Thursday, June 4, 2009

Book Review: ASTRO BOY AND ANIME COME TO THE AMERICAS by Fred Ladd, with Harvey Deneroff (McFarland, 2009)

If only Ladd and Deneroff had stuck to the premise of this book's subtitle: "An Insider's View of the Birth [italics mine] of a Pop Culture Phenomenon"! There are at least two or three distinct narratives sloshing around within this slender volume, and, for my money, the most intriguing of these was the first: the story of how Ladd -- virtually the only surviving member of the small group of Americans involved -- and pioneering creators in Japan joined forces to bring the "first wave" of anime (Japanese animation) to the United States. Ladd was there from the start, and he clears away a number of the remaining mysteries surrounding the production of Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and other beloved TV series of the 1960s. Once Ladd gets beyond this "comfort zone," however, the book becomes a grab-bag of factoids about more modern anime series. "Old sourdoughs" like me who prefer "those 60s shows" will have little interest in this material, while younger fans will find the coverage superficial. It's possible that Ladd and Deneroff included this later material simply to give the volume enough "heft" to sell to McFarland. While not exactly bad, the book's extreme unevenness makes it, in my view, a marginal purchase for general animation fans, to say nothing of anime devotees.

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