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Samurai from Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation [Paperback]

Antonia Levi
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 30 1998
Samurai from Outer Space is the first book-length discussion of the suddenly popular genre of Japanese animation. Japanese animation, also known as anime (pronounced AH-nee-may), is gaining devoted fans of all ages and nationalities. A few years ago anime was something of an oddity. Now it is poised to become the biggest cultural import since PBS discovered the BBC. There are anime fan clubs on college campuses across the country, as well as anime fan magazines and anime sections in video stores.

"Besides examining the psychological reasons for the cartoons' appeal, (Levi) compares anime to American cartoon animation, traces its connections to Japanese art and theater, and demonstrates that many anime plots are based in Japanese religion. A valuable addition to film, popular-culture, and Asian studies". - Booklist

"In this fascinating and illuminating volume, Antonia Levi provides all the cultural and historical background necessary for anyone to appreciate the allusion-rich art form of anime. A wonderful guide for beginners and otaku alike". - Vaughan Simmons Founder & Publisher of Mangajin

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Product Description

From Library Journal

Japanese animation, also known as anime, is rivaled only by karaoke in terms of Japanese impact on U.S. culture. Anime fan clubs flourish on college campuses and on the Internet, and anime proliferates in U.S. video stores. In this first book-length study of the form, Levi asserts that anime is designed by Japanese for Japanese. Using her doctoral studies in Japanese history to good effect, she explains anime as it relates to Buddhist and Shinto traditions, Ninja and Samurai myths, Confucianism, woodblock painting, traditional theater, and contemporary Japanese culture. At the same time, Levi tries to account for anime's popularity among American "Generation X" fans, or otaku. Her study is consequently as much about the United States as it is about Japan and, happily, yields insights into both cultures for scholars and zealous lay readers alike. A fine addition for cultural studies collections.?Neal Baker, Dickinson Coll. Lib., Carlisle, Pa.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

American interest in the high-tech Japanese animation called animethe products of which feature childlike, saucer-eyed characters and range the genres from science fiction to sex comedy--is burgeoning. Video stores devote special sections to anime, and there is a huge anime presence in Internet newsgroups and home pages. According to Levi, this growing popularity is due not only to imaginative stories and visual appeal but also to the insight into Japanese culture anime affords. The cartoons are modern Japan's folktales, Levi says, and reveal aspects of the nation's psyche that range from its view of mortality to its conception of woman's role in society. Aimed at enlightening the uninitiated, Levi's study is less an anime guide than an almost scholarly text that, besides examining the psychological reasons for the cartoons' appeal, compares anime to American cartoon animation, traces its connections to Japanese art and theater, and demonstrates that many anime plots are based in Japanese religion. A valuable addition to film, popular-culture, and Asian studies collections alike. Gordon Flagg

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Generation X calls it anime (pronounced AH-nee-may). Read the first page
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Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes me want to give anime another chance... Feb. 6 2003
I've never liked Japanese animation. I missed out on "Astro Boy" and "Speed Racer" when I was a kid. To me, "Kimba the White Lion" represented Japanese animation. Something about the oddness in the characters voices (they always threw in extra syllables at the end of their sentences, "We have to go save him, huh?") and the gender ambiguity of the lead character (these things are important to uptight pre-pubescent kids) really bothered me.
By the time Japanese animation took hold in the US cartoon market with shows such as "Voltron," or "Robotech," I was done with cartoons. By the time Japanese animation started showing up on the shelves at Blockbuster Video, I learned that one should refer to Japanese animation as "Anime." In the years between, I found that the same kind of geeky know-it-all kids who dominated the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons scene and who lingered too long at comic book stores discussing the outcome of a battle between the "Teen Titans" and "Alpha Flight," were the same folks who loved Anime.
Have you ever disliked a band because of its fans? This was the same kind of thing. I have yet to listen to anything by The Misfits merely because of all the losers in leather jackets who would come to concerts and stand in my way or push people around in the pit. Nine times out of ten they'd have on some sort of Misfits paraphernalia. No one's written a book explaining the music of the Misfits from an outsider's point of view.
Thankfully, Antonia Levy's book Samurai from Outer Space is the perfect guide for jerks like me who've dismissed an entire animation style out of dislike for its diehard fans. Subtitled "Understanding Japanese Animation," Levy takes the reader through the history of Anime and Manga (Japanese comic books).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good but Dated Oct. 28 2001
This book was originaly written back in the year 1996 before the anime boom had hit America. I know anime is still not a word known in every household, but it is more popular now than what it was five years ago. I found this book to be quite an interesting read although most of the information seems to be for those who are only interested in Japan because of anime, which is not a rare thing to say the least so things such as literature and religion get pushed to the side because of a superior interest in Animation. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing, but fo those who have a deeply rooted interest in Japan in other things besides anime might find the book to be lacking in new information, but overall the book is quite enjoyable and might help make sense of some of the "strange" stuff that some viewers might see in anime. such as what figures of folklore the Urusei Yatsura characters Benten and Oyuki were derived from. I found a couplke of errors in the book as well in anime refernces. The first is obviously a mistype on page 51 Dr. Levi calls the manager of Maison Ikkoku Ryoko. The character's name is Kyoko. Maybe she was thinking about Tenchi Muyo! at the time. the second on page 131, Dr. Levi says that Akane cut her long hair of intentionately. This is not so her hair was accidentally cut off by Ryoga. She had her sister Kasumi even it out for her, but besides these little errors the book is an enjoyable read, but only scratches th e surface of the deeper meanings within anime. A better book to read would be Anime: from Akiira to Princes Mononoke by Susan J. Napier.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Worth it April 4 2001
When I picked up this book, I was looking fora history of anime. You know, facts about how it started, viewer statistics, time slots and channels it aired on, when it was first imported outside of Japan, how the styles have changed, etc. I didn't find very much of that in this book, but what I did find was a fascinating look at how Japanese traditions have influenced manga and anime (specifically anime). It is very interesting indeed. It is the best anime book I've read, but I haven't read much because there isn't much available. It doesn't have a directory of anime movies made, thankfully - those things are best left for websites.
It definately needs an update, though. With the popularity of shows like Digimon, Pokemon, Card Captors (C.C. Sakura in Japan), etc., not to mention the massive success of Cartoon Network's line up, as well as Sci Fi's and Action Channel's occasional anime showings, anime in the States is more popular than ever. it'd be nice to see what her take is on that, and to stop referring to Generation X. I'm old enough to have grown up on 80's dubbed anime on TV, but people my age are not Generation Xers....and today's Pokefans are younger than us.
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Ms. Levi's discussion of Japanese animation has a two-fold purpose: she wants to explain why Americans find anime so fascinating while she dissects the symbolism behind anime itself. Ms. Levi obviously has great affection towards Japanese history and religious culture, and if she were to write a book on those subjects exclusively, she would probably have a winner. However, Samurai From Outer Space shows a careless disregard for the facts of many anime. Some mistakes are so blatant that it brings the author's own knowledge of anime itself into question, and it undermines the credibility of the other material in the book. According to the book's cover, the author has written books "on subjects ranging from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to the Japanese Communist Party." This diversity may be why her actual anime knowledge seems quite limited. Nevertheless, the author's attitude can be read as haughty, and disrespect for Christianity and Western culture in general is also very apparent. Finally, the book takes an outsider's view of Generation X--it's full of speculation on why this group enjoys anime so much, but there is never a sense that the author actually sat down with modern non-Asian anime fans and discussed the topic at length. This is not to say that the book is without merits--indeed, it is very informative about Japanese legends and ancient culture, and good chunks of the book are useful if that's what you want to learn. Bottom line: it's a decent book on Japanese tradition, but a lousy book on anime.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A book on the symbols and stories that are a source...
for anime and manga. Over 160 pages full of information on Shinto, Buddhism, Samurai legends, Japanese art and history and how Japanese animation uses it. Read more
Published on Oct. 19 2002 by Michael Valdivielso
5.0 out of 5 stars a history, both pleasurable and exciting
Back when I first did not know much of anime, I saw this book and thought, wow! What a great book. And I was v. right. Read more
Published on Dec 3 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable & educational
This was well written, a lot of fun & educational as well. A lot of in depth info but still manages to be a great introduction to anime for folks like me who really don't know... Read more
Published on July 17 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book for Brand New Anime Fans
If you are just now learning the world of anime and want to expand your knowledge this is a great book for you. Read more
Published on April 16 2001 by "rquinn_3"
5.0 out of 5 stars a totaly awesome book
This book is the best referance i could find on anime. I actually wrote a thesis statement on anime, well anime related, and this book was the only true resource i had besides web... Read more
Published on Nov. 19 1999 by nessa (nessa@animehouse.org)
2.0 out of 5 stars Snob
I'm Japanese and knew of this book in 1996. Many people applauded it, but I'm against them. I thought the authour seemed as if she had knew everything on anime, assuming an... Read more
Published on Oct. 11 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book
Good for me: I'm Italian and I'm doing some studies about otaku in my country: it's useful to understand difference between Usa and Italy, for example about otaku. Read more
Published on Aug. 24 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars No reference book--but a fine general overview of anime
I read this book while working on a college paper comparing Manga and American Comic books, for a class which focused on American Culture influences on American comics. Read more
Published on Aug. 1 1999
1.0 out of 5 stars Understanding what, exactly?
Levi's book is a good introduction to anime 'fandom' in America. However, while it presents one somewhat interesting way to 'read' Japanese cartoons, it wholly fails to live up to... Read more
Published on June 24 1999
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