Database for Animation Studies

10 Books to Understand Japanese Anime History

Nobuyuki Tsugata

The fact that I’m compiling this list means that this list will have nothing to do with “academism.” That is to say, I picked books to understand “anime history” and not the history of animation, and I focused on commercial books that probably haven’t gotten much attention in academic circles. However, I excluded my own books, and I also deliberately left off some standard references. The list is in chronological order based on publication date.

Animage Henshubu (Animage Editorial Department), TV Anime 25 nenshi (25 Years of TV Anime History), Tokuma Shoten, 1988

This book was paired with “Gekijou Anime 70 Nenshi” (70 Years of Feature Film Anime), and covers ten years beyond the standard reference “Nihon Animation Eigashi (The History of Japanese Animation Film)" (1977). It is formatted like a dictionary of works, which makes it useful even today. In contrast, the recent edition of “Nihon TV Animation Taizen (Compete Japanese TV Animation)" (2014) is difficult to use.

Eiichi Yamamoto, Mushi puro koubouki – ANI MEITA no seishun (The Rise and Fall of Mushi Productions: The Youth of ‘Ani Metor’), Shinchosha, 1989

The author documents his experiences, which were almost entirely at Mushi Productions. It’s written like a novel, but the author says he faithfully recorded what actually happened. You can get a good grasp of the history of Mushi Productions with this book alongside “Tezuka Osamu Gekijou” (Osamu Tezuka Theater, Tezuka Productions editors, 1991).

B-CLUB (138-go) (B-Club No. 138), Bandai, 1997

Mook featuring magical girl anime, one of the types of series that symbolize Anime in Japan, from “Mahotsukai Sarii” (Sally the Witch) to “Sailor Moon”. You can’t talk about magical girl anime without this reference, which has valuable data on the anime works.

Sogetsu aato sentaa no kiroku jikko iinkai (Organizing Committee for the Sogetsu Art Center Record), Kagayake 60 nendai sogetsu aato sentaa no zenkiroku (Shine 1960s Complete Record of the Sogetsu Art Center), Film Art Sha, 2002

You might be surprised to see this book on this list, but you want to get a grasp on Sogetsu, which was the departure point for recent movements in the world of short animation. This work gives detailed coverage of Sogetsu’s activities at the time, and the organization even today questions what it means to “create.”

Nobuyuki Tsugata
associate professor at Kyoto Seika University


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.