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Mechademia #2, Return of the Anime Literati!

October 26, 2009

We continue our scholarly pursuits by reading book two of the Mechademia series entitled Networks of Desire. I am personally glad to see that the University of Minnesota Press is still able to put of these books with a 4th coming soon. It’s gratifying to see a healthy forum for academic anime publications. This volume was printed a year after the first Mechademia so we are examining not only the essays within book but what changes and improvements have been made since their freshman effort.

We are always trying to broaden our horizons here on Reverse Thieves. One of the quickest ways is to really sit down and read a bunch of essays that you only half understand! Okay, so Mechademia isn’t that impossible to understand, but it certainly makes you take a closer examination of series or parts of fandom that you might not have before. There is a wealth of knowledge in this new volume!

The Shojo section is papers based around female-targeted manga and female otaku related issues. None of the essays had too high a level of prerequisite amount of knowledge needed to understand any of the articles. My favorite essay in the section was the article of the Rose of Versailles and it’s impact on shojo manga. As a huge fan of Rose of Versailles I enjoyed learning of it’s historical impact, back story, and behinds the scenes information on the manga. There is also a fascinating piece in the section about Mori Mari one of the founders of yaoi. The article looks at how yaoi works relate to both it’s primary female audience and the gay community in Japan. I am always interested in the gay community’s reaction to yaoi in any country. There was a solid article on Ranma 1/2 fan-fiction but I felt it was out of place in the section. While I admit the common perception is that most fan-fiction authors are girls this is hardly a hard and fast rule. Still the article was a interesting look at how fan-fiction has grown out of and changed anime fandom and fandom in general.

I was happy to see a paper about the influence of Rose of Versailles for multiple reasons beyond my fervent love for the series. The essay balances what was new and impactful about the story while weaving in the historical aspects of the famous manga. I learned a bit myself and the essay gives access for people to learn and understand a genre that, while not invented by her, was certainly taken by the reins and changed significantly by Riyoko Ikeda. The Doll Beauties essay was not about anime or manga, heck it wasn’t even about cosplay of characters from anime or manga, it was about the gothic lolita trends making it seem out of place while being well thought out. And while I thought the Mori Mari essay was a smart analysis, it was really more about the author and her relation to her father rather than being tied to yaoi’s rise and popularity. I’ll agree that this area of of the anthology is the most accessible, it’s all uphill from here.

The Powers of Time shows how the politics of the time have effected anime. The first essay looks at how the Japanese look the film The Thief of Bagdad and transformed it into The Thief of Baguda Castle a remake of  with a distinctly Japanese feel. It uses the differences in the film to gain an insight into pre-WWII Japan. The rest of the articles in the section use various anime such as Blood: The Last Vampire, Space Battleship Yamato, and Silent Service to examine the complicated relationship between Japan and the U.S. The U.S. occupation and Article 9 come up in all the articles and how the various anime anime reflect Japan’s love/hate relationship with America. I was slightly surprised by one of the author’s analysis of Yamato not being anti-American which is not something I usually hear. I have always found the relationship between Japan and the U.S. after World War II complex and at times contradictory so reading some essays on the issues were quite interesting. I can’t say that I agree with all the points made I did find the essay well thought out.

Racial relations and military politics are complicated, sticky subjects but all of the essays in this section take them on rather well. Both the essays involving Silent Service succeed twofold, one in making me think more about the politics at the end of WWII between Japan and America and two in instilling in me with the need to watch the show. I too was surprised but also incredibly impressed with the analysis of Space Battleship Yamato and how it could be interpreted to reflect a Japanese wish to have been a hero in the war against the Nazis in hindsight. The piece on Blood The Last Vampire was well throughout but also came off as a more abstract look at these complicated political ties.

We are then subjected to a very self indulgent piece with pictures from an anime convention with the photographers philosophy called Bridges of the Unknown: Visual Desires and Small Apocalypses. He examines fandom and the role of the observer in its analysis. For some reason more than anything else this just ticked me off. It seemed self obsessed mixture of navel gazing and congratulatory masturbation while not really saying anything that interesting or profound. Following this is the Animalization section about fetishes and sexuality in anime and manga.  The Animalization of Otaku Culture is a dense look at the growth and effect of moe on modern anime. There is an excellent translated piece by the cultural critic Azuma Hiroki on moe. Although it it was one of the densest articles in the book I think it would be an enlightening read to anyone who is interested in moe regardless if they like it or not. My favorite article in the book was one that examined Porco Rosso. It shows while hardly being dirty Porco Rosso is the most mature of Hayao Miyazaki works with definite sexual themes. We also have different looks at Japanese sexuality using Malice@Doll and Futari Ecchi. The Futrai Ecchi essay was an interesting introduction to the title and what it says about how the Japanese learn about sexuality. The Malice@Doll I feel reads quite a bit more into a title that might not warrant it.

While the first essay in this section, Malice@Doll: Konaka, Specularization, and the Virtual Feminine seemed atleast partially grounded, I couldn’t shake the feeling of someone just trying to justify a piece of pornography that they thoroughly enjoyed by assigning meaning and depth to everything found in the show. But on the other hand I have not seen Malice@Doll however this essay didn’t make me watch to rectify that. On a similar note, the Futari Ecchi essay I also felt sometimes reached too far with its praise. This work I did go take a look at after my reading. While the series is certainly educational, there is little doubt that it is also meant to stimulate its reader. This is easily seen in its choice of character design as well as camera angles among other things. However, it’s a pretty brilliant way to try to teach young males about sexual relationships. Not straying from the sex themes but decidedly more tame is the Porco Rosso essay which I too found very sharp in its analysis of the underlying meanings and hints given in the story. This felt especially intelligent because of Miyazaki’s somewhat wholesome image from his films. On the tail end was a look at Evangelion which I can with certainty I barely understood at all.

Horizons his three essays on the analysis of four different anime and how they deal with human relations. The is a solid and through provoking article on Haibane-Renmei which attempts to find meaning in a show that is meant to have multiple interpretations. The next article deals with Voices of a Distant Star and the Wings of Honneamise. It examines how both anime series look at relationships over a distance. Both are excellent picks for the discussion and work well even though I am hardly a fan of The Wings of Honneamise (which of course makes me a bad person). There were also two very high level articles on various themes Evangelion and RahXephon respectively. While I generally understood the overall message of both articles I feel much of the nuances were lost on me seeing as I don’t have a degree in psychology.

This section had some solidly written pieces. The essay looking at Haibane-Renmei was provocatively beautiful despite my never having seen the series. The author really captured and created the world in the essay which is so helpful (and probably was to whoever else was reading it and not a fan of anime). As I said, I have not seen it, but this essay had me fully convinced of its meanings. While not having much love for Wings of Honneamise, I make up for it with my intense feelings for Voices of a Distant Star. This was an essay that I felt close to especially since we recently talked about the film as well. I am not sure how solid the RahXephon essay was in comparison because it was way above my knowledge. 

Like the first Mechademia the reviews and commentary section holds a collection of shorter essays and reviews. My favorite piece was, Crazy Rabbit Man: Why I Rewrite Manga, the little essay on the art of rewriting manga. I always like a look behind the scenes of manga translation. The essay very effectively conveys the importance of rewriting the possibly dry and sometimes neigh incomprehensible literal translated script into something entertaining to read.

The reviews and commentary section was good but not incredibly striking. Though once again we see a dissenter of Takashi Murakami’s philosophy behind his work. You may remember there was a large essay about him in the previous volume of Mechademia. I also found the Crazy Rabbit Man piece fascinating but also it was quite bitter at the end when she basically states that companies are opting for people who can both translate and do the rewrite, which she can’t. Having met quite a few of these dual types, I can say the companies aren’t losing a great rewrite ability. These short pieces peppered in help to break up the more length and deep discussions posed.

With a year of experience and a wider range of number of contributors I have noticed some changes in Mechademia. For one thing, there are less “what is anime?” type papers. While it means you get more meaty papers it also means more papers that are meant for high level academics. I am curious if it was just I was not well read enough to fully digest those papers or if that is a more common sentiment. They shouldn’t reject those types of papers because they are the type that the journal is trying to promote. I liked the fact that they had themed sections in the book as it gave the papers a much more unified feel. I do feel that some of the papers were shoehorned though. But overall the articles challenged me and most of them taught me something. I look forward to reading the next book soon.

There certainly was a lot less of the introduction to the medium/idea of anime seen here for which I am grateful. Honestly, anyone who is going to pick up this book knows atleast that much about anime. As for the level of required reading before this book, in some instances it was enormously high but for the most part the collection remains accessible. This is one of the most important factors to me. New, difficult, or complex theories can be explored without alienating those who have not done intense research on the subject. The best academic essays enrich the reader, not shut them out if they haven’t gone to grad school. And for the most part, I found Mechademia 2: Networks of Desire to do just that.

Top 5 anime and manga papers I would like to read
5. Eastern Dragon and Western Tiger: A Comparison of Modern Japanese and US Anime Fandom
4. Art inspiring Art: The History of the Doujinshi Movement
3. The Manga Demographic That Leapt Through Time: How Social Issues Have Influenced Shojo Manga
2. Like Master like Student: An Examination of the Influences of Manga-ka on their Proteges
1. Old School Vs. New School: An Analysis of the Ever Shifting Fan Culture of US Anime Fandom

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19 comments

  1. As part of my ongoing quest to steal the ideas of others and claim them as mine, I own and have read a lot of the “scholarly analysis of anime/manga” books. Yet in the case of pretty much all of them, I can’t help but shake the feeling that what I’m reading is complete BS.

    I don’t know what prompts this mental note. But every single time I read or hear something from Susan Napier, Roland Kelts, Ian Condry, and the like my instant reaction is “my God, you are so full of it” even though I myself have certainly NOT done a lick of research into the matter in question. Have I been infected by rampant anti-intellectualism? Or are there others besides myself who mostly read Mechademia for the translated essays by Japanese writers, and can take or leave the remainder?


  2. Daryl:

    There’s a number of things you might be feeling or registering when reading those articles.

    Perhaps it’s the doubt you get when a jump in logic seems too large for the point presented to seem relevant. You ask, “how did they go from that evidence to THAT conclusion? What am I missing?” And while sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing where the writer is coming from, other times you realize it’s because they want to have a powerful thesis, and so will make extraordinary leaps just to keep in line with it. This is all wrapped in a cloak of defense which tries to legitimize anime and manga for fellow academics, and the result is that points aren’t made as a result of evidence or even things which come from the shows themselves, but from how they line up with certain prevalent philosophies in academics and literary theory etc.

    I’ve read some of Mechademia 2, and the articles that jump out at me as having similar issues are the one about Ranma fanfics, and the one about giant robots. The Ranma one may have made some good points, but the way it introduces itself, about 3 or 4 pages without a single mention of Ranma or fanfiction outside of the title, you start to wonder what in the world the author’s talking about. I’m here to read about your thesis on Ranma fanfiction, not the ways in which mass media have transformed thinking.

    The giant robot one’s problem is that towards the beginning of the essay, it says that when the pilot is male, the story is about pilot-in-isolation, whereas when the pilot is female, the story is about pilot-in-communication. Hey, that’s a great hypothesis. Now back it up with some examples. There’s plenty of shows with female pilots, and even more with male ones. But the author doesn’t, and we’re to simply assume that this is how it is. And then the essay turns into a reading of RahXephon, which is hardly indicative of giant robot anime as a whole, and the essay doesn’t even talk about in what ways RahXephon is or is not similar to its predecessors.

    While I won’t say that all the Japanese articles are golden, one thing I have noticed from more Japanese scholars on anime and manga than English-speaking Western ones is the ability to understand that anime and manga have their own sort of language and grammar when it comes to how a story is told or why the art or the panels or the timing are the way they are, and so approach the topic from inside manga outwards, instead of many western scholars who approach it from the outside inwards. This might attribute to a lot of the differences in how believable their writings are.


  3. Daryl, I’ve had the same feeling about the original Mechademia and especially Susan Napier. I don’t have a PhD and haven’t done any personal research either, but I can’t shake the feeling that most of anime academia complicates things just for the sake of being complicated. Do we really have a better understanding of anime and the culture it comes from if we arbitrarily divide it into three broad categories? And what evidence can we base ideas like, “the crater in Akira represents a man’s anus,” because, frankly, that sounds like bullshit? It seems to me that most of what I’ve read have been straw men theories. When I mentioned this to a couple friends in the local anime club, they told me that ALL literary academia uses straw men. Since my academic interests are in the sciences and not literary analysis, I dropped the issue. But that made me wonder- if that’s true, what’s the point of it all? I only want a better understanding of anime- do I have to sacrifice reason to get it?

    And in response to Daryl’s question: not to flatter you or myself, but I think that asking this question honestly is very intellectual. “Anti-intellectualism” would be never bothering to find out if we’re wrong.


  4. Questioning the legitimacy of such works it is rather the logical thing to do. Even when sufficient evidence is presented you should still be thinking about it thoroughly. But I still find reading through these essays to be a good exercise in thinking more deeply about anime, even if (or maybe especially if) you come to the conclusion that it was all BS.

    We also had major issues with Susan Napier’s essay in the first Mechademia.

    -Narutaki


  5. I’d just like to point out that “the crater in Akira represents a man’s anus” is the new “the Akira manga is better than the anime (even though I’ve never read it).” There is, in fact, historically-academic context to Napier’s statement (even though it ultimately makes no sense).


  6. Daryl, there has also been a similar backlash as yours in recent years within film studies itself to that very sort of writing:

    http://ani-nouto.animeblogger.net/2009/09/11/j-p-meyer-on-studies-of-visual-arts/

    (That said, I own a copy of Japanamerica and I never saw that kind of writing in there. It was like, actual research!)


  7. Bradley:

    My experience with anime clubs leads me to believe that a lot of the people who attend anime clubs tend to either shy away from artistic/literary/fictional theory, or will denounce it entirely as an exercise in futility and outright making-things-up. Is that the case with yours, you feel?


  8. SDShamshel:

    The problem, as far as I can tell, is indeed that the academics don’t really grasp the actual subtext of manga and anime. The defense for this is, generally, “one reading does not invalidate another reading” which is very very true–according to reader-response theory, two different people will construct two different readings from the same material–but at the same time it can be the academic equivalent of bullet-time for dodging criticisms of their criticism.

    I haven’t picked up Mechademia 2 yet, but I’m willing to bet that the giant robot article is a perfectly fine reading and thematic analysis of RahXephon. The problem appears to be that it presents itself as something much bigger than a reading and thematic analysis of RahXephon. Which is exactly the problem: making overbroad, hasty generalizations.


  9. I would only add that academia is only as inbred as we allow it to be. There’s no reason someone like Daryl can pick up his own feelings, come up with a thesis that explains or substantiates his feelings, and research it. To me that would be the intellectually honest thing to do. And for Daryl he even has enough tools at his disposal, with his creds and social network.

    In other words, I think it’s perfectly okay to raise any objections you have as long as they are thought out. But you need to raise them. I am sure the likes of Napier would love to consider any constructive criticism you may have on their ideas. Criticism is a part of academics.


  10. This is a really interesting discussion, for me personally. As someone that is neither am academic any more or really qualifies as a ‘hardcore otaku’ I always find myself trying to bridge this divide when it comes to writing about anime.

    If I watch or read something – anything – if I don’t find myself mulling over themes or ideas in the work I’m always hugely dissapointed. But at the same time I do find a lot of academic writing on anime to be intelectualising to the point of near-nonsense. I guess there’s a middle ground that me and some other writers are trying to fill? I’d like to think there’s an audience out there for accessable but mature commentary.


  11. Whereas an anime journalist will describe an anime or manga and then try to make an argument for why it’s good or bad, interesting or boring, the anime academic will describe an anime or manga, and then try and make an argument for its relevance to a theory.

    Not only its subjective qualities as a work, but its original context and methods–the matters that might concern the journalist–are less important to the academic than seeking to demonstrate that the work is relevant or can be understood through particular theoretical approaches that were, of course, developed by people other than anime and manga artists.

    The journalist is discussing the work in of itself, or in relation to other works, or, perhaps, its relation to broader issues or events, but the academic is in a position similar to someone who’s sponsoring a pledge into a private club or society. That pledge has to show itself to be acceptable by that particular society’s rules, customs, and beliefs; when queried, it is expected to dress in a certain way and respond in a certain way. That doesn’t mean it loses its individuality–the anime or manga still is whatever it originally was–but the academic’s goal is to have it newly accepted within the working context of their professional peer group, and it is presented accordingly.

    Having said that, I think academic writing on Japanese pop culture can have value to the non-academic fan. The jargon and references aren’t deliberately meant to irritate the non-academic; it’s just de rigueur in that type of specialist writing, like kaomoji are on 2ch. If one perseveres, academic writing on anime can sometimes offer insights the non-academic fan can also accept as interesting or valid; but the intended audience of such a work are academics, and moreover, academics who are not necessarily anime fans per se.


  12. I think Carl hit the nail on the head.

    I’ve read a lot of academic papers on films and literature and often find myself thinking “Really? Seriously…really?” However, I’m not in the academic field and would say I’m more on the journalistic side of things; so more often than not I am looking for a journalistic view on whatever I am researching. I’m not the academic’s target audience.

    That isn’t to say that academic studies on the subject matter I’ve read haven’t provoked some thoughts of deeper analysis or at least made me think about something I hadn’t before in regards to the topic.

    I would almost liken it to comparing a piece which was made for an interested general audience, such as Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, to a symposium on the same subject presented to fellow experts in the field. The language and presentation are going to be very different, despite them dealing with the same general subject matter. The subjects an interested general audience will find important often won’t be the same subjects that the literati found to be important.

    They don’t ask or really even concern themselves with “was this anime/manga good, and why?” They’re more interested on how it has impacted a micro-society, or whether or not it challenges some specific theory, or whether some new theory might be gleaned from the work. When presenting their thoughts. I believe it’s kind of an understood rule that they for the sake of brevity omitted the passage: “Now, for the sake of argument, assume what I just said was actually all true,” preceding their conclusions.


  13. I like the discussion on this review a lot. It’s been two years since I read this, so I can’t offer more than some vague remembrances. I thought the Rose of Versailles piece was brilliant. It’s what I like best in academic writing, taking a subject and just digging in deep to its history and significance. I also enjoyed the Malice@Doll piece and rented the anime shortly after reading it. I don’t agree with everything presented, but it’s well written and argued. Overall, my impression of this issue was that about 1/3 of it was garbage that shouldn’t have been printed. There were pieces that were poorly written and pieces that were poorly argued.
    The first two issued of Mechademia were uneven. I can tell you the third issue was a stellar jump in quality. It’s the first time I feel the journal actually lived up to its full potential. I highly recommend you read that issue. (You can read my review of the third issue here: http://comicsworthreading.com/2009/02/24/mechademia-3-limits-of-the-human/)
    As Carl pointed out there is a significant portion of academics who place theory over subject. I find this odious. It’s nothing more than proof texting to prove your theory is right. It’s disrespectful of the subject and doesn’t offer any real insight. However, there are still some good old fashioned scholars out there that put subject first. They just dive in and see what ideas present themselves. For me, this is the most interesting and engaging scholarship.

    Thanks for some great discussion.


  14. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton here: I cannot understand the people who take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of my blog. Or this comment. Or anything else I write.

    Carl:

    That is also what happens: journalism is concerned with criticism, whereas academia is concerned with Criticism. The former is marked by judgment, the latter by analysis. The problem with academic Criticism is that it’s highly inaccessible to the casual fan–not only due to the jargon and the background knowledge needed for the proper processing and registering of the Criticism, but also there’s a question of relevance. I find reading a good academic treatise can be a rewarding experience–but not always a relevant experience. I find literary theory to be interesting stuff, for instance (this is probably the result of talking to the Super Fanicom guys about Northrup Frye), but I don’t feel it has any direct relevance and bearing on what I do when I read a book (or, for that matter, watch an anime).

    What I want to see is writing that takes an academic approach to anime–or anything, really–but does so in a “journalistic” manner, with an eye towards making the academics relevant to the fanbase at large. To use a long-bandied about example, I can hypothetically do a Marxist reading of, say, GaoGaiGar, and do it well, but–really now–how many fans of GaoGaiGar are going to care about how that series interacts with Marx’s theory?

    But I think there are academic or intellectual approaches to GaoGaiGar that I think could be very relevant and interesting to someone who likes that particular franchise, mecha series in general, or even just anime in general. My natural inclination is to tend towards sociocultural and/or anthropological approaches, and I think that a piece placing the themes of GaoGaiGar into a cultural context would certainly be an interesting read, right or wrong.

    So, in other words, I think more people should steer a fine course between the Scylla of frivolous academia and the Charybdis of frivolous journalism.


  15. There are ideals of academic scholarship and the realities. They sometimes match up and they are sometimes diametrically opposed.

    Theoretically you take in a anime or manga and then use your related knowledge and research to extract meaning from the work and/or tie it to greater trends. Theoretically you are also open to other people’s interpretation. You don’t have to back down from your own theories but you give equal credence to other people’s theories, interpretation, and criticisms. That is the ideal anyway.

    In realty some academics go in with a theory and cut away anything and everything that does not fit the theory that they set out to prove before they even started. Other times people go in with odd academic fetishes or conceptions and it influences their conclusions. Some people wield their theories like weapons and do not take at all to criticism. Academia can be a petty petty place.

    All that being said people go to the hospital to be healed and sometimes they die anyway. But that does not mean we close down the hospitals. Despite all the flaws in the western academic study of anime the only way it will improve is for scholarly fans to see what is good and what is bad and then create their own papers that takes those lesson into account. So I will continue to read such works and hope that those who find legitimate fault this the field do their best to correct said faults.

    – Hisui


  16. Some academic writings on anime are still of interest to the non-academic, in that they may ask new questions or (most especially) do new research. There is no reason why an anime journalist couldn’t have been the first person to write a book on Mamoru Oshii, for example. But in fact it was an academic, Brian Ruh, who actually put in the hard work to do so–and even though I wasn’t familiar with terms like “trope” or “problematize,” nevertheless I learned facts about Oshii I hadn’t known before. In other words, the data an academic writer on anime assembles may have a value of its own, separate from the analysis applied to it. After all, a certain amount of what we fans “know” about anime and manga may actually prove, under examination, to be sentiments and traditional beliefs.

    OGT, I took the risk and looked at your site, and I agree with you about Diebuster. I actually wasn’t into it at first, but then, I wasn’t into the original Gunbuster at first, either ^_^


  17. As a graduate student interested in doing research on anime and manga, I really appreciate both this review and this discussion. Certainly, many academic pretenders such as myself get caught up in the tangle of theory and sometimes end up using words like “phallogocentric” (i.e., the shamelessly phallogocentric discourse of masculinity in Golgo 13) without really knowing what they mean. Because no one teaches us theory (which makes me wonder if the professors themselves understand it), young scholars can be clumsy and heavy-handed in their use of the tools it provides us.

    So yes, the bullshit factor is a serious consideration when it comes to academic articles on Japanese popular culture. We desperately want the texts we’re discussing to be taken seriously outside of our field, however, and the use of theory is the best possible means to attain this goal. If I can take a film like Akira and connect it to the formation of postmodern national identity and the trauma of the technologically fractured self (for example), then I can reach a much broader audience within academia than I could by explaining that the film is absolutely badass and needs to be seen by everyone with eyes and a DVD player (no matter how eloquent that explanation may be).

    Each academic essay on a particular work contributes to the process of academic canonization, which means that more anime and manga is going to be taught in classrooms, which means that many more people are going to join in the non-academic conversation about the media. As an added bonus, this whole process of cultural legitimization more than likely brings in more money to a struggling industry.

    In other words, academic theory is the magical second step following interest in Japanese popular culture that results in profit. For everyone. (^_^)


  18. SDShamsel:

    To answer your question in a roundabout way, the subject came up after we left a lecture by Dr. Paul Hanscomb on “Tales from the Floating ‘Hood: Arguing Japaneseness in Anime and Popular Culture.”

    My rough synopsis of the lecture isn’t to be entirely trusted, since the festival we heard him at was months ago and my memory is shaky, but it went something like this: The Boomers in Japan defined themselves by their extreme work ethic and productivity, but now that their economy has suffered a lengthy recession and cannot support that kind of lifestyle, the Japanese have been going through a lengthy identity crisis. “What does it mean to be Japanese?,” they ask, and Dr. Hanscomb selected four different anime that gave different views on who the Japanese are, and what they can do to find the vigor they used to have before the Lost Decade.

    I came away from the lecture invigorated and excited. Dr. Hanscomb made a convincing case for his theory, drawing on history, recent events, and the writings of Japanese social critics to support his ideas, and then threw new light on shows I had already seen. I felt like I had a better understanding of the Japanese after the lecture.

    Dr. Hanscomb also asked a question after the Q&A. “Why,” he asked, “does Japanese anime not have its equivalent of Batman?” In other words, why do heroes in anime seem to always come from the public sector? Where are the heroes like Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne who use their own money and resources to save Japan from destruction? The sticking point, of course, is whether or not there are no “Batmans” in anime. We suggested MITHRIL (Full Metal Panic), but he rejected that since MITHRIL saves the world and not necessarily Japan. We brought up other heroes and organizations, but they were all shot down for one reason or another.

    When we left the festival and got to the after party, one of my friends complained that the “Batman” theory was too specific, I said that maybe, but just that there was a trend gave some credence to the question, and he said this, and I said that, and then came up the straw man thing, and so on and so forth. Like I said, I can’t remember it all very well. I blame the sake tasting, several bottles of Japanese beer, and a Debutante Detective Corps and Sakura Diaries marathon.

    But I said all that to say this. Carl and OGT wrote some excellent posts about the nature of academia, and the points about how journalism and academia differ are all insightful. But speaking as someone who simply has a hunger to LEARN, it’s very frustrating to read an academic article that’s so inbred in other theories, and so eager to impress other academia by using convoluted theories that it’s impossible to tell whether or not it’s prima facie bullshit. I told you about Dr. Hanscomb’s lecture to give you an example of the kind of things I’d love to see more of in academia, even though I know that what I want doesn’t amount to a fart on a windy day. I suppose, in the end, I’m writing to vent some frustrations more than anything else.

    Alex Leavitt:

    What kind of theories could lead to an idea like that?! I wonder if they’re as imaginative as Napier’s conclusion.

    Daryl:

    I’m also curious what you don’t like about Roland Kelt’s Japanamerica, since I thought it was a well written, well researched book.


  19. […] up next week focusing on the Gundam essay. You can go back and read our reviews of the first and second volumes, […]



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