The Soul of Anime by Ian Condry

Posted: March 11, 2013 by Arushi in Book Review
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The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Japan's Media Success Story by Ian Condry

I requested this book from NetGalley. So thank you NetGalley and Duke University Press for giving me the chance to read it.

There are some books that are read in one go, devouring each page. Then there are others where every word has to be savored. The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Japan’s Media Success Story by Ian Condry is one such book.

It is non-fiction at its best, because not only has information been presented in a fashion that makes it intriguing while staying true to the facts, it also has information that at least I was not familiar with. Not to mention, the book is not just academic, it has a sense of excitement about it. You can sense that the author is talking about something he loves – which makes you enjoy it even more.

Condry talks about everything here – the working life of artists, the reality of the scale of the studios, including the big names like Studio Ghibli, Madhouse, Aniplex etc. – the way many of the studios collaborate with each other – the way anime is made, from the drawing boards up and how so many of the parts essential to the work are later discarded as there is no place for them once the work is finished.

The success of anime is not about big conglomerates making money, but rather it is about every person who has contributed to the spread of this as an art form. Whether it is the fans who create subs for Japanese audio for free, or the websites who host huge amounts of anime and manga free for fans.

To use an example from the book, Summer Wars, an extremely successful anime film has been discussed in detail here and the truth of how many people worked together to make it into the phenomenon it is, is simply put, inspiring to read. The sheer amount of work that goes into creating even a single frame of the movie is astounding.

It is almost like reading about a world where co-existence of separate industries and competitors is not just tolerated but almost expected. After all, it was this unsaid agreement to work together that has brought Japanese artwork (anime, manga and all related aspects) to almost every part of the world. And we all know, from the way anime and manga has spread, that this approach, definitely works.

The book is wonderful for every fan of anime but it goes deeper than that. It is a study of how well collaboration can work, even when there is no monetary profit involved.

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