Full disclosure: I'm one of the contributors to this book, and a friend of the lead author. Obviously, that colors my opinion somewhat. Yet after finishing my read-through yesterday, I feel compelled to share my thoughts. Take them with the appropriate amount of salt, but I do promise to remain objective to the best of my ability.
The first thing you need to know about "Anime Impact" is what it isn't. It isn't a list of "making-of" facts and trivia. It isn't going to delve into behind-the-scenes anecdotes. If you're expecting to walk away knowing everything there is to know about the anime being covered here, you'll likely walk away disappointed.
What "Anime Impact" IS
is essays on how anime touches lives, framed around the greatest anime ever created. It's a love letter to the art, penned by folks who came upon their love through badly dubbed imports scrounged from old video stores and mail-order catalogs. And, speaking personally, that's EXACTLY what I looking for.
Over and over, I found myself marveling at how a contributor's personal experience with a particular anime mirrored my own. Jeffrey Timbrell's trauma when the Zentradi bombarded Earth in "Robotech." Emma Fyffe's inspiration at the female-forwardness of "Tenchi Muyo!" ... even if it IS just harem anime. Ernest Cline's joy at discovering "Cyber City Oedo 808" - a joy that prompted one of those frantic searches for a horribly dubbed VHS copy that those anime fans who grew up in the VHS era remember all too well.
Even when the experience wasn't related to my own, the way contributors bring bits of themselves into what otherwise might have been stuffy academic dissertations is wonderful. I don't need August Babington to tell me that Hayao Miyazaki's "Castle in the Sky" is a classic, but I sure do enjoy hearing how his discovery of "Castle" became one of the biggest nights in his life. And just try not to be affected by the story of how the Dragon Ball series literally saved Derek Padula's life.
Criticisms? I have a couple. Most of the contributors manage to inject a bit of themselves into their writing, but a few entries do fall into the "college dissertation" trap. Luckily, that's not the norm.
My larger issue, though, is the complete absence of stills or artwork. Here we have a book detailing one of the world's most beautiful art forms, and we can't get anything more than a couple drawings stuffed into the table of contents? I understand that Mango is an indie publisher and that the book already weighs in at 450 pages. Yet the exclusion of art make the entries look cold and clinical. Which is terrible, because that's precisely the opposite of what they are.
Still, I urge you to look past the bland presentation, because there's so much goodness to be found here. Again, no, you won't be slathered in facts and factoids. If that's all you want, you'll be better served by the plethora of anime fansites repositories scattered across the Internet. If you're looking for relatable stories of anime fandom, on the other hand, then you've come to the right place.
It's that relatability that makes "Anime Impact" particularly outstanding for folks who haven't yet bought into anime as a serious art form. These aren't people likely to be excited by anime trivia. Rather, they're looking for a reason not to write anime off as trivial. This book supplies those reasons. It perfectly articulates how anime can be just as (if not more) affecting than the Hollywood films most Westerners grew up with.
Which is to say, this book just might make a fan out of that non-fan in your life. And isn't that what we current fans want most? To spread our love of anime to others? I know I do. And I think "Anime Impact's" relatable recounting of classic anime can be just the thing to turn that trick. That makes it a win in my book.