Database for Animation Studies

10+x References for Understanding the Dawn of Animation Studies in Japan

Masashi Koide

Initially I was thinking about “10 References That Shaped Japanese Animation Studies,” but I revised this list to references from early animation studies through the early 1980s. I’ve grouped the list into five parts: (1) Works in the early 1960s including translations that were the “classics” of their time; (2) Works in line with the legendary F&FF circle that are as a fundamental references for animation proper; (3) Experimental cinema, experimental animation, and original works; (4) Film history and animation history, and (5) Film and visual studies, which are fundamental to this area of research (+x are listed as titles only).

2-2. Katsunori Yamaguchi, Yasushi Watanabe, Nihon animeeshon eigashi (Japanese Animation Film History), Edited by Planet, Yubunsha, 1978

The detailed records in Yamaguchi’s pre-war volume and Watanabe’s post-war volume, followed by the reference volume, earned this work a solid reputation as a reference book. There is little about TV animation, which was growing in importance, perhaps because of the focus on “film history,” but this work is essential for researching Japanese animation history.

2+x. Chikuji kankoubutsu (Sequential Publication), FILM 1/24, Anidou, May 1978 (New edition Vol. 8) – July 1984 (New edition Vol. 32)

3-1. Sheldon Renan, An Introduction to the American Underground Film, Dutton, 1967 published in Japanese, Tetsuro Hatano translation, Sanichi Shobo, 1969

It is necessary to expand one’s viewpoint to include experimental film in regards to the relationship with cinema and short films, auteurism, and the issue of commercial vs. non-commercial works, and this was the first authentic book on experimental film. It is weak in terms of theory, but it is valuable as a reference work and though provoking in terms of establishing the concept of animation.

3-2. Robert Russett, Cecile Starr, Experimental Animation: an Illustrated Anthology, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1976 / Reprint edition: Experimental Animation: Origins of a New Art, Da Capo Press, 1988

This is one of the most important books specializing in experimental animation. Experimental animation is an important research topic for thinking about artistry and commercialism, individualism and collectivity, and auteurs and works, and also examining and expanding the concept of animation.

4-1. Georges Sadoul, Histoire du cinéma mondial, des origines à nos jours 9e éd., Flammarion, 1972, published in Japanese as Sekai eigashi, translated by Sadamu Marusho, Misuzu Shobo, 1964 and Sekai eigashi 1, 1980

In the era when animation was “animation film,” it was necessary to refer to cinema and be aware of cinema. This book has an established reputation for bringing together cinema history from a broad world perspective. The details provided about animation film are also important.

5-1. Keiji Asanuma, Eigagaku Sono kihonteki na mondaiten (Film Studies: Fundamental Issues) Kinokuniya Shinsho A-17, 1965, republished: Kinokuniya Shoten, 1981; Seisen Fukkoku Kinokuniya Shoten, 1994

One of Japan’s leading cinema scholars discusses the essence of film with basic questions about film history and moving images. It presents the fundamental issues for animation research with cinema studies as the departure point, and is also thought provoking in regards to the framework of animation studies.

Masashi Koide
Animation researcher, Professor at Tokyo Zokei University

Graduated from Tokyo Zokei University’s Department of Design, Graphic Design Major (specializing in film) in 1982. Appointed to Tokyo Zokei University in 1998. Specializes in communication design, visual studies, and animation research. Serves as Japan Society for Animation Studies Executive Chairman, Japan Animation Association Board Member, Inter College Animation Festival Organizing Committee Member and New Chitose Airport International Animation Festival Organizing Committee Executive Chairman. Appointments also include serving as juror at the Seoul International Cartoon and Animation Festival and Japan Media Arts Festival.


Before World War II, Taihei Imamura’s Manga Eigaron [A Study of Comics and Films] was the only literature on animation. In recent years, there is much literature to read. I recommend literature based on my impressions while reading them, rather than as general source materials. Other than those 10 books I chose, L. Martin’s Of Mice and Magic and Takuya Mori’s Teihon Animation no Gyagu Sekai [General Reader: World of gags in Animation] were two memorable literature sources. It might be presumptuous for me to recommend my coauthored book, Nihon Animation Eiga Shi [A History of Japanese Animation Films], but I am proud to say that the Library of Congress in the United States has purchased it.

The title states that this list is for “anime writers,” but my main objective is to present 11 books that will give you a quick grasp of production techniques and the history of so-called commercial anime (i.e. anime that gets major distribution via TV and movie theaters). I picked these publications as an introduction to the basics, and there are also many must-read pieces about specific titles that you can find in magazines and mook publications.