Anime Book Review: The Soul of Anime

The Soul of Anime is a book that’s being aimed more at readers who have an academic interest in anime than toward the more casual viewer or fan of the art form.

The Soul of Anime
Written by: Ian Condry
Publisher: Duke University Press
Release Date: February 11, 2013

One thing that really makes The Soul of Anime stand out from other books written about anime is how Condry chose to approach the subject. Instead of examining what anime is, he chose to focus on how anime is produced and how fans’ interactions with the medium help to define it.

In order to present the book in this manner, Condry did some field work in Japan, talking with directors, producers, and other staff who are directly involved in the production of anime. Condry also had the opportunity to sit in on some anime production meetings, and he brings all of this knowledge and experience into this work. The examples he was able to glean from this field work help the reader to understand the ideas and opinions that Condry is trying to convey.

Since the book is written more for an academic audience, there are parts of the book devoted to examining the subject through analysis and referencing others who have written about anime. Fortunately, Condry was able to balance this out with various anecdotes and stories that came out of his field work. By combining both the academic and the personal, Condry was able to make it so The Soul of Anime has some “soul” in it, and doesn’t come across as a “dry” read.

Unfortunately, I became a little frustrated when I read the sixth chapter, “Dark Energy: What Overseas Fans Reveal about the Copyright Wars”; the focus of this chapter is on fansubs. I wasn’t frustrated by the fact that fansubbing was being discussed, but I was frustrated by the fact that simulcasting on services like Crunchyroll and Hulu was relegated to one sentence at the end of a paragraph. By late 2012, simulcasting had become an important part of online anime fandom. Not only was Anime News Network providing a preview guide for simulcasts for each broadcast season, but simulcasts were popular discussion topics among anime fans on Twitter. Hopefully at some point in the future, Condry can put out an updated version of the book where Chapter Six can delve more into the effects of simulcasting on the fansubbing culture.

Even with that complaint, I still believe that Condry has written a solid book about anime by looking at the art form from a different angle than previous books written on the subject have done. However, as I stated earlier, The Soul of Anime will more likely appeal to readers who have an academic interest in learning about anime than to casual fans.

The reviewer was provided a review copy through the NetGalley.com website

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One comment

  1. Ivie · September 24, 2014

    I am a big anime watcher, an otaku I’m called, but I may have to give this book a look. I’m interested to see it from academic point of view. I always thought fansubbing was a gray area, much like reading fan translated manga scans. I could be wrong though, I never watched a lot of fansubbed work.

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