Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

Lunning, Frenchy, Ed. Mechademia: Origins

Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

Lunning, Frenchy, Ed. Mechademia: Origins

Article excerpt

Lunning, Frenchy, ed. Mechademia: Origins. Vol. 9. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2014. 318 pp. Softcover. ISBN 978-8166-9535-5. $24.95.

Origins, the ninth volume in the Mechademia series, is an eclectic collection of essays manageable for both the adamant enthusiast of anime or manga and the academic interested in Japanese history, communications, cinema, and art. Particularly for a scholar addressing the complexities of the style's origin, this multifaceted approach encompasses a range of issues culminating in the question of whether anime and manga are products of Japan, or whether current Japanese culture is a creation of its products. This answer to this enquiry is left to reader interpretation and likely hinges on the amount of anime, both blockbuster and niche, with which the reader is familiar.

Lunning divides the volume into five distinct sections according to origin type: "epistemological, biological, national, historical, or textual" (xiii). The first section, "Subjects of Desire," includes three essays that cover, respectively, the loss and subsequent substitution of desired objects, portrayals of lesbian love in shojo manga, and the gendering of mechanical bodies from Meiji-era works onward. "Bodies in Motion," the second section, introduces the various forms and processes through which manga and anime are brought to the page or screen, from handcrafted, fragile charcoal to industrialized studios subcontracted to South Korean animators. Themes of the boundaries surrounding traditional styles of televised, animated, and otherwise produced anime and manga comprise the third section, "Boundaries," which questions how and whether these styles mark Japan as the physical origin of the art. The fourth section, "Rescripting History," takes a temporal rather than spatial look at how the production of this art reflects points in history and how its production may have shifted global perceptions of Japan. The essays in the concluding section, "Repetition, Remediation, Adaptation," examine how anime and manga were disseminated and received throughout other countries. The editor ends the volume with an essay mirroring discussions from the first chapter regarding anime as a response to nuclear war.

As a whole, the compilation invites further exploration regarding Japan's anime and manga production rather than providing a definitive response. The introduction by associate editor Christopher Bolton suggests that often essentialist answers are given that inflexibly claim Japan as the origin of anime (xii). In separate sections, however, a goal of avoiding reductive viewpoints of "Japan" is well met, given that the eighteen essays appear to encompass every topic from historical time and space to media production to psychoanalytic theory--each of which is applied to various anime and manga (xii). This diverse range of topics and primary texts makes the volume interesting, if slightly jarring, for readers conversant with the samplings or those wishing to find fodder for new viewing lists. Should readers approach the collection without sufficient depth of knowledge of anime and manga, however, they must rely wholly upon the authors' summaries in order to grasp the arguments made.

The first essay, Margherita Long's "Hagio Moto's Nuclear Manga and the Promise of Eco-Feminist Desire," compares two of Hagio's works, Nanohana and Sutaa Reddo, to discuss the artist's eco-feminist leanings in response to the Fukushima meltdown and other nuclear conflicts that are often left unexplored by academics (5). Although she provides the plot for Nanohada in such a manner that any reader could grasp the metaphorical links between the characters' lives and nuclear dangers, her presentation of the second work is less helpful. To readers unfamiliar with Hagio's works, the short description of Sutaa Reddo involving a galaxy-surfing young woman unwilling to "accept love as compensation for the destruction of her beloved planet, Mars" who then "teaches her lover . …

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