A Coming of Age in the Anthropological Study of Anime?

Introductory Thoughts Envisioning the Business Anthropology of Japanese Animation

  • Ryotaro Mihara Keio University


This article highlights how Anglophone anthropological studies of Japanese animation (anime) have overlooked its businesspeople (such as producers, investors, merchandisers, and entrepreneurs) by formulaically advocating anime creators and fans as crusaders subverting the global dominance of Euro–American global entertainment capitalism. Contextualising such orientation as an example of what Gayatri Spivak calls “strategic essentialism”, the article further explores how to break out of this essentialist impasse of analysis in the anthropological approach to anime. The article suggests that a potential exit might exist through envisioning the business anthropology of anime, i.e. by casting an ethnographic focus on anime’s businesspeople as the legitimate interlocutors for anthropological inquiries into anime. The author further explores the preliminary theoretical implications of this analytical turn through his own business ethnography of an international start-up venture of anime merchandising.

Author Biography

Ryotaro Mihara , Keio University
Dr. Ryotaro Mihara is a sociocultural anthropologist and an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Economics at Keio University (Yokohama, Japan). He acquired his doctoral degree in 2017 from the University of Oxford (Anthropology), and held the position of Lecturer in International Management at SOAS University of London from 2016 to 2019. His research focuses on the creative industries (particularly Japanese animation), entrepreneurship, brokerage, and cross-cultural management. Before entering academia, he extensively developed his professional career in the creative industries sector as one of the founding members and Deputy Director of the Creative Industries Division of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and as an overseas cross-cultural business consultant for Japan’s foremost advertising firm and for an Indo–Japanese anime start-up venture. His current interest lies in examining how the activities of entrepreneurs (especially their brokerage activities) span the boundaries of Japanese creative industries’ business in the Asian region. At present, he is conducting fieldwork on Japan’s international film co-production projects with China and other Asian countries. He may be reached at rmihara@keio.jp.


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