Mechademia 9: Origins. A volume on Japanese popular visual culture (1/4/13)

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Mechademia is an annual volume published by the University of Minnesota Press for writing about Japanese visual and popular culture, including anime, manga, and fan arts. For volume 9 (2014), the editors of the series seek submissions linked to the broad theme of "origins."

The search for origins is as controversial as it is persistent. Many critics staunchly reject efforts to locate singular origins or answers in relation to meaning or interpretation, while others struggle to recover an original historical or cultural context for their texts. Some writing on anime and manga has tried to see Japanese popular culture as the reflection of a putatively traditional culture in which it originates, while academic criticism has frequently regarded these media as opportunities to uncover the recent or constructed quality of Japanese tradition, or to radically reconceive what contemporary Japan is or could be. And like film and newer media, anime has attracted the attention of scholars from a wide range of disciplines who have applied their own perspectives and methodologies to it, even as other critics argue that anime requires a radically different and radically original new approach.

With volume 9 we seek to shed some new light on these debates with articles that address the concept of origin in a sophisticated, original way. We are interested in submissions covering a wide range of different texts, approaches, and disciplines, particularly those underrepresented in Japanese popular culture criticism now. Possible topics include (but are definitely not limited to) the following:

  • Popular culture texts whose stories turn on the theme of origins or denial of origins: character origin tales; stories of birth, rebirth, and creation; metaphysics; history and prehistory; nationalism or cosmopolitanism; homecoming or diaspora.
  • The origins of manga or anime: the question of their premodern antecedents; auteurism and canonicity; national origins of manga and anime, and their non-Japanese versions.
  • Adaptations, and reproductions of "original" works: parody, pastiche, and dôjinshi; remediation; uniqueness vs. mass production; anime or film adaptations of manga, or manga adaptions of prose; franchises and media mixes in which a single story crosses multiple media and products.
  • Work that treats the notion of origin from the perspective of visual composition: visual hierarchies, reading order, page layout, flipping, flattening, etc.

Submissions should address the notion of origins explicitly, but as the list above suggests, contributors can come at this theme from many different directions. In order to represent a wide range of approaches and methodologies in this volume, we encourage scholars from various disciplines to relate their own ongoing work to this broad theme.

Essays may be up to 5,000 words in length, with shorter pieces also welcome, and we will consider submissions in creative, non-traditional formats as well. 

The deadline for submissions is January 4, 2013. Email manuscripts in MS Word format to submissions (at)

Mechademia uses Chicago style documentation. Further details are in the Mechademia Style Guide, available on our web site at