What's that thing on the
little shelf in the Tendo Dojo? What are those little fish-shaped
pastries that Nuku Nuku likes to much? What's with that whole
nosebleed thing anyway? Japanese anime is Japanese and, if you
didn't grow up in Japan, a lot of the cultural references are
going to go right past you. The Anime Companion: What's
Japanese in Japanese Animation? has the answers.
Simply put, The Anime Companion is a handbook to Japanese
culture, written for fans of Japanese anime. The format is that
of a simple, alphabetic glossary, each entry annotated with
pointers to anime which display a given cultural reference. It's
a lot of fun to browse through, picking up bits of Japanese info
on everything from red bean cakes to Turkish baths. Entries tend
to be short and to the point and many are accompanied by stills
from various anime (such as Maison Ikkoku's Kyoko and
Godai sitting at a kotatsu or
yakisoba cooking on a griddle in Tenchi
Muyou). On the downside, since entries are listed by
Japanese name, it can be difficult to locate information for
things you've only seen but for which you don't know the name.
However, the cross-referencing appendices in the back of the
book, listing all entries in English, Japanese, or by category
(clothing, games, mythology, etc) can make locating information
fairly simple. In addition, The Anime Companion is
interspersed with rants, asides, and trivia quizzes on a variety
of entertaining bents. You can read about Poitras' thoughts on
the renaming of food in English adaptations and discover the
anime references in Star Trek.
The Anime Companion is a great little handbook for fans of
Japanese anime who want to learn more about the culture that
spawned the medium and permeates the shows we love so much.