Film Criticism and the Oxford Handbook of Japanese Cinema


One of the trends in academic publishing these days seems to be an effort to provide information in a more condensed, easy-to-consume fashion. There are series like "Short Cuts" and its brief books on various topics in film (such as on New Korean Cinema). There also seems to be an explosion in publications of various handbooks or companions to this or that subject. I participated in one with my article on ”Japanese Film and Television" in the Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society edited by Vicky and Ted Bestor and Akiko Yamagata; and in another with the piece "Nation, Citizenship and Cinema" in A Companion to the Anthropology of Japan edited by Jennifer Robertson. 

There are now a number of these handbooks or companions being prepared on Japanese cinema. I've been asked to contribute to most of them (and even approached about editing one). The first to come out may set a standard that will be difficult to surpass:

Daisuke Miyao, ed. Oxford Handbook of Japanese Cinema. Oxford University Press, 2014. ISBN 9780199731664.

It sports an impressive list of contributors: Eric Cazdyn, Fujiki Hideaki, Hosokawa Shuhei, Dong Hoon Kim, Kinoshita Chika, Sang Joon Lee, Kwai Cheung Lo, Abé Mark Nornes, Okada Hidenori, Michael Raine, Carlos Rojas, Saito Ayako, Myriam Sas, Ben Singer, Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano, Yamamoto Ichiro, and Alexander Zahlten. Topics covered include film style, audiences, adaptation, stars, film festivals, nitrate film, sound, genre, women's bodies, and the media mix. One of the defining characteristics of Miyao's choice of articles is the effort first, to redefine the boundaries of Japanese film studies to emphasize the transnational nature of Japanese cinema, and thus include essays on colonial films, co-productions, foreign films in Japan, etc.; and second, to redefine the boundaries of cinema, by taking up the question of intermedia. It is thus a marker that Japanese film studies has achieved a certain maturity and is looking back on itself and its history. Some of the first essays in the Handbook do just that.

My contribution is an extended, English version of my piece in Fujiki's Kankyaku e no apurochi. Along with Iwamoto Kenji's history, it is one of the few accounts in English on the history of Japanese film criticism, though mine is less comprehensive than focuses on criticism's tense relationship with film theory, politics, and spectatorship.

You can buy the Handbook at Powell's, though you might have to wait until a paperback version comes out: 

By the way, as some of you know, I have long been inserting links to Amazon for my books and the things I introduce. It's been worrying me for a long time, and Amazon's recent monopolistic actions have only underlined my fears about supporting that occasionally obnoxious giant. So I've decided to try linking up to Powell's Books, a large but independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon. I've shopped at Powell's since I was a kid (first at the Hyde Park store, which is in a separate network but was founded by the same people), and also at the Portland store now that my family is now mostly in that city. Some links to Amazon will remain (I can't change them all), but I encourage you to support your independent bookstore.

Everything © Aaron Gerow. Send comments and suggestions to