Danica Davidson: Schoolgirl Milky Crisis by Jonathan Clements

Posted by on April 9th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Titan Books; 393 pp.; $14.95; B&W; Softcover (ISBN: 9781848560833)

For all the claims that anime and manga are “exploding” on the American scene, there’s a surprising amount of confusion from people who still consider these “big-eyed drawings” to either be the mutually exclusive just-for-kids or just-for-adults (cough cough).   Even more surprising, however, would be much of the ignorance in the otaku realm, the self-described obsessed fans themselves, some of whom are apt to state their many opinions on message boards or blogs, but may have no idea what they’re discussing.

What makes Schoolgirl Milky Crisis such an ideal read, then, is the fact that this 393-page encyclopedia-like book is written by someone in the business who knows what he’s talking about.  The author, Jonathan Clements, has not only worked in the translating and dubbing process of anime, but he speaks Japanese and has written informed articles everywhere from Newtype USA to UK’s Guardian.

While this is a niche read, probably garnering little attention from non-fans, this ought to be just the sort of manna from heaven an otaku will want.  These nearly 400 pages consist mainly of Clements’s already published articles (though a number have never seen print before this), as well as interviews with prominent names in the business (including some non-Japanese sources such as Neil Gaiman) and speeches at universities and the like.

The sheer amount of information here could be an exhaustive study, if not for Clements’s sharp writing and oftentimes easy wit, which keeps everything in its place.   There are articles describing Clements’s own experiences in the world of anime and manga, which sneak in insider information and little-known facts.   He discusses the history of anime/manga; the influences, such as living in Hiroshima during World War II, that caused mangakas to write what they did; the threads of Japanese culture that interestingly or oddly shape Japan’s storytelling; the legalities of the business; and the plots of famed anime and manga themselves, to describe only a portion of the book.   There are even times when he turns to Korea and China, showing their scope in the anime/manga world.  In the midst of this information on film, drawings, artists, cultures and countries, there is always room for sparkling humor.

As for the title, that’s a joke in of itself.  Is there an anime called Schoolgirl Milky Crisis?  No. but if there were, would any of us, otaku or not, be surprised?

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