So the reviews have begin to arrive.
The first edition had some beauties, including insightful comments from Neil Gaiman and Mark Schilling. The second edition met with a similar chorus of approval: one standout memory for me was the PopMatters review by Valerie McEwan, with the subhead “Handy as Pockets on a Shirt.” (My favourite pullquote: “Writers Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy have put together one hell of a volume.”) Over at Animation World Network the great Fred Patten, anime guru and co-founder of US anime fandom, enthused: “And I thought that the first edition of The Anime Encyclopedia (2001) was indispensable!”
Of coruse there were disssenting voices; everybody won’t like everything. But the weight of authority – by which I mean knowledge of the field, critical ability and intelligent analysis – was pretty much on the side of The Anime Encyclopedia.
So will the third edition, just starting to garner reviews, feel ashamed in their mighty company? Obviously I hope not. My co-author and I are doing interviews for the launch at the moment and in one of those he reminded me that we’ve written about 300,000 words of new material for this edition. That’s a big book in its own right, leaving aside all the corrections and expansions and updates. Like any writer I’m hoping for a critical and reader reaction commensurate with all that effort.
Amazon had just one review up at the time of writing. Stephen Lerch recognises that we had to stop writing at some point, and calls the book “one of, if not THE, best resources in regards to Anime in the English language.” He explains his five-star rating with “Anime fans who geek out over details will love this (that’s me). Librarians will like it with the quick check on adult content being visible for each entry. For casual fans who want information at their finger tips, that isn’t just Wikipedia, then the digital edition is likely the best way to go.”
JapanRealm’s Palma-san says “If you think you know everything about anime, you may want to test your wits again! … this massive collection is the nuts and bolts of anime knowledge.” He comments on the many changes in anime throughout its history and enjoys the trivia trove buried in the entries.
Our fellow-encyclopedist Paul Green at Weird Westerns considers the role of the print edition in a digital age: “given the depth and scope of this encyclopedia I doubt you could access the amount of information found in this huge volume online.” Ben Robbins at Forces of Geek revelled in the digital edition: “I was swallowed up by the “rabbit hole” of hyperlinks and clickable cross-referencing at my fingertips.” And at UKAnime.net Andy Hanley gets why we’re doing this: “there’s a clear surge in the passion of both writers when it comes to discussing their own specialist subjects within that history that is almost infectious as it leaps off the page at you… if you’re looking to either seriously research anime as a medium or want to be as well-read as possible, then The Anime Encyclopedia remains a must-have tome.”
Ian Wolf at Anime UK News reminded me that, as the Amish put it, only God is perfect, or at the Bible puts it, prophets are often without honour in their own country. His review picks up holes in the text and tugs on the loose threads, but describes the book as “still an entertaining read.” He admits “Sometimes you feel a bit stupid when reading it – for instance, until I read the entry for Hellsing I did not realise that “Alucard” is “Dracula” spelt backwards.”
Wolf concludes “The Anime Encyclopedia is flawed, but all encyclopedias are flawed, whether it be Wikipedia or Encyclopaedia Britannica. The third edition of Britannica, released in 1788, claimed there was no such thing as gravity, but they corrected themselves about 25 years later.” He also highlights my personal favourite piece of new writing in the book as “a hint of a UK patriotic vibe.”
So overall, not too bad a start. Let’s see how things developas more online soruces comment and the print reviews roll in.