- Preface: The Limits of the Human
Everyone, regardless of his or her position in culture or location on the earth, is aware of a distinct shift in the idea of what is human. Those who fear this change rage against science and technology as the harbingers of what is, from another point of view, the inevitable evolution of humanity. Those who embrace this change are unsure of what to call this moment, how to summarize the movement, when to say, “This is it.” And within this rupture in history, wars are being fought with these changes as the unspeakable, unsayable, unrecognizable, and unpronounceable subtext.
In our game, evidence of change and expanded notions of the human abound, and have for at least three decades. Japanese anime and manga have offered innumerable narratives of humans in transition and postulated brave new human concepts with a quietly profound creativity and dazzling art. There is a constellation of prototypes: from the cyber-person, whose amalgamation with technology offers myriad possibilities as well as certain pitfalls, to the grotesque, whose fuzzy yet noble additions require us to look differently toward ourselves and our fellow inhabitants, to the more subtle, more metaphorical (and often metafictional) intellectual and perceptual shifts that have dominated Western fiction in the past two decades.
This volume of Mechademia asked for a map of the terrain of the new humanities, using the cast of characters created for anime and manga as guides and the narratives as signposts to begin to discover how to speak, say, [End Page ix] recognize, and pronounce out loud these new limits and potentialities. The artists and authors of this issue speak from different positions and locations but sing of this evolutionary shift in a condensation of voices inspired by the narrative and artistic power of Japanese manga and anime.
With this map in hand, we hope for a new understanding and a new level of compassion for the Other, that the different, the emerging, the transitional be accorded a place at the table. We ourselves have been seen as different, as otaku. We should be among those who lead the way in an investigation of the new limits of the human.
This book owes its wonderfully crafted form to Mechademia’s associate editors, Christopher Bolton and Thomas LaMarre, who worked especially long and hard, beyond the call of duty, to assure its high quality and fascinating content. [End Page x]
Frenchy Lunning is a professor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and codirector of SGMS: Schoolgirls and Mobilesuits, a weekend workshop there.