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

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

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

Vol. 16.1: Media Mix, guest ed. Marc Steinberg

    • Coming autumn 2023

Vol. 16.2: Media Platforms and Industries, guest ed. Bryan Hartzheim

    • Coming spring 2024


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. 17.1: Cosplay, Street Fashion, and Subcultures, guest ed. Masafumi Monden (due 1 July 2023; published autumn 2024)

Cosplay, street fashion and subcultural styles have come increasingly to define East Asian popular culture to the world. But unlike the anime, manga or electronic products which the region has long been known for, costume, fashion and style all take shape in three dimensions, and are often embodied by “real people”.

Despite their increasing visibility the importance of costume, fashion and style is often overlooked; they escape focused scholarly attention because, paradoxically, they are so patent and obvious, we may think anyone can talk about them. It is about time to seek a more expert analysis, and this issue of Mechademia: Second Arc aims to do this under the theme of costumes, fashion, and styles in Asia.

How do we distinguish and separate cosplay from fashion, and fashion from subcultural styles? What, for example, is the difference between “fashion” and “style”? While often used interchangeably, fashion, in studies of fashion and dress, is a taste that is shared by a collective group of people for a short period of time, meaning its fundamental nature is change. Style may refer to the construction of self or self-expression through the accumulation of clothes, accessories, and hairstyles that may or may not follow fashion trends, but their articulation of everyday life through their styles longs to stay timeless and unchanging. Do street fashion and subcultural styles in Asia conform to, challenge or offer an alternative reading to these notions?

Also, street fashion, subcultural styles and, particularly, cosplay all relate to the body. Garments are nearly always animated and understood by a body. And the body itself cannot be separated from the social world, according to Maurice Merleau-Ponty. This means that fashion and its aesthetic existence cannot be fully understood as an isolated product or cultural form until it is actually worn. They are, then, a good starting point to discuss the body, aesthetics (beauty or ugliness), gender, emotions, and other psychological, corporeal, visual and tactile experiences.

These ideas open for a wide range of arguments and topics. This journal issue invites papers engaged in research on cosplay, street fashion and subcultural styles in Asia, in relation to:

  • Sexuality and/or gender
  • Marketing and consumer culture
  • Fandom and subsequent communities
  • Tourism, soft power and regional development
  • Nationality, race, and globalisation
  • Art and/or everyday performances
  • Photography and identity
  • DIY and agency
  • Activism, resistance and protests
  • Emotional expressions
  • Popular culture and media
  • Literature
  • Beauty and aesthetics

Any other topics and approaches are also very welcome.


Vol. 17.2: Methodologies, guest ed. Jaqueline Berndt (due 1 July 2023; published spring 2025)

Since the inception of Mechademia in 2009, the study of objects and practices that have developed around media forms associated with Japan such as anime, manga, and video games has changed tremendously in terms of both scope and acknowledgement. Area studies expertise has been vital and has made Mechademia one of the few existing venues for de-Westernizing research on contemporary media cultures. But Mechademia’s scope and impact also extends beyond Asian studies, as scholars are feeding their expertise into the wider fields of media theory, moving image studies, fan culture research, game studies, animation studies, and comics studies. Concurrently, research not based in East Asian language and culture proficiency has increased. New generations of media-savvy scholars are familiar enough with subjects previously covered in Mechademia (and other Anglophone publications) to allow for works that go beyond mere introduction. Against this backdrop, methodology has assumed a crucial role. While the traditional area studies perspective is still dominated by what is being investigated, it is increasingly important to reflect on how topics such as anime, Boys Love, or franchising may be approached.

This journal issue invites those engaged in research on East and Southeast Asian popular media and related global fan cultures to foreground their theoretical frameworks and methodological assumptions, and to critically reconsider their methods of analysis in order to explore new possibilities for inter-disciplinary collaboration. The following points are of primary interest:

  • What allows for conceptualizing manga, anime, video games, etc. as “popular culture” and not “subculture,” as Japanese-language discourse more often has it? What difference does it make to speak of “media culture” rather than “popular culture” in this regard? What would be an up-to-date name for the wider research field covered by Mechademia?
  • How can researchers who work on anime, manga, games, and related topics not only reconfirm existing theories, but actually build new ones?
  • What are the specific reasons for employing certain methods? What potentials do mixed methods hold (i.e., qualitative and quantitative, data mining and metadata analysis)? Which blind spots can be addressed by considering the respective gray zones of each methodology?
  • How can researchers who use social-scientific approaches collaborate with those using the form-conscious methodologies of the traditional humanities (literary studies, art history, narratology, semiotics, etc.)?
  • How does the strong academic inclination toward reading thematics as political or socio-critical representation interrelate with the materialities of the respective media forms and their embodied consumption?
  • Allegedly, there has been an overemphasis on textual analysis, but what type of textual analysis is meant by that? What type of formalism does research in media representations of gender, ethnicity, youth nationalism, etc. require today?
  • How can concepts of media specificity be reconsidered under the conditions of media convergence? And what does this imply for disciplinary specializations such as game studies or anime studies?
  • In which contexts does the traditional homogenization of media make sense, for example, the juxtaposition of manga as such with cinema as such? What new insights may result from revisiting canonized critical assumptions (such as the cinematic properties of story-manga)?
  • How can Azuma Hiroki’s globally cited concept of the otaku as “database animal” be revised in view of recent changes in the relation between database and narrative? How does his metaphorical database translate into more recent theoretical concepts?
  • What institutional factors have led to the persistent overemphasis on subjects related to Japan and/or based in Japan studies? What limitations and potentials does this overemphasis hold?
  • What hampers the interrelation between English-language and Japanese-language scholarship (including publications by non-Japanese nationals in Japanese, and translations of popular or non-academic Japanese media criticism in English)? What facilitates mutual ignorance or exclusion? And how can these obstacles be overcome?

Any other topics and approaches are also very welcome.