the convention for attendees.

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Finding Reviews

Locating adequate reviews of anime and manga can be difficult at times. Regular sources such as Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal, Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA), Library Journal and American Libraries are doing a better job than in the past. However it is also necessary to go to specialized print sources such as anime magazines like Otaku USA and Protoculture Addicts. Online resources include the Anime On DVD secion of Mania, the Anime News Network, Anime Jump, and for their in-house age ratings The Right Stuf online retailer.

Also check general sites which include anime and manga among what they cover. For example: no flying, no tights; which covers graphic novels in general, Sequential Tart; a site with a female focus, The Diamond Bookshelf reviews; by librarian Kat Kan who also writes for VOYA, and Graphic Novel Comparison Chart; this page lists the number of volumes in the original series for not only manga but also for products from Korea and China.


Recommended anime and manga


Books and periodicals about anime and manga


Problematic Content in Anime and Manga


Special considerations for librarians

  1. Subscribe to gn4lib, the Graphic Novels in Libraries email list. This is a great place to ask any questions about anime or manga.
  2. Titles of English speaking market releases of manga or subtitled and re-dubbed anime series may be different.
    In such cases if you obtain the bilingual DVD be sure to include alternative titles in your catalog.
    Be aware that the manga and anime versions of a story may also have different titles, such as Kare Kano and His and Her Circumstances or Onegai Teacher and Please Teacher.
  3. Don't collect for one age group, there are many wonderful titles for children teens and adults. Focusing too much on one age group will limit the collection just as it would for other areas of the collection. A special problem is spending too much time and resources on kids and teen collections while ignoring titles for adults.
  4. Shelving should be divided up as it would be for other fiction, usually separate sections for kids, teens and adults. It may be tempting with a small collection to place all the anime or manga in a single section, however given the diversity of genres and age appropriate content such could be problematic. In any case given the continuing popularity of anime and manga such single sections will fill up quickly.
  5. You may want to include headings in your catalog entries that will allow patrons to easily search for anime or manga. This will be especially useful for locating titles one is not familiar with and for items in unfamiliar sections
  6. Anime series are almost always a serialization of a single story, videos should be obtained in sequence as missing an episode is like missing a chapter in a book.
  7. Manga series are also almost always a serialization of a single story, for this reason you may want to purchase an extra copy of volume one as it is likely to be checked out more often and wear out faster.
  8. For libraries the connection between anime and manga means that it may be a good idea to coordinate purchases between book and video librarians for series available in both formats. This coordination should not only be for anime and manga but also include live action movies, novels, soundtracks and books on specific series.
  9. For series be sure you label the videos or manga clearly so patrons know the sequence.
    Not all series have volume numbers clearly printed on them.
  10. One note on etiquette: Avoid the using term Japanimation to refer to anime as many fans (myself included) object to its use, especially as it sometimes is rendered as Jap-animation. Any fan, and many in the general public, will understand the use of the term anime.

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Created December 21, 1996 | Content last updated May 19, 2012, links updated May 19, 2012