When I reviewed the Anime Encyclopaedia last year I commented on how it was very good, but in serious need of an update. Well, now that update is here.
Anime and manga experts Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy have put their heads together once more and given their flagship book a complete overhaul. Entries have been expanded, more images have been put in and countless new anime series have been covered, alongside all new entries for directors, musicians, writers, manga authors and even genres. The huge amount of additions see the number of pages in the book expand to just a few shy of 900, a whopping 50% increase in length! So you're getting value for money, but have the updates and changes improved a book that was pretty much an essential purchase anyway? Well the answer to that is yes.
As I said at the start of this review, The Anime Encyclopaedia was in need of an update. It was originally published in 2001, and since then anime has exploded in the West. More anime is being released nowadays than ever before, and many of the titles modern fans are familiar with have been released in the last five years. The original Anime Encyclopaedia was published before the likes of Naruto and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex had even been made in Japan, so for modern fans there were some glaring omissions. But not any more. The revised edition is as up-to-date as it can be, the sheer amount of new anime coming out every month means that any reference book will be slightly obsolete by the time it hits the shelves but this book is so voluminous you'll hardly notice. Everything - from the biggest hits to the really obscure - is present and correct and the authors actually provide information and opinion on every entry. Every one is interesting and although the cynicism that laces the authors' opinions may be a bit wearing for newer fans it more often than not makes for entertaining reading.
The bulk of the additional, err, bulk, of this book is made up of new anime entries, but there is more than just this on offer. This time Clements and McCarthy find space for short biographies of notable anime personalities and studios, from directors like Hayao Miyazaki to his Studio Ghibli, and from authors like Masamune Shirow to musicians like Yoko Kanno. It's good to see some information being given for the creators behind the anime, and the entries serve to link together anime through the people and studios that made them, making cross referencing easier. Also included this time are over twenty 'thematic' entries, basically short essays on a variety of interesting subjects including Foreign Influences, Horror and Monsters, Translation and Overseas Distribution and Piracy. These Thematic entries have their own index at the start of the book and make for very interesting reading - Clements and McCarthy know their subject better than anybody, and this kind of in-depth analysis is a superb addition.
Whilst the entries and additions to the book are the best thing about it, it has also been improved in other ways. As well as tidying up or expanding some entries, one of the main annoyances from the first book is no longer an issue - the pictures. In the first edition the images were sprinkled haphazardly throughout the book, their place determined more by available space and copyright issues than relevance to nearby entries. Now the pictures are put next to corresponding entries, saving you having to leaf through 300 pages to find an image of a series you're reading about. There are also more references to live-action drama series (known in Japan phonetically as 'dorama') based on anime, and these are often denoted with the suffix *DE, to show that they have entries in The Dorama Encyclopaedia, another mighty tome of a reference book which is written by Jonathan Clements and available separately.
Other areas that have been tightened up include the index and contents pages, with an index of images being added at the start of the book. The introduction from the authors has also been expanded, providing information of the additions to the book and where they think the future of anime lies. It's also good to see that although many entries give away the ending in the plot synopsis, Clements and McCarthy don't do this with any titles made after 2004, so you are unlikely to accidentally find out what happens at the end of titles that are being released in the UK now.
The additions and revisions serve to turn an extremely useful reference book into the single most essential anime reference book on the market. Clements and McCarthy make for extremely knowledgeable guides through the world of anime but despite this you never feel patronised or excluded. They may know a lot but they also know how to present this knowledge to normal anime fans and this makes the Anime Encyclopaedia a joy to read. If you don't have this edition of the book already, the UK release by Titan Books is an absolutely essential purchase for any anime fan, and if you already have the first edition there is more than enough new material in this version to warrant buying it again. The Anime Encyclopaedia: Revised & Expanded Edition is utterly essential.
Loads! The lengthy forward from the authors explains the abbreviations, categories, omissions and criteria they use, along with notes about the additions and comments on the changes anime has faced since the last edition. They also comment on what they think the future holds for anime and include index lists at the front of the book for pictures and thematic entries as well as a list of acknowledgements. A comment from the publisher sits and an extensive index and bibliography also fill the book. A very good selection.