MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of “Animation in the Sinosphere: A Review Essay,” by Evelyn Shih. The essay reviews two recent publications on animation in China and Taiwan. The review appears below, and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/evelyn-shih/. My thanks to Jason McGrath, MCLC media studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.
Kirk Denton, editor
Animation in the Sinosphere: A Review Essay
Puppets, Gods, and Brands: Theorizing the Age of Animation from Taiwan, by Teri Silvio
Animated Encounters: Transnational Movements of Chinese Animation, 1940s-1970s, by Daisy Yan Du
Reviewed by Evelyn Shih
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright May, 2020)
Has the age of animation begun? And if it has, to whom does it belong? Two new books on Chinese and Taiwanese animation bring these questions into focus using materials that have thus far received scant attention in English-language scholarship. In global animation studies, by far the dominant loci for animation have been America and Japan—the former beginning with the worldwide stardom of Mickey Mouse, and the latter beginning with the post-WWII boom of anime, which subsequently drew interest to earlier animation and related media. The modes of animation that emerged from these locations have come to define the paradigms through which most scholars approach animation, and included among these framing paradigms is the specter of national cinema. While both Teri Silvio’s Puppets, Gods, and Brands: Theorizing the Age of Animation from Taiwan and Daisy Yan Du’s Animated Encounters: Transnational Movements of Chinese Animation engage with that framework, they also work to push the model forward with new perspectives.
Silvio challenges “Japanamerica” through the lens of post-colonialism, taking as her case study a past colony of Japan and a neo-colonial client state of the US: Taiwan. More importantly, however, she broadens the field of animation studies by finding an interdisciplinary interface with anthropology and religious studies—that is, she engages seriously with media studies, especially areas such as fan and reception studies, film analysis, and production studies, but her strength is in cultural theory. The “age of animation” that she proposes in her title is not just an acknowledgement of increasingly sophisticated digital technologies and virtual realities reaching a new level of omnipresence in contemporary life; it also redefines animation as a mode of post-humanism. As she puts it, “animation in the narrow sense (a kind of cinema or video) is popular because animation in the broad sense (giving objects lives of their own) is good to think with—specifically, to think through what is happening right now in the intersections of technology and capitalism, of the global and the local, of the human and the nonhuman” (3). In one deft move, Silvio provincializes Japanese and American animation, which is after all just “a kind of cinema or video,” and finds a larger question that puts a relatively marginal mode of Taiwanese puppet animation at the center. Puppets, after all, are objects that exist precisely to have a “life of their own.” Continue reading