About Jonathan Clements

Dr Jonathan Clements is the author of many books on East Asian history, including biographies of Marco Polo, Admiral Togo, Khubilai Khan and A Brief History of the Samurai. His books are available in over a dozen languages, including Chinese editions of his biographies of the First Emperor and Empress Wu. He is the co-author of The Dorama Encyclopedia: A Guide to Japanese Television Drama Since 1953 and The Anime Encyclopedia: A Century of Japanese Animation (both for Stone Bridge Press). His book Anime: A History (British Film Institute) received a 2014 CHOICE recommendation as one of the year’s outstanding academic titles, and was nominated for the Society of Animation Studies’ McLaren-Lambart Award for best scholarly book. He is currently a Visiting Professor at Xi’an Jiaotong University, China.

p22-donoghue-clements-a-20150125-870x582He has worked as a translator, voice actor, or dubbing director on over 70 anime, including Grey: Digital Target, Sol Bianca, and Musashi: Dream of the Last Samurai. He was formerly the editor of Manga Max magazine, a contributing editor of Newtype USA, and is now a contributing editor to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, with special responsibility for China and Japan. In 2016, he became the presenter of the TV series Route Awakening (National Geographic), an investigation of Chinese culture and history.

As a script writer, his work includes the online hybrid sf series Halcyon Sun and audio dramas for the Big Finish company, including the Doctor Who radio plays Immortal Beloved and Brave New Town. He has also written spin-off novels for Strontium Dog and Spartacus: Blood & Sand. He has been a consultant and talking head on numerous TV programmes, including New Secrets of the Terracotta Warriors (Channel 4), Treasures of the Jade Empire (Channel 4), Koxinga: A Hero’s Legacy (National Geographic) and Ancient Black Ops: The 47 Ronin (UK Yesterday/American Heroes). His biography of Empress Wu has twice been optioned for television.

Jonathan Clements is represented by the Fox & Howard literary agency.

P1140138Schoolgirl Milky Crisis (n.) 1. A stupid name for a generic anime
show, made up to protect the innocent in Jonathan Clements’
long-running insider columns about the Japanese comics and cartoons
business. (n.) 2. A collection of nearly two decades of articles,
speeches and interviews by Jonathan Clements on anime, manga, and
Asian culture, published by Titan Books. (n.) 3. This blog, containing
excerpts from the above and all-new material as when the Big Giant
Heads allow.

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11 thoughts on “About Jonathan Clements

  1. Hello, I’m ever so sorry to trouble you but I stumbled upon an essay recently which referenced one of your columns in Neo magazine (covering the publication Dear+). It’s regrettable that I didn’t see the article when it was originally published or I’d have written this sooner.

    I’ve made the assumption – based on the enormous popularity of your writings and the lack of visible comments on this page – that this form goes to you directly. If it doesn’t and this is posted in public, then please can all readers be aware that the following link contains imagery and wording which is absolutely NSFW:

    http://japaneseliterature.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/in-defense-of-fujoshi/

    I don’t especially agree with the first part of what the writer says about your column. That’s their own interpretation. However, I do have an issue with the excerpt they quoted directly – not just on a personal level, but also factually. If I’m understanding correctly, you are spreading the idea that females who love BL are actually indulging in the same kind of fantasy as a traditional stereotyped straight male lusting after his idealised ‘waifu’. I’m not saying that our fantasies are any less stupid and unrealistic, only that I most vehemently disagree with your reasoning.

    It is very likely that girls of the type you describe exist out there; possibly they’re the kind you’ve spoken to most frequently. However, on behalf of the BL community who don’t fit into this generalisation (which would appear to be most people who read BL in both Japan and the English-speaking world, if my experience is anything to go by), I wish you would resist making such unfair remarks on a platform (Neo) which attracts a lot of newer fans. BL collectors are already on the receiving end of an awful lot of mockery and demonisation for their hobbies. It concerns me to think about the strange assumptions that those fans might be making from the part of the column that was singled out.

    To be clear, never once in my years of reading BL has the thought crossed my mind that I want to become personally involved in a BL story or with the characters within one. Never. I’m not lying to myself, and I’m not knowingly hiding any dark side of the fandom where we all secretly entertain the idea of swooping on these boys who are playing around with one another in their youth. The slang in western fandom reinforces my belief that I’m not alone on this: teenagers throw around terms such as “OTP” and “shipping” to convey respect towards the bond between the characters they want to see getting together. And the same is true of original BL, such as that in Dear+. I was astounded to see it being proposed that the readers’ motives were more underhand.

    It’s not unfair to say that BL doesn’t do anything to help the cause of gay rights. Yet I’m not sure why this is often brought up as a problem – it’s not presented as realistic. The frequent use of science fiction, historical and fantasy elements as well as fanciful real world politics are big hints that the reader shouldn’t be expecting anything approaching a sensible story. I do think that at the very least BL makes it easier for female fans to sympathise with and want to understand real gay men, even if the content of their fantasy is openly worlds apart from the reality of a homosexual relationship.

    Perhaps the essay has treated your column unfairly, and there is more context earlier on (or in previous comments you’ve made) which gives reasons why you have concluded the entire genre is a vehicle for self-insertion. Perhaps you have read a few particularly strange stories in Dear+ which have given you this impression.

    If that’s the case, please disregard this message entirely and have a nice day. If not, though, I beg you to reconsider your assumptions about the genre and its fans. I’m sure you know that human sexuality isn’t such a simple thing as the column makes it sound.

    • Thank you, Rain, for your long and considered response. Like you, I was confused by Kathryn’s reasoning in her opening paragraphs, which appeared to be jumping into a fight with a bunch of people I don’t know, about assertions I have never made, about works I have never seen. She then went on to quote a passage out of context, in which I speculate about a subtext that appears in some of the manga under review. There was a lot of umbrage directed against me in her comments section, by readers who were keen to be offended by the prospect of what my article might have said, although none of them got around to actually reading it.

      There were some very interesting comments embedded in all of that, which is why I linked to it anyway from my blog here: https://schoolgirlmilkycrisis.com/2013/05/27/girls-who-like-boys-who-like-boys/ I did allude in my comments to some of the broader context of the original article, which is that it is just one in a decade-long appraisal of manga magazines in general. But I chose not to get further into an argument with people who, if they had actually read the article they were so angry about, would have realised they were already in agreement with much of it.

      Kathryn herself did raise a very interesting point, quoting the wonderful Dan Savage on the fallacy of regarding homosexual relationships as a half-hearted parody of the heteronormative. I see where they are both going here, politically, but I disagree. I see a *lot* of BL-manga that is precisely that, and I take that to be a reflection of the interests of editorial and indeed of the implied reader. As you point out, however, I have also seen a lot of BL-manga that is not, and that fits the ideals set by BL-manga apologists. I have written about those, too, on multiple occasions.

      The Manga Snapshot column is still ongoing in Neo magazine, and I remain extremely proud of it. My favourite reader’s letter was from a young man who wrote in to say that he grew up, closeted, in a small town in England, and that coverage of homosexuality in Neo was often the only lifeline he had to an outside world where he was not ostracised. I realise that you are likely to argue that this is precisely why I should cut BL-manga more slack than any other genre, as if it is some sort of protected cultural artefact, but I prefer to treat it the way I treat every other genre, with criticism and just a soupcon of snark. Sometimes, this forces me to say things that certain sectors will find unwelcome, such as my deconstruction of Waai! Boys in Skirts, which you can read here: https://schoolgirlmilkycrisis.com/2014/02/25/waai-boys-in-skirts/ . I don’t think anyone is served by my turning a blind eye to elements that do not match the grand narrative.

      It has been three years since the original article on Dear Plus was published (and indeed, almost as long since you wrote your comment, which I have only just seen). I have only one regret about the article, which was my use of the word “lonely” to describe the readers. It was an off-hand dismissal, added more for euphony than semantics, but was obviously triggering for a whole bunch of readers who are not lonely at all. It’s a shame, however, that so few of them appear to have read any of the Manga Snapshot articles. Considering how much they have to say about pieces they haven’t read, can you imagine the fun we would have talking about pieces that they had?

      Jonathan Clements

  2. Hi,

    I recently read your collection Zen Haiku and not only did I enjoy it but some of your commentaries were invaluable in my appreciation of the poems. Since I relied on your analysis with respect to a number of haiku, I wanted to give you due credit in a collection of my own which I intend to put up on Amazon sometime soon. Also I wanted to give you a heads of first. Anyways, thanks again and if you have any objections or questions feel free to let me know.

    Best Regards,

    Thomas

  3. Hi! I’ve had a bit of a history with the Japanese culture and awhile back I did some research which lead me to Anne Allison (Duke), Sharon Kinsella (Oxford I believe) and Hirokin Azuma (Waseda); each of whom have been involved in the anthropological study of modern forms of Japanese escapism. I’ve not read your book. (I will check it out for sure), but can you share your thoughts on child idolization, the role of idols like Seiko Matsuda (1980’s), and your insights on the history of child porn and incest in Japan and how these might be reflected in Japanese animation/manga and the potential effects of normalization? If this is in the book please refer me! Thank you! Also have you heard of the Petit Tomato series in Japan (circa late seventies and eighties)? My Japanese husband was a fan of it and loved what is referred to these days a fan service.

  4. Hi

    I hope you see this Mr.Clements since I could not find your email anywhere: I am contacting you because of an enquiry I have regarding the Japanese Economic Miracle. I am currently working on writing my Extended Essay, a 400 words research paper compulsory for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. I am writing about the Japanese Economic Miracle and my research question is “To what extent did the American occupiers of SCAP create the perfect environment for ‘the American dream’ in 1950’s and 60’s Japan?” The aim of my research is to outline how much of the economic growth was caused by the policies enacted by SCAP contrary to fiscal policy carried out by Japanese post-war politicians.

    I read you book “Modern Japan: All That Matters” and was wondering if it would be possible to interview you about the topic over email. If not, I would be very glad if you could direct me to someone with more intimate knowledge of the topic.

    Thank you for reading. I hope to hear from you.

    Kind regards,
    Fredrik Matre

  5. I just finished A brief history of the Vikings – really interesting.Re Odin on his eight-legged horse Sleipnir – it made be think of Eadweard Muybridge – was it always thought that the horse had 8 legs or was it the drawer’s concept of a 4-legged horse running – someone saw it and thought it was an 8-legged horse? Interesting…

    Best Rgds

    Brian

    • One theory was that the “eight-legged horse” was actually an oblique reference to four men carrying a dead body, “riding the horse of Odin” being a poetic reference to human sacrifice.

  6. I am currently finishing the last few pages of your Samurai history and I want to thank you for your amazing work. 20 years ago I married a Japanese woman here in Burnaby BC and we raised two kids and in 2012 at the age of 48 I decided to take a year off of my regular Canadian life and move with the family to Osaka Japan close to my wife’s parent’s home.
    Best thing I ever did. Although I had visited for numerous one month stints, the experience of learning a little bit of the language and teaching a conversation class at a small school in Hotarugaike ended up being priceless in my understanding of the culture. In between classes I would walk and ride my bike mile after mile to explore places like Ikeda castle, Ibaraki-Shi, Minoh and all description of Northern Osaka neighbourhoods and streets. You mention happiness on your financial site, well when I was living in Japan I had days of despair, mostly from perceived slights, and other days of exhilaration for the smallest bit of kindness from a Japanese stranger walking me for 5 minutes to a lost subway entrance! You mention an episode in your book where Matsuo Basho visits the site of Yoshitsune’s last stand and writes ” The summer grasses, As if the warriors were a dream”. This thought has inspired me to use your book as a guide for future travel in Japan as we go back and forth. I was intrigued to see, having just discovered your vast oeuvre online, that you’ve also written a book about Finland. I will be purchasing that one next, as my mother and I are paid up members of the local chapter of Canadian Friends of Finland!

    Best regards, as they are wont to say at my old English school,

    Dave Laprise

  7. Hey Jonathan, when is the US release date for your book “Christ’s Samurai: The True Story of the Shimabara Rebellion”? I’m finding conflicting info online and thought I’d go straight to the source.

    I just finished reading “Silence” and came across your book as I am now engrossed about the subject of Church History in Japan. I can’t wait to read it.

    Israel

    • Hello Israel. I understand that the official US release is on 4th April, but there are likely to be copies of the original UK printing that have already made their way to America. I imagine this is what has caused the confusion.

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