The Rough Guide to Anime

Distributor:  Rough Guides

Author:  Simon Richmond

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  11.99

Number of Pages:  176

ISBN-10:  n/a

ISBN-13:  978-1-8582-8205-3

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


Mention Rough Guides to people and often their first thought will be of the acclaimed travel books.  However, there's more to Rough Guides than just travel.  You can get Rough Guides on a wide variety of subjects ranging from iPods to Shakespeare, and now you can also get one on anime.

The Rough Guide to Anime is the latest in a growing range of anime and manga reference books available in the UK, and it's quite an interesting one.  Books like the Anime Encyclopaedia and Paul Gravett's Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics are pretty in depth works that will appeal to existing fans of the medium more than someone who knows nothing about it.  The Rough Guide to Anime is, to a large extent, more accessible.  Travel Rough Guides often start with an overview of the destination covered, followed by a recommended itinerary and more in-depth focus on particular areas.  The Rough Guide to Anime follows a similar pattern, starting with an introductory chapter that covers the history and themes of anime, before introducing a 'Canon' of 50 anime titles the author recommends.  This is followed by a long chapter covering the creation of anime, explaining how a title goes from concept to screen and discussing some of anime's leading lights, from directors like Hayao Miyazaki to studios like Tatsunoko Productions.  The remaining chapters cover manga and its links to anime, more in-depth discussions of various anime genres and anime's impact around the world, before rounding off by recommending places to visit and further reading.

Although that may sound relatively hardcore it is in fact well paced and very easy to follow.  The opening chapter does a great job of explaining the history of the medium without becoming bogged down in names or feeling too dry, and there is quite a lot of info packed in

too.  The information throughout is broken up into bite-sized pieces - the opening chapter is split into time periods for example - and there are lots of interesting box-out asides and images scattered liberally through every chapter.  The box-outs often expand on particular themes of the chapters, add supporting information on topics such as piracy and translation and are occasionally a bit more irreverent - my favourite being the one in which Anime Encyclopaedia authors Helen McCarthy and Jonathan Clements give their lists of the worst anime ever made!  The book is informative and interesting, and often a pretty entertaining read too.

To his great credit Simon Richmond does an excellent job of consistently tying the information provided back to individual anime titles.  Pretty much each section of each chapter contains a brief description of two or three recommended and relevant anime titles, amounting to over 100 recommendations on

top of the 50 included in the book's 'Canon'.  The anime listed covers a wide range of genres and styles, going from space opera classics from the 1970's to modern smashes like Naruto and more obscure titles like Mamoru Oshii's Angel's Egg.  It's this focus on the actual anime films and series which sets this book apart - the explanations of the history of anime, the creators and studios is all there, but anime itself still takes centre stage.  Nowhere is this more noticeable than in the Canon, which lists the author's 50 must-see anime and provides decent synopses and reviews for each one.  Despite Richmond's caveat that his list will divide opinion amongst readers you'd be hard pressed to argue with many of his choices, and he puts forward a good case for those you may not be so keen on.  Admittedly the list contains all of the usual suspects (Akira, Ghost in the Shell, pretty much everything that Hayao Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon have ever done), but he also finds space for the less well known likes of Puss 'n Boots and Mind Game.  Even if you have seen the films a hundred times his reasons for choosing them still make for interesting reading, and if you haven't it provides a great introduction to some of the best anime has to offer.

It must be said though that whilst the Rough Guide to Anime is interesting no matter how much you think you know about anime, newer fans will get the most out of it.  It's written in an accessible way (so much so that even my mum, who has seen little anime beyond a few Ghibli

films has started reading it!), and focuses on broad themes, time periods and important creators rather than going really in-depth on anything.  This is an entry-level reference book to a certain extent, albeit one that is packed with information and trivia, with an admirable focus on getting you to watch anime rather than just read about it.  Sometimes reference books can delve so deeply into a subject that they leave behind what made you interested in it to begin with, but this one doesn't.  It's full of information but it's not overly analytical, giving you a full overview of anime and anime fandom in the West.  This is, however, where it falls down slightly.

When you talk about the origins of anime or individual films your book will not age much.  These things are set in stone to a certain extent, and although new analysis and discoveries can be made your book will remain relevant.  The Rough Guide to Anime will

generally stand the test of time, but the anime information section that closes the book will not.  Things change, and some of the information for TV screenings, anime magazines and companies is already out of date.  The book appears to have been written before most of the financial turmoil of the last few months, and refer to the Anime Central TV channel, distributor Central Park Media, magazine Anime Insider and others which have all since shut down.  This is a problem that effects travel books quite a lot (we have been caught out looking for somewhere listed in the Rough Guide to Japan, only to find it was no longer there), but in those cases a new edition is released pretty much annually.  I don't know if this book will receive the same annual revisions, my guess would be no.

In fairness there's not a lot the author can really do about this and it is only a very small section of the book.  There is also not a huge amount of info in this book that isn't covered in other reference books, and often in more depth than it is here.  However that's not the point, The Rough Guide to Anime is a great overview of anime in all its facets and not only serves as a great primer for new fans but still packs enough of a punch for long-term fans.  There is quite a bit of trivia I learned from this book that I didn't know, and Simon Richmond is an entertaining and engaging guide to the anime world.  It's also good to see him utilise his knowledge of Japan (he also write the Rough Guide to Japan) to suggest travel tips for the country and anime-themed places to visit in Tokyo, Nagoya, Ishinomaki, Takarazuka and Kyoto.  The Rough Guide to Anime is well worth picking up if you want to know more about anime as a whole and get suggestions of titles to see from the medium's rich history.  Recommended.


As well as the usual author biography, index and acknowledgements there's a decent glossary and a small list of common 'fanspeak' terms.  There's a short intro and box-outs throughout the book give the lowdown on related subjects such as Anime Music Videos, bootlegs and fansubs.  Pretty good.


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