“If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?” – T. H. Huxley.
First published in 2001, with an expanded edition in 2006, it has now been around eight to nine years since the last edition of probably the most important reference work covering the anime industry was released.
The authors, Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy (probably the greatest anime critics in Britain) highlight in the introduction the changes to the anime industry since the last edition was published, among them the collapse of ADV, Bandai leaving the States, and the issue of internet piracy.
The 3rd Edition, which has the subtitle “A Century of Japanese Animation”, is twice the size of the 1st Edition. Since the 2nd Edition over 1,000 new anime have been listed and there have been over 5,000 alterations to titles that were already listed.
These, however, are not the only changes. Due to the number of entries, the authors decided not to include any pictures in this book. This decision was also due to the sheer expense of putting the images in the book and the fact that you can find such images online for free, so why put black-and-white images in the book instead.
The cut-off point for the 3rd Edition appears to be mid-2014. For example there is an entry for Akame ga Kill (and not a flattering one, it has to be said), but not for DRAMAtical Murder or Love Stage!! (sorry to all the yaoi fans out there). Having said that, I noticed in the digital version of the book that I was given that there are some anime series not affected by this cut-off point that appear to be absent. For example, the 2013 series Free! seems to have no entry. The book just lists Frankenstein; Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor; Freckles Pooch; Free Kick for Tomorrow; Freedom; Freezing; Fried Octopus Man.
This is not the only mistake I came across. In the entry for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya it states the full name of the “SOS Brigade” as “Save the World by Overloading It with Fun Brigade”, which as you will spot contains only one word beginning with “S”, because the full title is “Save the World By Overloading It With Fun Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade”. There are some, let’s say “knowing” descriptions of series. For example, when writing about Hetalia they tend to go on a bit about the latent “boys’ love” aspect of the show itself and the fans, saying that when it comes to Italy: “Germany fancies the pants off him.” Fortunately, the book contains contact details for readers to contact the authors to make any corrections.
The length of some entries might be surprising to some people as well. The fore-mentioned entry for Hetalia for example is longer than that for the highly-acclaimed Attack on Titan. However, it appears to be a mixture of not just critical review, but also of length and longevity. The entries for Astro Boy and Gundam are obviously longer than both of those shows I just mentioned.
The book however is still an entertaining read when you just dip into the pages to learn more about a particular show. Sometimes you feel a bit stupid when reading it – for instance, until I read the entry for Hellsing I did not realise that “Alucard” is “Dracula” spelt backwards.
Most entries are good. While the entry for Attack on Titan may not be the biggest in the book, it does give the information that people would be most interested in, such as the positive reaction to the show in Hong Kong, the negative reaction to it in South Korea, and comparisons to Howl’s Moving Castle, Summer Wars, Evangelion, Gunbuster and Sunday Without God.
One interesting appeal about the Encyclopedia is that it is a book with an opinion in that the authors review the series mentioned. My personal highlight occurs in the entry for Black Butler, where you can sense a hint of a UK patriotic vibe in the following passage: “However hard you try, America, you will never be able to parody Britain as slyly and subtly as the Japanese can. Only another country with more than a millennium of monarchy and a set of arcane, unwritten social rules (from breach of which flow consequences you would scarcely notice, apart from a certain polite reserve and a series of inexplicably closed doors) could possibly understand us the way Black Butler does.”
The Anime Encyclopedia is flawed, but all encyclopedias are flawed, whether it be Wikipedia or Encyclopaedia Britannica. The third edition of Britannica, released in 1788, claimed there was no such thing as gravity, but they corrected themselves about 25 years later. Maybe in another 10 years the 4th Edition of The Anime Encyclopedia might add Free! as well.
Score: 7 / 10
The book is being released by Stone Bridge Press as a paperback, RRP £79.99, and as an e-book. No RRP is listed in pounds, but it will cost US$24.99.