Second Arc

The Mechademia series continues twice a year from the University of Minnesota Press, edited by Frenchy Lunning and Sandra Annett. Mechademia: Second Arc is a scholarly journal devoted to the study of East Asian popular cultures, broadly conceived. To subscribe to the journal and order back issues, if available, see the journal page at the University of Minnesota Press. Because the print run for each issue is small, subscribing through the Press is the only guaranteed way to obtain physical copies of the journal.

Current & Back Issues

Vol. 11.1: Childhood

Vol. 12.1: Transnational Fandom, guest ed. Andrea Horbinski

Vol. 12.2: Materialities Across Asia, guest ed. Stevie Suan

Vol. 13.1: Queer(ing), guest ed. James Welker

Vol. 13.2: Soundscapes, guest ed. Stacey Jocoy

Vol. 14.1: Science Fictions, guest ed. Takayuki Tatsumi

    • Coming autumn 2021

Vol. 14.2: New Formulations of the Otaku, guest ed. Susan Napier

    • Coming spring 2022

Vol. 15.1: Modes of Existence, guest ed. Sylvie Bissonnette

    • Coming autumn 2022

Vol. 15.2: 2.5D Cultures, guest ed. Akiko Sugawa-Shimada

    • Coming spring 2023

 

Calls for Papers

All submissions should be sent to the Mechademia submissions editor. Please indicate the title of the volume you are submitting to as follows: “Submission–[volume name]” in the subject line. Submit two copies of your article as either a Word document or a PDF. One of these copies should be anonymized: do not include your name anywhere in the article (named citations of your own work are acceptable, provided you do not use first-person language to discuss the work in question).

Submissions should be 5,000-7,000 words and follow the Mechademia Style Guide, which is based on the Chicago Manual of Style. Figures are limited to eight per essay; image permissions are the responsibility of authors upon acceptance.

Vol. 16.1: Media Mix, guest ed. Marc Steinberg (due 1 July 2022; published autumn 2023)

“Media mix” names the practice of creating, marketing, and engaging cultural goods
serially across media types – from light novels and anime to toys and foodstuffs. In some
accounts it also means the system of practices termed transmedia storytelling; in others it names an ecology of practices and relations between media forms; in yet others it names the queer
potentialities or community-forming properties of fan-based practices around cross-media
serializations.

This volume of Mechademia: Second Arc seeks papers that shed new light on the media
mix as practice, as theory, or as history. Building on the work of the past two decades on the
topic, this special issue calls for new approaches and new forms of analysis of the media mix.
The focus of papers may be on individual media mix series; on the practices of a given anime
studio or game company; on the impact of streaming platforms on the media mix; on the
historical development of specific media mix models; on the ways different epistemologies can
bring out distinct histories of the media mix; or on the ways feminist or decolonial media
histories might challenge existing media mix paradigms. Papers may focus on a particular
outpost of media mix, for instance figure manufacturing and the politics of plastic use involved;
on the centrality of IP; or on the geographical composition of media mixes – from the
transnational nature of anime production to the dispersed manufacturing geographies of
production to the transcultural circuits of consumption and affinities created among fans of a
particular media mix series. Contributions may be conceptual or archival; may offer overviews
or a state of the field or focus on a particular area of intervention.

Authors are encouraged to be bold in both building on and rethinking existing paradigms.
They are encouraged to look to historical, spatial, and archival “elsewheres” in their analysis that supplement blind spots in existing research. And they are encouraged to engage new approaches from fields not yet centered in media mix analysis – from critical race studies to organizational
media studies to disability media studies to production studies to studio histories to platform
studies to sexuality studies. They may also expand the geography of analysis from Japan to
elsewheres that are equally impacted by the media mix, or that take up media mix-like practices.

Possible topics for this special issue include those noted above, as well as the following:

  • Media mix models or paradigms (including its parallel terms: cross media, transmedia,
    one source multi use, etc.)
  • Industry and media labor perspectives on the media mix
    Geographies of the media mix (i.e. physical or media geographies)
  • Material cultures and physical spaces of the media mix (the city, the retail store, the
    amusement park, the café)
  • Government promotion (“Cool Japan”), industrial policy, and the media mix
  • The media mix in China, Korea, other parts of Asia or the world
  • Media mix in the context of colonialism and empire
  • Narrative tropes, aesthetics, and media mix styles (ex: loop narratives, BL, slice of life,
    etc.)
  • The role of particular media – weekly magazines; animation; games; the internet;
    platforms like YouTube or Niconico Video or Bilibili; apps like LINE or WeChat – in
    generating particular models of the media mix
  • Animation or film studios and the media mix
  • Intersection of media mix and distribution systems – from the convenience store to book
    and magazine distributors (Tohan and Nippon Shuppan) to Amazon logistics to streaming
    platforms
  • Media infrastructures, logistics, and the media mix
  • Sound in/and the media mix
  • Environmental media and ecological approaches to the media mix
  • The media mix as it relates to time, seriality, and sequentiality

Any other topics and approaches are also very welcome.

Vol. 16.2: Media Platforms and Industries, guest ed. Bryan Hartzheim (due 1 July 2022; published spring 2024)

This volume of Mechademia solicits papers that investigate media platforms and industries surrounding the production and distribution of Japanese and broader East Asian popular culture, with an emphasis on subcultural or “ACG” (Anime, Comics, Games) media.

Media platforms dictate the commercial media that people see, read, or play. The anime and manga industries have distributed content via a number of domestic platforms from print magazines to television sets to movie theatres to computer screens. The most recent estimates from the Association of Japanese Animators put total anime industry-related revenues at over 2.5 trillion yen, nearly doubling in size from ten years ago. Some of this explosive growth has been fueled by an abundance of informal online platforms that stream anime series illegally, but anime is also now widely available internationally on legal channels, becoming essential to entertainment companies like Netflix and Sony beyond the occasional Hollywood live-action adaptation. On the flip side, Korean webtoons and Chinese mobile games dominate sales rankings in Japan via apps like LINE Manga or publishers such as Tencent, showing that comics and games production no longer flows from Japan to the rest of East Asia (if it ever truly did). Anime and manga distribution reflect this growing attention to the importance of global platforms in everyday life and the various structures, laws, and technologies that enable this multifaceted spread.

As streaming platforms have proliferated to become vehicles that distribute content to ever larger masses of people, attention and interest in understanding the processes of the media industries has also increased. The field of media industry studies, however, has largely centered on Hollywood and English-language media industries. While studies of the media mix and socio-economic overviews of the Japanese animation or games industries exist, much work on the media industries of East Asia can be done, particularly in promising research that extends beyond the macro-historical and into the production cultures of animation, comics, and games to understand the context behind this creative labor. This research is both scholar and fan-driven: historical examinations of women’s craft work in animation studios, ethnographic investigations of fansubbers, and analyses of the promotional surround of blockbuster films sit alongside YouTube videos examining “The Truth About Toei Animation” and blog posts decrying labor conditions for below-the-line in-betweeners. As content has become more ubiquitous and mediated via platform ecologies, the desire to see the human labor behind it has only intensified in an ever-expanding discourse of behind-the-scenes knowledge.

For this volume, then, we invite papers that address the spectrum of industries and platforms of popular media cultures in Japan and broader East Asia, specifically focusing on animation, comics, games, mobile communications, and their ancillary industries. We especially encourage papers that seek to integrate approaches from political economy, cultural studies, production studies, platform studies, and any other approaches interested in the people, policies, and institutions of the media industries in and around Japan. Topics can include but are not limited to:

  • Urban ethnographies of animation or video game production cultures
  • Subjectivities, organizations, and/or labor practices of below-the-line cultural workers
  • Disclosures, spin, and sense-making of above-the-line management
  • “Star studies” of voice actors and/or the role of celebrity in animation and video game production
  • Networks of domestic or transnational publishing, production, and development
  • Media policy, copyright, and ownership
  • Politics of access and difference (sex, gender, race, nationality) in institutional settings
  • Promotional/marketing/branding strategies and business models
  • Archival histories of studios, animators, developers, labor organizations, technologies, productions, and/or production committees
  • Stylistic/aesthetic changes and continuities due to historical shifts in industrial standards, workplace practices, and/or platform structures
  • Industrial reflexivity and autotheory in making-ofs or behind-the-scenes content
  • Shadow economies and informal sites/players of distribution
  • Convergence in physical media platforms (books, magazines, DVDs) and locations (arcades, museums, theme parks, limited-time events)
  • Over-the-top video services, online sites of digital circulation, and other disruptions to dominant forms of media consumption
  • Impact of COVID on industrial management, work flows, and distribution models

Vol. 17.1: Methodologies, guest ed. Jacqueline Berndt (due 1 July 2023; published autumn 2024)

Vol. 17.2: Cosplay, Street Fashion, and Subcultures, guest ed. Masafumi Monden (due 1 July 2023; published spring 2025)