Anime Book Review: The Anime Companion: What’s Japanese in Japanese Animation?

The Anime Companion: What’s Japanese in Japanese Animation? is a book by Gilles Poitras, and it was published in 1999. The book is an encyclopedia to some of the Japanese references that appear in anime that non-Japanese audiences may not understand or be familiar with. The book opens with an introduction, an explanation of how to use the book, and gives acknowledgments to individuals the author wants to thank.

The Anime Companion: What’s Japanese in Japanese Animation?
Written by: Gilles Poitras
Publisher: Stone Bridge Press
Release Date: September 1, 1999

The first actual page of the book shows icons and abbreviations used in the book and explains what they mean. Entries in the book include buildings, structures, landmarks, clothing, culture, entertainment and games, food and drink, geographical features, history, nature, people, religion and belief, sports, and weaponry and war.

Most of the entries in the book have examples from anime or manga, but many times there are examples from both. Sometimes, Poitras includes asides in the text, such as explaining national holidays, anime references in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and other topics that don’t fit into the main body of the book. There are also a number of illustrations and still pictures from anime programs to help illustrate some of the entries.

One issue I had was when Poitras would include references from anime and/or manga for things that are rather well-known outside of Japan. For example, the entry for “hashi” explains that this is a word for chopsticks. Most non-Japanese know what chopsticks look like, so they really don’t need to be given references in anime or manga. At first, I thought it was simply to keep the entries consistent; however, I found two entries that don’t have any anime or manga references listed (“ofuda” and “ume”).

My only other real issue with the book was the fact that Poitras tended to rely on a small number of anime titles to use as examples in the book. I lost track of how many times Urusei Yatsura, Maison Ikokku, Ranma 1/2, and Blue Seed were cited. While this book may have been written right around the time the anime bubble started, I’m sure Poitras could have found examples in some other anime titles that had been released prior to this book being written.

Overall, I would recommend this book to all anime fans, regardless of whether they are new fans or are long-time otaku. As I read this book, it helped me to better understand some of the Japanese references that appear in various anime properties. And for me, with this understanding came a better appreciation for some of the details that appear in anime. Even with the couple of issues I personally had with the book, I still believe that The Anime Companion: What’s Japanese in Japanese Animation? is a worthwhile addition to anyone’s anime reference library.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of The Anime Companion: What’s Japanese in Japanese Animation? that I checked out through the King County Library System.

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2 comments

  1. Denny Sinnoh · August 30, 2014

    Darn, you have a good library there where you live : )

  2. Jd Banks · August 30, 2014

    I owned this book when I first started watching anime. It was very useful, but I also recognized that the book would age for those who had already gone to Japan and watched all of these anime. Still, I agree with you. If you’re an anime fan, it’s a good reference book.

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