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

    • Coming spring 2021

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

    • Coming autumn 2021

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. 14.2: New Formulations of the Otaku, guest ed. Susan Napier (due 15 February 2021; published spring 2022)

This volume of Mechadamia: Second Arc seeks papers that will offer a new perspective on the otaku, a major social phenomenon that arose in the later twentieth century but has become even more significant in the complex and challenging world of  the 2020s. We seek essays across a general variety of fields and media formats (literature, anthropology, the arts, cinema, anime, manga, videogames and other new media as well as performative genres such as cosplay),  that will shed light on the way the otaku has evolved over the last several decades.

Originally “otaku” was a somewhat pejorative and distinctively Japanese term related to the subcultures of anime and other forms of fandom, as well as the burgeoning universe of gaming. The term “otaku” suggested someone socially dysfunctional leading a hermetic existence by escaping into various obsessions. Related to the otaku phenomenon but considered even more disturbing was the “hikkikomori,” shut-ins completely incapable of dealing with the outside world except via computer screens. Most disturbing of all was the notion of the otaku as pathological criminal, widely publicized in the moral panic of the late 1980s surrounding the “otaku murderer,”  Miyazaki Tsutomu.

The term gained international recognition with the publication of cyberpunk writer William Gibson’s 1996 novel Idoru. In Idoru Gibson defined the otaku as an “obsessive technofetishist” but he expanded on this view in a 2001 essay for the Guardian entitled “Modern Boys and Mobile Girls.”  In this piece Gibson states that, “Understanding otaku-hood, I think is one of the keys to understanding the culture of the web. There is something profoundly post-national about it, extra-geographic.”

In the pandemic-stricken contemporary world, Gibson’s emphasis on the “post-national” and the “extra-geographic” seems profoundly prescient but, if anything, his emphasis on “the culture of the web” is too limiting. By 2004, the media sensation Densha Otoko  (Train Man) had appeared, first as an internet story on 2-channel, and, by 2005 as a wildly popular television series, film, and manga. With its portrait of a cuddly and cute “everyman otaku,” Densha Otoko helped otaku cross over from the culture of online message boards into mainstream media-mixed society. Post-Densha it became increasingly easy to admit to “otakuhood.” 

In our current strange year of 2020 the culture of the otaku has permeated us all the more, and on both a personal and a global level. We are all obsessed with screens, images, and stories, trying to find meaning in something that will allow us to escape our newly confining world. Born in the techno- and fan-cultures of the 20th century, the otaku now exists in new and provocative formulations.

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  •  Comparative formulations of the otaku, across culture, gender and/or race
  • The changing portrayal of the otaku in Japanese popular culture
  • The otaku environment: Akihabara, Ikebukuro, Nakano Broadway, and beyond
  • The otaku’s relationship with technology and/or media
  • The otaku and fandom
  • The evolution of the otaku subjectivities and materialities both outside and inside of Japan
  • The influence of the otaku audience on Japanese media
  • The hikkikomori and NEET phenomena as subsets of otakudom
  • Beyond Azuma: new theoretical formations of the otaku
  • Beyond Latour: Fictional Modes of Existence

Vol. 15.1: Modes of Existence (due 1 July 2021; published autumn 2022)

Vol. 15.2: 2.5D Cultures, guest ed. Akiko Sugawa (due 1 July 2021; published spring 2023)

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

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

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)