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Anime Interviews : The First Five Years of Animerica
Reviewed by Kevin Pezzano, ©

Format: Book
By:   Viz Publishing
Genre:   Anime / Reference Book
Released:   November 1997
Review Date:  
RevSF Rating:   9/10 (What Is This?)

Yes, I know this book is almost four years old now. I can't recall seeing any other site review it, though, and pretty much every anime fan I've talked to has never even HEARD of it. And that's a gigantic shame, because Anime Interviews: The First Five Years of Animerica, Anime & Manga Monthly (1992-97) should be read by every single self-respecting otaku on the face of God's green Earth!

What makes this book so special is the fact that the information contained within cannot be found any where else in English, and yet it is so important to understanding and enjoying anime and manga that it NEEDS to be read. Anime and manga creators, from the famous to the obscure, are interviewed in a surprisingly in-depth way, covering everything from early influences to the meanings of their work to messages to American fans. It's one thing to enjoy Ranma 1/2, and quite another to see Ranma creator Rumiko Takahashi's own perspective on the manga and anime.

This book is filled to the brim with information you've probably never heard before. Did you know, for example, that Ghost in the Shell creator Masamune Shirow started his career as a math teacher? Or that Leiji Matsumoto named his greatest creation, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, after a nonsense noise he used to make during his walks to school? Each interview covers amusing little details like this, alongside the big stuff, making even the interviews with creators you may not have heard of fascinating to read.

Along with all the tidbits you can learn from the interviews themselves, this book also provides handy background writeups at the start of each interview, letting you know a little bit more about the person being grilled on the pages within. It's a great way to discover that what you thought was an interview with some Japanese artist unknown to you is really an interview with the guy who created the Tenchi series, or the faces behind the CLAMP manga collective, and so on. As a bonus, at the end of each interview is a complete bibliography of each person being interviewed, covering novels, manga, and anime they've worked on. This book is almost worth it for these career summaries alone, since it contains a lot of valuable info that you'd have a hard time finding even on the internet.

The conversational, friendly tone of most of the interviews makes this book a highly entertaining read. It's not just a pedantic fanboy's bedside companion, it's an engrossing look at the personalities and careers of the movers and shakers in the anime industry. If this book has any flaw, it's that it's become outdated. As the anime industry marches on, and anime in America becomes ever more widespread, the information and comments in these interviews become more and more irrelevant. Even the latest interview was conducted long before the advent of Toonami, and the earliest interviews predate pretty much EVERYTHING that's been going on in the anime world over the past decade.

Still, there's more than enough here to make up for that. While you may have to make mental adjustments for the time lapse in some of the interviews (like the fact that Escaflowne, my favorite anime EVER, gets nary a mention in the Shoji Kawamori interview), in others, the passage of time and new developments in anime in America actually make the interviews MORE fascinating (like the Yoshiyuki Tomino interview). If you don't mind the often-outdated interviews and especially the outdated career summaries, Anime Interviews : The First Five Years of Animerica, Anime & Manga Monthly (1992-97) is an entertaining and definitely informative look at the people that are responsible for anime as we know it. Now if only they'd publish a revised and updated edition!

Kevin Pezzano is Anime Editor for RevolutionSF.

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