starlady: Hei poised to strike at sunset (sunset before the fall)
[personal profile] starlady
Written at the top: The English translation of the first two volumes of Yoshinaga Fumi's manga Oooku has won the 2009 Tiptree Award! How cool is that? Pretty cool, that's what.

Mechademia, vol. 4: War/Time. Ed. Frenchy Lunning. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

I feel that Mechademia has just been getting stronger and stronger since the publication of its first volume in 2006; while this volume doesn't surpass #3 (Limits of the Human), it's just as good. And since this is the last volume which I will be able to discuss with any real degree of objectivity, I'm going to do so.

In his introduction Tom Lamarre argues persuasively that war/peace is a false dichotomy, that the modern industrial capitalist state is predicated on the existence of war somewhere, and it's really hard to disagree with him. (My inner classicist makes noises here about the circling of modernity back around to one aspect of the ancient; namely that in Greek one declares not war but peace, war being the default state.) But by foregrounding the falsity of that binary, the editors are attempting to call attention to it, and thus to open a space for criticism of it.

The first essay in the volume, Gavin Walker's "The Filmic Time of Coloniality: On Shinkai Makoto's The Place Promised in Our Early Days", is one of the strongest in the volume. Walker argues persuasively, among other things, that PPED by problematizing history effaces the present, leaving it and the colonial legacies that make it what it is unexamined.

There are only two papers on Oshii Mamoru in this volume, and they're both really good. Tom Looser writes on "Gothic Politics: Oshii, War, and Life Without Death"; I wish I'd read this paper earlier. Mark Anderson takes a scalpel of the extremely respectful variety to Christopher Bolton's essay on Oshii's Patlabor 2 in Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams in his "Oshii Mamoru's Patlabor 2: Terror, Theatricality, and Exceptions That Prove the Rule"; I couldn't help but apply what both of these papers are saying to life in the modern U.S. security state, and the comparisons are quite unsettling.

Christophe Thouny's "Waiting for the Messiah: The Becoming-Myth of Evangelion and Densha otoko" and Michael Fisch's "War by Metaphor in Densha otoko" are also both really good; Fisch in particular offers a fresh reading and critique of Densha. If I never read another Eva paper again it will be too soon, but Thouny makes some very good points about both narratives' camouflaged suspension of progress.

I also thought Dennis Washburn made some good points about Final Fantasy X in his essay "Imagined History, Fading Memory: Mastering Narrative in Final Fantasy X"; Sheng-Mei Ma also offers the vastly superior consideration of Kobayashi Yoshinori in "Three Views of the Rising Sun, Obliquely: Keiji Nakazawa's A-bomb, Osamu Tezuka's Adolf, and Yoshinori Kobayashi's Apologia." Michael Dylan Foster and Zília Papp both offer considerations of (the) war in the works of Mizuki Shigeru; I also really liked Rebecca Suter's take on Miuchi Suzue's manga, and Takayuku Tatsumi (in translation) on Endou Shuusaku and Yamada Fuutarou. (I for one did not know that the guy who invented fumie was a former priest. Wow.)

Anyway, a great volume, despite the usual obligatory strangeness in the form of a translated and flipped excerpt from the manga Daruma-san ga koronda by Yoji Sakate and Chinami Sango. The reviews were pretty good this time around, too, particularly Deborah Shamoon on the Casshern remake and Tim Perper and Martha Cornog on Paprika.

If any of this sounds interesting, all of Mechademia is now available on Project Muse for free, to those with access. [Obligatory denunciation of academia's opposition to the free dissemination of scholarship goes here.] You can also buy the volume directly, which supports more images in future volumes, and of course the Press. I recommend checking out other books by the University of Minnesota Press on popular culture and anime as well, particularly Azuma Hiroki's Otaku: Japan's Database Animals.