Mechademia 2: Networks of Desire

Ed reviewed the first issue of this academic journal comprehensively. In the interests of catching up, I will be much briefer when it comes to the second. I was intrigued by the theme, since it promised to explore sexual imagery, gender roles, and otaku fantasies.

Mechademia 2: Networks of Desire cover
Mechademia 2: Networks of Desire
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Unfortunately, the entries I sampled didn’t live up to the premise. I’d only read two of them when I remembered why I gave up reading academic works. I find them troublesome if you’re unfamiliar with the works under discussion, because you can’t easily evaluate the author’s positions or claims. If you are familiar with the work, then it’s frustrating to wade through the paragraphs of description, a poor substitution for showing examples of the work itself. Yet, due to ever-more-restrictive copyright laws (and possibly the costs of image reproduction compared to text), visual examples are few and far between. Plus, the tone is often dry, with flat statements following after each other separated only by footnote numbers.

The first section covers shojo with papers on The Rose of Versailles (which I would really like to read some day, instead of only reading about it), a museum exhibit called Shojo Manga, Ranma 1/2 fan fiction (is Ranma really shojo?), comparing The Stepford Wives to Kamikaze Girls (with absolutely no pictures, a terrible lack for an essay about doll-like appearances), and a yaoi story. This is a rather mixed bag, obviously.

The subjects strike me as either too much for the space of 12 pages or so or not really related to the topic. (I suspect, when it comes to assembling yearly journals like this, that many authors submit already written works that are loosely covered by the subject umbrella, and the editor has to select from what they have available.) Some start much too broadly, while others assume no familiarity with their topics and explain many basics to the reader (an unlikely assumption for the audience for this collection). Some seem just to want to write about a favorite anime or manga, with not much of an argument or position about it. This is not a flaw of this book, particularly, but of the expectations of academic writing and the conventions of the style.

My favorite piece was a short essay in the back by Trina Robbins about what a manga adapter does and why it’s a bad idea to get rid of them (a cost-cutting measure Viz has apparently taken in favor of one person who can both translate and rewrite). I’m very glad a series like this exists, but I can’t recommend it to a general audience. More popular journalism for me, please, with more pictures.

See more at the book’s website. Published annually, the next issue will focus on Limits of the Human and is due out in November. A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.


3 Responses to “Mechademia 2: Networks of Desire”

  1. Kevin Lighton Says:

    (is Ranma really shojo?)

    No. It ran in Shonen Sunday.

  2. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Johanna,

    I haven’t completed this issue yet, but here are my thoughts so far. The opening essay by Shamoon is brilliant. I love how she traces the history of shojo and enlightens us to the cultural influences of that genre. I learned a lot and have a better appreciation for the manga I read because of this article.

    The second essay by Toku and the fourth essay by Kotani are atrocious. I don’t think that either should have seen print. Toku has been a constant disappointment to me. Her writings are neither well written nor reasoned. She really needs an editor. The same goes for Kotani. I thought about a third of her essay was unnecessary information. It made the essay feel unfocused.

    I liked Mizuno’s essay. I might not agree with everything, but he did a good job supporting his interpretation. He presents some interesting ideas.

    Overall, I would say about half of this issue is garbage. The problem with a new journal in a new academic field is that they don’t have much room to be selective. I would rather see a much slimmer volume, than one with such uneven quality. I think Mechademia should seek to set a standard of excellence for this new field of study. It might mean hurting some feelings, but better that than having the field become the laughing stock of academia.

  3. Mechademia 4: War/Time » Manga Worth Reading Says:

    [...] with previous volumes, Mechademia has limited success getting all the articles to fit within this framework. [...]




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