Anime’s Identity: Performativity and Form beyond Japan

University of Minnesota Press (2021)

Link: Anime’s Identity: Performativity and Form beyond Japan

A formal approach to anime rethinks globalization and transnationality under neoliberalism

Anime has become synonymous with Japanese culture, but its global reach raises a perplexing question—what happens when anime is produced outside of Japan? Who actually makes anime, and how can this help us rethink notions of cultural production? In Anime’s Identity, Stevie Suan examines how anime’s recognizable media-form—no matter where it is produced—reflects the problematics of globalization. The result is an incisive look at not only anime but also the tensions of transnationality.

Far from valorizing the individualistic “originality” so often touted in national creative industries, anime reveals an alternate type of creativity based in repetition and variation. In exploring this alternative creativity and its accompanying aesthetics, Suan examines anime from fresh angles, including considerations of how anime operates like a brand of media, the intricacies of anime production occurring across national borders, inquiries into the selfhood involved in anime’s character acting, and analyses of various anime works that present differing modes of transnationality.

Anime’s Identity deftly merges theories from media studies and performance studies, introducing innovative formal concepts that connect anime to questions of dislocation on a global scale, creating a transformative new lens for analyzing popular media.

Praise for Anime’s Identity:

“Stevie Suan utterly transforms our understanding of anime. Using media theory to expand the formal analysis of anime conventions, while calling on a transnational framework to avoid a simplistic opposition between local and global, he not only provides incisive readings of key anime series, but also lays out a powerful and much-needed methodology for thinking anime in the world.”—Thomas Lamarre, author of The Anime Ecology: A Genealogy of Television, Animation, and Game Media

“Focusing on formalism and performance studies in particular, rather than taking a phenomenological or sociological approach, Stevie Suan proposes a radical alternative for engaging with anime studies.”—Daisuke Miyao, author of Japonisme and the Birth of Cinema

Titles of the chapters and subsections:

Introduction: Anime’s Performance of Identity

Anime’s Identity; Macross’s Identity; The Anime-esque; On Forms; Shifting Spatiality; Area Studies and Situating Anime; Media-Form; Historical Moment; Performance/Performativity; Overview of the Book

1. Anime’s Local–Global Tensions

The Bordered-Whole Inter-National; Mapping Anime’s Distribution; Anime’s Inter-national Stasis; Defining Anime; Anime as National Cultural Media-Form; AnimeJapan; Blurring Internal and External

2. Anime’s Dispersed Production

Authorship and Agency in Anime Production; On Anime Production and Publicity; Shirobako; Negotiated Decisions; Media Mix and Materiality; Anime’s Media-Form; Transnationality

3. Anime’s Media Heterotopia

Geographies of Production; Transnational Development; Anime’s Animation Production Network Across Asia; Heterotopic Images; (In)visible Performances; Transnational Hierarchies; Anime’s Media Heterotopia

4. Anime’s Citationality

Anime’s Brand; Felicitous Anime-esque Performance; Database, Citation, Re-performance; Re-performance, Convergence; Decentralized Network of Citations

5. Anime’s Creativity

Anime’s Creative Industry; Creativity and Copying; Citationality and Anime’s Creativity; Citations across Borders; Anime’s Creativity in China; Openly Transnational Anime; Anime across Asia

6. Anime’s Actors

Animation and How Objects Act; Embodied Performance; Figurative Performance; Mutual Implication; Lifestyle Performance and Figurative Acting

7. Anime’s (Anti)Individualism

From Evangelion to Sekaikei; Sekaikei and (Neoliberal) Individualism; Evangelion’s Success and Failure; Deconstructing Individualism; Global Anxieties; Micro-Macro, Local-Global Tensions; After Sekaikei

8. Anime’s Dislocation

Place-Focused Anime; Dislocation in Anime’s Performances; Theatricality; The Animatic Apparatus; Producing Places; Anime Out of Place; Dislocating Differently; Anime’s Complex Spatiality

Conclusion: Anime’s World

Anime’s Performance of Media-Form; Enacting Selfhood; Global Inflections; Shifting Transnationalities; Clashing Forms, Complex Regionality

Repeating Anime’s Creativity Across Asia

Link to book (chapter): Repeating Anime’s Creativity across Asia

Anime production, which is usually thought of as located in Japan, has a long history of transnational production within Asia. In this chapter, I focus on this creative industry across Asia, instead of focusing on Japan, in an attempt to rethink how transformations of our notion of creative production can alter the concepts we use to consider regionality through the media produced. For this, I take a formalist approach, examining the mechanics of creativity as it applies to anime and engaging with the dynamics of anime’s transnational system of production. I analyze anime’s recognizability, taking anime as a media-form with repeated patterns, showing how anime itself is sustained on a type of iterability with minor variation, providing an alternative to dominant conceptions of creativity, which valorize “originality” and departure from trend. I then consider the implications of this in regards to recent transnational anime productions and propose how to (re)consider anime’s history of outsourcing labor across Asia. While the focus is mainly on recent works that relate to China’s creative industries due to the current production practices in regards to anime, there will also be attention paid to other places in Asia that have been part of anime’s transnational production network.