- IntroductionThe Second Arc of Mechademia
After the ten-volume Mechademia book series for the University of Minnesota Press was completed—a series that had spanned twelve years with annual seasons of creative interaction with scholars, fans, and illustrators—there was a period of discussion about what should follow. Upon reflection, we realized that the underlying project of Mechademia, as an annual international effort by writers from many different cultures, ethnicities, genders, and viewpoints to work together to create a wealth of scholarship in an often-ignored area of study, was, and remains, absolutely necessary. We had ended the book series with Mechademia 10: World Renewal (2015), which was our horrified response to Japan’s 2011 multiple catastrophes of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor crises. Mechademia 10 became a hope-filled recognition of the propensity in anime and manga narratives for world renewal. But what should follow this long look at an episteme of Japanese popular culture?
When editors at UMP urged us to create another Mechademia series, we sought to create something new, updated, and with a streamlined form and purpose. We also wished to recognize that anime and manga have become a pan-Asian, and even global, phenomena. Consequently, we moved to a broader mission, yet a tighter, cleaner style. We decided to develop a biannual journal rather than book series, and to concentrate on theory, discovery, innovations, aesthetics, and the deeper and even darker aspects of the edge of the culture, which lead us to the innovative, engaging, and even provocative style of scholarship that this journal will promote. While the first Mechademia series focused largely on Japanese popular culture—a trait that carries over into this volume—we wanted future volumes of the journal to include scholarship on media cultures and texts from across Asia, reflecting the rising interest in the popular cultures of South Korea, the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and Taiwan, among others. Future issues will be published in the spring and fall, with shorter but more focused volumes on topics of current interest to scholars of Asian art, animation, literature, film, comics-manga-manwah, video games, merchandise, digital storytelling, and other ever-emerging media. With our expanded critical horizon, new website, new graphic appearance, and a joining of the Mechademia publications with the International Mechademia Conferences, [End Page 1] we look forward with tremendous energy and enthusiasm to a new era for Mechademians everywhere.
With these goals in mind, there remained the question of how to begin Mechademia’s transformation from book series to biannual journal. Second Arc had been envisioned in these conversations to indicate both an extension beyond past practices and an incubator of fresh knowledge about anime, manga, and other forms of visual media now being born out of the intersection of national narratives and popular cultures around the world. When we pondered the topic of the first volume, the wonderful Wendy Goldberg—Mechademia’s first submissions editor and traffic cop extraordinaire—suggested “childhood,” recognizing the volume’s seminal position but, more importantly, as a response to the darkness of the final Mechademia book, which acknowledged the heavy responsibilities and longings of a beleaguered nation that sought postwar renewal on all levels of lived experience. The journal, then, was to be a rebirth—a “second arc” in the narrative of visual media’s creative potential in the face of crisis and opportunity. And so, “Childhood,” it became.
Childhood, as figurative beginning and a lived human experience, is not a known quantity. Though children surround us and we were all young once, the mysteries of childhood persist. For adults, childhood subjectivity becomes an aporia, in which we presume to know what it is like to be a child based on memories and experiences that exist only in the past tense, in a time we once knew but can no longer inhabit if we are to analyze it in the language of maturity. Childhood is that which is at once most familiar and intimate, being the foundation of our very selves, and most strange and distant, as we cannot ever fully recall what it was like to...