Mechademia #2, Return of the Anime Literati!

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.

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Sayonara, Mr. Fatty! Food for thought.

At first Sayonara, Mr. Fatty! might seem like a odd title for us to be reviewing but it is on target for several reasons. The first and foremost is the author: Toshio Okada. Okada is one of the co-founders and the former president of Studio Gainax. He also holds the title of OtaKing or King of Otaku. Okada has had such a huge impact on the Japanese anime community as both a person who has contributed to through projects he has worked on and as commentator and scholar of otaku culture. Secondly, it is an interesting piece of Japanese culture and literature outside of its context in the otaku world. Lastly, Sayonara, Mr. Fatty is just very good. It is more than just a diet book; it is a book that shares with you a method of approaching life.

My interest in this book was my many layered curiosity more than anything else. The memoir aspect was easily the most attractive feature of this self-help book. Like our Otaku Diaries project may suggest, we have a interest in the underlying personalities, habits, and thoughts of geeks. And Toshio Okada is considered one of the most famous geeks in Japan! The book sounded like a positive look at losing weight and not changing who you actually are. A person’s personal philosophy and story should make you think or consider things that you might not have otherwise. Also as an ex-overweight geek I was just plain curious what his method was. So with all directions pointed to picking up this book, I sped through it in a mere day.

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Mechademia #1, Attack of the Anime Literati!

Here at Reverse Thieves we try to entertain the notion that we are intellectuals. We like to think that sometimes we have tread new ground or started deep discussions. (Feel free to debate these ideas.) We also like to be engaged by others taking such lofty ideals and exploring them through anime and manga. So in the spirit of that Mechademia was picked up.

I first heard about Mechademia on an episode of Anime World Order. It intrigued me because as I get deeper into otakudom I become more and more interested in the mechanics of anime, manga, and the associated fandom. Where does anime and manga draw its inspirations from, what is its history, what makes stories captivate the viewer, and how does it effect society and how does society effect it in turn? I have seen individual papers being quoted and there are several books done by individuals that are quite informative but what I really wanted was a collection of papers from different authors. An anthology of analysis. My first sampling of such was Mechademia.

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