The Anime Encyclopedia – A review

“Worthless”

There, that’s my one-word review of The Anime Encyclopedia. I briefly considered “pointless”, which is also true, but that would still imply there is value. Many things are pointless when you think about it and they can still be very enjoyable. No such luck with The Anime Encyclopedia, though it does very much try.

Makoto for scale

This massive book is, allegedly, a record of every anime made from the early Astro Boy days all the way to the fairly-recent year of 2014. Its pages are crammed full off technical information and mini-essays on hundreds of different series, making it a valuable reference material for anybody who wants to know more about the series they have watched. I hoped to use it for my reviews as well, which isn’t going to happen because the book is wrong. And it sucks. And the internet exists.

Compiling all this information about such an exhaustive number of anime must have been a difficult and unenviable job, which raises the question of why they bothered to do it. Online anime databases have existed for years, many in the form of personal list websites where users can prowl the database and keep track of everything they have seen and would want to see. On a purely objective basis, the encyclopedia has no ground to compete with such websites. The technical information is many times scarcer than what you’d find on AniList, MAL, or AniDB. Especially with larger franchises, the information is also way less comprehensively presented.

Not to mention, websites come with nifty search functions and suggestions, making it easy to find what you are looking for. The encyclopedia strictly follows its own guidelines for names, so not only do you need to know what a show is called, it has to be the specific English translation that the book uses. This leads to curious situations like All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku being listed as Catgirl Nuku Nuku, even though that is not consistent with the Japanese title or the Discotek release that I own. To this day I have still not been able to find some anime in this book, either implying they are too difficult to find or just absent entirely.

But let’s get to the real juicy bit: the factual mistakes. Besides listing the runtime and staff of an anime, each entry also goes accompanied by a plot summary, the author’s subjective opinion about the anime, and trivia if any is available. This is written in a frustratingly smug style, perhaps well-earned if you compiled a list of every anime ever, though not when you have very obviously not seen those anime. A mistake here and there could be excused, but it’s incredibly poor form to write a review about a piece of media you haven’t interacted with beyond its Wikipedia page.

The most offensively bad summary in the book is that of Disgaea, the 2006 anime adaptation of the cult classic strategy-RPG series. The encyclopedia never mentions Etna and instead attributes her role in Disgaea‘s story to Flonne, who they then also mistakenly call Fionne instead. Such mistakes are unacceptably plentiful. The book thinks the remake of Yurumates is a sequel, it wrongly lists Dog of Flanders as taking place in Brugges as opposed to Antwerp, and it refers to the renowned Berserk character Griffith as Griffiths throughout its plot summary. Keep in mind that this is the third revision of the book by now and it’s still nowhere close to being remotely accurate.

My trust eroded more each time I consulted the book on something and, at that point, why even use it at all. If I have to fact check every time I read the darn thing I might as well look up the information myself. I like reading what others write about shows that I enjoyed, but that too I could do online and then I could at least be relatively certain that the reviewer has seen the anime.

Sure, the encyclopedia has an impressive scope to it, but that just means it’s a tremendous amount of sloppy work. I can’t fathom who the book is for, as it fails both as a source of information and opinion, while also just being horrendously outdated in its format. I am a grumpy old sod who likes his media physical, but I’ll take AniList over this any day.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Scott says:

    Damn, I’m glad I didn’t plan on getting this then.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. AK says:

    This really is a bizarre item. I can see a book like this coming out in the 90s, or maybe even in the early 2000s, but we’re well past the time that anyone with any sense is publishing massive references like this in physical form maybe aside from very specialized material like legal codes.

    Even setting that aside, that synopsis of Disgaea alone would have been enough for a one star review and the trash can.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Casper says:

      The Disgaea entry was the point where I completely gave up on the encyclopedia and decided this article needed to be made. I can’t fathom how they got it this wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. alsmangablog says:

    Ouch! Sounds like a pretty sloppy book.

    I think I used to own an earlier edition of this, or at least something that was very similar too it. It was kind of interesting to flip through but I totally agree that an encyclopedia like this isn’t very useful in the internet age, especially if it’s full of errors.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ospreyshire says:

    That encyclopedia looks like a big sack of nope. PASS!

    Liked by 1 person

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