Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
The Anime Companion: What's Japanese in Japanese Animation? is a book by Gilles Poitras, and it was published in 1999. The book is an encyclopedia to some of the Japanese references that appear in anime that non-Japanese audiences may not understand or be familiar with. The book opens with an introduction, an explanation of how to use the book, and gives acknowledgments to individuals the author wants to thank.
The first actual page of the book shows icons and abbreviations used in the book, and explains what they mean. Entries in the book include buildings, structures, landmarks, clothing, culture, entertainment and games, food and drink, geographical features, history, nature, people, religion and belief, sports, and weaponry and war.
Most of the entries in the book have examples from anime or manga (but many times there are examples from both). Sometimes, Poitras includes asides in the text, such as explaining national holidays, anime references in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and other topics that don't fit into the main body of the book. There are also a number of illustrations and still pictures from anime programs to help illustrate some of the entries.
One issue I had was when Poitras would include references from anime and/or manga for things that are rather well-known outside of Japan. For example, the entry for "hashi" explains that this is a word for chopsticks. Most non-Japanese know what chopsticks look like, so they really don't need to be given references in anime or manga. At first, I thought it was simply to keep the entries consistent. However, I found two entries that don't have any anime or manga references listed ("ofuda" and "ume").
My only other real issue with the book was the fact that Poitras tended to rely on a small number of anime titles to use as examples in the book. I lost track of how many times Urusei Yatsura, Maison Ikokku, Ranma 1/2, and Blue Seed were cited.
Overall, I would recommend this book to all anime fans, regardless of whether they are new fans or are long-time otaku. As I read this book, it helped me to better understand some of the Japanese references that appear in various anime properties. And for me, with this understanding came a better appreciation for some of the details that appear in anime. The Anime Companion: What's Japanese in Japanese Animation? is a worthwhile addition to anyone's anime reference library.
In order to write this review, I checked out a copy of this book through the King County Library System.