In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Japan’s Media Success Story by Ian Condry
  • Michael McCaskey (bio)
The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Japan’s Media Success Story. By Ian Condry. Duke University Press, Durham, 2013. x, 241 pages. $84.95, cloth; $23.95, paper.

Ian Condry’s second book, The Soul of Anime, is the result of an application of his genba (actual site) research and analytical methods to the field of Japanese anime. He has adopted a broad and inclusive view of the field and summarizes his approach at the outset of the book:

Anime … refers to Japanese animated film and television, but the worlds of anime extend well beyond what appears on the screen. Anime is characteristic of contemporary media in its interconnected webs of commercial and cultural activities that reach across industries and national boundaries. … Scholars, fans, and media observers are producing a growing body of literature aimed at extending and deepening our understandings [sic] of the diverse field of Japanese animation.

(p. 1)

Applying his genba approach to his research on anime, Condry interviewed leading figures in today’s animation industry in Japan and also visited Japanese animation studios, where he was able to observe new animated films and videos in the making. Condry focuses on both the ways in which anime are created and the ways in which anime fans in turn respond creatively through individual and group activities, such as adding their own fansubs [End Page 232] (translation and dissemination of anime online by fans) for Japanese anime lacking subtitles, creating anime-related fan art, and even producing their own amateur videos as tributes to anime they particularly admire.

Condry’s research is informed and enriched by numerous personal interviews with leading anime artists as well as frequent on-site observations of their creative endeavors, both in process and in progress. During a visit to an anime studio, he even was called on to pitch in as a voice actor, delivering a few lines that remained part of the completed anime after it was released.

A full chapter, “Collaborative Networks, Personal Futures” (pp. 35–53), is devoted to a study of the work and career of the leading anime director Hosoda Mamoru, whom Condry has known since 2005, and to the making of Hosoda’s 2009 animated science fiction film Summer Wars, at the Madhouse Studios. Condry’s book is a good source of genba information about Summer Wars, which won the 2010 Japanese Academy and Mainichi Film Concours awards for Best Animated Film—Hosoda himself received the 2009 award for Best Animated Feature Film at the Sitges International Film Festival.

Part of Condry’s concept of “collaborative creativity” refers to the results of anime fan group activity, such as fan art and fan-created tribute videos, which stimulate interest in the original anime creation and may even add new dimensions to collective interpretation and appreciation of it. Condry deemphasizes the unflattering stereotype of the otaku, an obsessively devoted fan who focuses on anime-centered fantasy at the expense of real-life responsibilities. Instead, Condry concentrates on the constructive roles fans can play as “collaborative creators” who create fan art that enriches the anime experience for many other people. Condry’s idea of “collaborative creativity” also refers to the teamwork of lower-level anime studio staff members, who devote much of their waking life to helping to create anime, regardless of financial considerations. Condry observed staff members at work on Summer Wars and saw other such teams at work in the course of his genba research:

Given the substantial international influence of anime, readers might be surprised by the crowded, often disheveled look of the places where animators work. I was surprised by the piles and piles of paper, the intensity of hand-drawn work, and the sheer amount of labor required. I was also impressed by the workers’ focus, energy, and commitment to working together on enormous projects. Collaborative creativity is more than jargon for animators.

(p. 7)

Condry emphasizes and demonstrates the significance of the ways in which major current popular cultural movements that arise in one particular country are subsequently able to spread transnationally, on a...