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Another spring, and another term over! When so much time goes by, it becomes impossible to sum up all the individual things that have happened. So instead, here are some general reflections on how I've changed my perspective and opened up my life in the last year.

Because you know what? I feel like I’ve found some sort of secret key for joyful living this year. I thought that yesterday as I walked to a jazz band rehearsal. (I'm in a jazz band now. True story.) I felt like I’d found the secret to happiness. But when I tried to pin it down, it eluded words, or came out too simple. “I just do what makes me happy!” Yes, that’s it! And not it, not entirely. The entire “it” can’t be captured. It’s a feeling of going down the right path, knowing what I do is for the best, living authentically. Just…living.

Secret to Happiness below. Caveat: YMMV )

At last!

Oct. 16th, 2013 10:35 am
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Hot off the virtual press: my article "New Media Beyond Neo-imperialism: Betty Boop and Sita Sings the Blues" in the Journal of Postcolonial Writing!

If you have free access to Taylor & Francis journals through your university, log in and check it out here:, or just search for Sandra Annett.

If you DON'T have institutional access and this article is relevant to your interests, you're in luck! There are 50 free downloads available here:

Once those are used up, just contact me and we'll work something out on the boop boop a doop. ;)
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A couple of weeks ago, I went to the always-enjoyable SGMS/Mechademia conference on Japanese popular culture in Minneapolis. (Hi to everyone who was also there!) I heard that some people on Twitter were interested my presentation, so I decided to post it here. (Hi Twitter folks, if you've made it here!) Then work and life jumped up in my face yelling "Me, me! Look at me! SO important! Must do now!" And the days passed, and...

At any rate, better late than never! Text below the cut, and you can also see the slides here:
Trust me, it makes more sense with the slides.

Aca-fan Service )
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Aaah, summer! For the first time in years I finally had a vacation, a real 3-week vacation away from the internet and course prep and manuscripts and everything. But now it's time to gear back up, and that means conference proposals. Here's my accepted proposal for this year's Mechademia/SGMS conference in Minneapolis. Feedback very welcome, especially from aca-fan types!

Fan service is commonly understood as a glimpse of something that allures fans viewers, be it a flash of panties or a passing reference to otaku trivia. In this paper, I will address two anime series, Ghost in the Shell: SAC and Ergo Proxy, that use a similar strategy of seduction I call “aca-fan service”: gratuitous references to authors and texts canonized as “High Theory,” such as Jacques Derrida and Julia Kristeva. While screenwriters may not be cackling “I’ll give those academics something to talk about!” with every keystroke, the nature of their allusions suggests that they are targeting an intellectual sub-segment of their fanbase consistent with Matt Hills’ “aca-fan,” a fan who uses scholarly references and theoretical discourses to interpret texts.

Aca-fan service in these programs, I argue, draws on both the knowledge communities and the (sometimes troubling) gender politics of more general anime fan service. It engages fans who recognize “theory trivia,” creating opportunities for bonding and competition around specialized knowledge. At the same time, it relies on the fetishization of figures such as Lacan, whose theories of sexuality serve as “proxies” for embodied experience that allow academics to discuss gender and eroticism in abstracted, schematized ways. In this paper, I will address the intersection of academia and fandom as a site of knowledge production and ask: how do theory allusions allow aca-fans to connect? What kinds of discussions do they allow that regular “fan trivia” doesn’t? And what kinds of discussions do they foreclose?
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It's Saturday, which means time for book reviews! And since I just finished Ian Condry's new book The Soul of Anime a couple of weeks ago, here are some thoughts. Note: thoughts may be oriented towards my own personal usage. YMMV. RSVP. TTYL. Etc. ;)

The Soul of Anime )
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Finally, spring! It took a while to come, but nice weather has arrived in Ontario and my sap is rising too. After a hectic end to the term, I'm finally feeling energetic and ambitious (enough to blog) again. So here's what I'm working on right now.

Project 1: the thesis book!
I've been revising my PhD thesis into a book on and off throughout the the fall and winter terms using materials I gathered in Japan last summer. Now I'm happy to say that I've finished enough to take that first step and send off a book proposal to the University of Minnesota Press! The revised project is titled "Frictive Pictures: The Animation of Transcultural Fan Communities, 1906-2012," and as the title suggests it uses the concept of "friction" rather than global "flow" to discuss connection-across-difference in anime fandom.

In case I've condensed that so much it makes no sense at all, here's the opening blurb from my proposal )

Fingers crossed the acquiring editor likes the chapters I've sent!

Project 2: conferences
I'm also working on next year's round of conference papers now, in order to get proposals in on time. I've been invited by the University of Miami's amazingly-connected Daisy Yan Du to take part in a panel on East Asian Animation at the 2014 Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Seattle. For SCMS I want to do something new, so I'm going a more media-studies route and examining how animation creates "haptic visuality," or the sensation of tactile and embodied experience, especially weight and weightlessness. This one is tentatively titled "Weighing Imbalance: Haptic Visuality in Japanese and South Korean Cinematic Animation"

If you'd like to read that proposal, have a look under the cut )

Finally, I am also planning to go to the Mechademia conference at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design again in Sept. 2013. (Fourth year running, I think? How time flies!) I was going to present the above paper there too, but the conference theme is "Fanthropologies," while my haptic visuality paper has almost nothing to do with fans. I'm thinking of going back to the thesis/book again and presenting my chapter on child fans of sci-fi tv cartoons like The Jetsons and Astro Boy. We'll see!

For now, I hope to start posting again with reviews of books I've been reading and shows I've been watching (including Eden of the East), energy levels depending. Til next time!


Oct. 16th, 2012 11:10 am
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Just a quick post to promote a wonderful project!

Masaaki Yuasa (Tatami Galaxy) and Oshii Mamoru (Ghost in the Shell) want to make a short animated film about S&M wrestling called "Kick-Heart." It looks rough and edgy and funny and heartwarming all at once. But this is not the sort of project that is easy to get funding for. In fact, at a panel on "Anime Art and Industry" at this year's School Girls and Mobile Suits conference, screenwriting Dai Sato talked about how hard it is for animators to do original, experimental projects in the current economic climate, which makes investors very conservative in what new projects they pick up. Because animation is a low-paid, labour-intensive venture, it's hard for new animators to get a start while still making a living, and even harder for established directors to do satisfying projects and not work themselves to death. In his view, anime as an art form could be dead within 20 years due to such adverse conditions. But, he said, innovative projects can succeed through alternative channels like crowd-sourcing.

Case in point: this Kickstarter project. I became a backer a few weeks ago, and it's been really great. I get daily email updates with pictures of the evolving character designs and messages from the staff. When the project is funded, I'll get a free digital subbed download of the film. Since the funding rewards were just upgraded today, I'm delighted to learn I'm also getting a postcard, poster, and higher-quality download too. I'm almost tempted to add another 10.00 and get the DVD, newly available at the 30.00 donation level.

My point is that even the style or subject matter aren't to your taste, if you're an anime fan you should seriously think about supporting it to help create a space for high-quality experimental animation. This drive runs until Oct. 31. There are just two weeks left in the campaign, and they still need about 500,000 dollars. So to support this great effort, go to the link below, and you'll be directed to pay easily through Happy crowdsourcing!

Book Binge

Sep. 11th, 2012 11:24 am
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Fall has fallen! The air is getting cool at night, the leaves are starting to kindle, and yesterday a line of geese flew over my head talking loudly among themselves, probably about the sweet timeshare they've got lined up in Florida.

Because I've been a student for over a decade, Fall always means book-buying time. I'm not even teaching this term, but I can't resist the urge to hoard some books. So in case you're looking for any good reads on animation, anime, or Japanese film this Fall, here are my must-have, just-ordered picks:

Bukatman, Scott. The Poetics of Slumberland: Animated Spirits and the Animating Spirit. University of California Press, 2012.
-Bukatman has written some interesting books on sci-fi (especially his "Terminal Identity"), so his take on Western animation history starting from Winsor McCay, with chapters on things like "Disobedient Machines," is something to look forward to.

Ito, Mizuko et al, eds. Fandom Unbound: Otaku Culture in a Connected World. Yale University Press, 2012.
-This book contains a mix of new studies and translations/excerpts from major Japanese authors like Azuma Hiroki (Database Animals) and Morikawa Kaichiro (Otaku and the City: The Rebirth of Akihabara). I wonder why Lawrence Eng and Mizuki Ito are both in there twice -couldn't they have gotten some other authors? But it seems useful to anime fan studies.

Perper, Timothy. Mangatopia: Essays on Manga and Anime in the Modern World. Libraries Unlimited, 2011.
-Mangatopia is expensive -the paperback runs nearly 60.00CAD- but with articles on biopolitics in Barefoot Gen by Tom Lamarre, cosplay by Frency Lunning, and other interesting things on GLBTQ readers and masculinity in manga, I'm thinking it'll be worth the cover price.

Tze-Yue, G. Hu. Frames of Anime: Culture and Image-Building. Hong Kong University Press, 2010.
-I'm not sure about this one. The table of contents makes it look like a broad overview of animation history in Japan. What I skimmed of the intro seems reasonably well-written. But I hadn't heard much about this book, though it seems to have been published two years ago. Is there a reason it's being overlooked, or is it a hidden treasure, just recently available in Canada? We'll see...

And a couple of Japanese film catch-ups:

Gerow, Aaron. Visions of Japanese Modernity: Articulations of Cinema, Nation, and Spectatorship, 1895-1925. University of California Press, 2010.
-A brilliant exploration of early Japanese film history. I don't know why I haven't ordered my own copy before now!

Phillips, Alastair. Japanese Cinema: Texts and Contexts. Routledge, 2007.
-An auteur-based essay collection with articles on all the major directors from early Ozu up to Kitano Takeshi and Miyazaki Hayao. It wouldn't work as a textbook, but it is very useful to have on hand if you're teaching a Japanese film course -which I am, in the Winter!

I am also looking forward to:

Condry, Ian. The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Japan's Media Success Story. Duke University Press, 2013.

Wada-marciano, Mitsuyo. Japanese Cinema in the Digital Age. University of Hawaii Press, July 31 2012(??) (Must be delayed in Canada, it's still in preorder here!)

Happy reading!
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Aaaand there goes the summer. Wow. Now that I'm home again, I can't even begin to summarize everything that happened in Japan, everything that's happened in my life. So instead I'll look back by looking forward, and just do my acafannish thing.

One of the major reasons I went to Japan this summer was the chance to lecture at Wako University, in Ueno Toshiya's class on Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus. I had free run of the massive tome, but it wasn't hard to pick a topic: I am fascinated by their theory of the Body without Organs, which is in short a surface or circulation of desire that is not yet fixed to a single object. I can't explain why, but this idea touches me deeply, like something I have always known and never been able to express. I felt a similar mysterious attraction to the virtual idol Hatsune Miku: the feeling of encountering a series of strangely impersonal yet deeply affecting images of an almost too-literal BwO. So, I decided to read one in the other, both through each, for the lecture. Based on the class' reaction, I think the example really worked to illustrate a difficult concept! To get all I can out of a topic I'm passionate about, I also proposed to expand the lecture through fan studies for presentation at the School Girls and Mobile Suits/Mechademia conference in September.

I'll be reworking the lecture for presentation in the next few weeks. So, I thought I'd post the presentation abstract here to get my brain -and this blog- started again. This, so far, is the idea:

"What Can a Vocaloid Do?: The Kyara as Body without Organs"

This paper explores the intersections between "kyara," desire, and fan production by reading the Vocaloid idol Hatsune Miku through Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s theory of the "Body without Organs" (BwO).

The first section explains the elusive BwO through three keywords: desire, intensity, and (de)stratification. It shows how Deleuze and Guattari understand desire not as a lack but as an immanent creative force, generating freely-circulating intensities. In contrast to criticisms of the BwO as apolitical abstraction, however, I bring out the vital social implications that arise when the BwO is organized or stratified in embodied practice.

To illustrate a BwO in practice, I turn next to the example of the kyara or character in anime, manga, light novels and related media. Here I discuss the difference between the kyara of the media-mix industry and the traditional "I" of the Japanese "I-novel," comparing their modes of subjectivity and desire, their media temporalities, and the ways they build up or break down strata of identity and social hierarchy.

Finally, as a concrete case study, I consider the virtual idol singer Hatsune Miku and the uses she is put to by major corporations and fan collectives. In asking "What Can a Vocaloid Do?", my paper reformulates Deleuze and Guattari's concept of the BwO in light of today's media environment, and provides a more complex perspective on the Vocaloid phenomenon, beyond the easy celebrations of user empowerment touted by the media giants themselves.
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Hi, everybody!

As of last Thursday, I'm back in Japan, in my old neighbourhood (and in fact, my old apartment complex)in the western suburbs of Tokyo. It's a bit odd in its very familiarity: I still remember the train lines, where the shops are, even where to find certain products on the shelves, through a kind of automatic body-memory. For being so "far from home," it's remarkably homey. I just wish the language was coming back to me as fast! Some kind of brush-up language class may be in order. Suggestions welcome!

In anime terms, I found a local Comics Toranoana (time to manga: <1 day) while out getting apartment necessaries and picked up the fourth volume of Hetalia. I don't want to generalize based on one little shop, but the Hetalia boom seems to be fading, and I don't see a stand-out replacement for fujoshi yet. For the male otaku set, I see lots of Madoka doujin (since Toranoana sells both pro and amateur works), and lots of Vocaloid, as expected. Maybe I just notice what's familiar to me more, but I get the impression that the gap between what's popular in N.America and Japan is fairly narrow now. More observations to come once I make it out to Akiba and Otome Road, though.

What is really, bizarrely big on the streets is Mickey Mouse. Classic Mickey & Minnie are EVERYWHERE, much moreso than in 2010. I see them on towels, t-shirts, back-packs, you name it. Oddly, Mickey often seems to be wearing the British flag for pants. There's something to be said here about character goods and twisted brand nationalism, but I don't know what yet.

At any rate, today I'm heading to a lecture on post-90s Japanese art at Sophia University with some folks from the Anime and Manga Research List. I should get going right away, so here's to hoping I can actually find my way to the venue!
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This week, my home university, Wilfrid Laurier Univeristy, is partnering with the University of Waterloo to host Canada's major humanities conference, the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Basically, all the individual national scholarly organizations -like mine, the Film Studies Association of Canada- get together an hold their annual conferences at the same time in one place. We'll have over 7000 people this year, which is a massive conference by Canadian standards. (Though it makes me smile to realize what a small fraction of Comiket's 500,000 attendees that is!)

There will be a lot of live blogging and tweeting of this event, but I don't think I'll be one of the avid bloggers. Maybe I'll do a sum-up at the end, especially of the panel on "Anime/Comics: Appropriation and Adaptation." But since this is more an anime blog than an aca blog, I'll keep it low key.

That said, my presentation in a panel on post-cinematic adaptation is half about Satoshi Kon, so I have no problems posting my proposal/abstract here, for anyone who's interested!

Hugo and Paprika )
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People who don't know any academics seem to think that once classes end, professors get the summers "off" to sit around smoking pipes and reading arcane books on useless subjects. This is not at all true.(Pipes! As if.) Between committees, conference papers, meetings, and fieldwork prep, today is the first day in two weeks where I can honestly say: there is nothing I *have* to do right now.

This is deeply unsettling for me. I don't know what to do with myself.

I think I'll end up sitting on my porch reading manga to practice Japanese. Maybe later I'll sketch, or write, or watch body-horror sci-fi. But it's still up in the air at 2:00 in the afternoon, which is unusual for someone as schedule-dependent as I am.

Feel free to gag me with my own silver spoon here, but it makes me feel guilty to take time off. It feels like slacking, even on a holiday long weekend (in Canada. All hail the lingering ghost of Queen Victoria!) After getting accustomed to 10-hour work days 7 days a week during my PhD and first year of teaching, I've developed a chronic inability to relax. I think this is an endemic problem among grad students and academics, especially in cultural studies/film/lit/fine arts where our hobbies become our jobs.

Sometimes, it's a glorious thing to be watching a film or anime and taking notes and planning lectures, and then think: "oh man, I get to delve into this fascinating work as my job! Sweet!" But at other times, it's so nerve-wracking to be watching anime and taking notes and planning lectures and think: "damn, I wish I could just sit back and enjoy this. Now, how am I going to convey to 55 undergrads who know nothing about Japanese culture or the global media industry that this is actually important to study seriously?" You risk burning out your love. You risk play becoming work, and pleasure becoming stress.

Happily, I'm not burned out yet. I still enjoy anime and manga in my spare time. (Current shows: Sakamichi no Apollon and Tsuritama; current manga Nana and Fujoshi no Honkai). But it's different now. Anime is not my all-consuming obsession. I find I have to do other things, like writing my own fiction, to relax. Maybe this is a sign of balance? Or maybe I'm just a bad fan now that I've sold out to the Establishment?

For anyone who studies or works on what you love: how do you handle the work/play overlap? Is it best to keep the professional and personal sides of it separate, or meld them?
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Woo, I'm excited! In a fit of initiative, I've finally created an account at Dreamwidth and I think I've configured everything to cross-post. This is the test. If you're an LJ friend of mine who's also on DW and you want me in your Circle, you can find me t/here as "sanet." I'm doing my best to add you if we're already mutual LJ friends and I know your DW username as well.

What else can I say? Yoroshiku onegai shimasu!
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Now that teaching is done and professional service is almost done, I'm finally getting back into concentrated anime research. And at the top of my pile (along with Mechademia 6, review coming eventually) is Marc Steinberg's new book Anime's Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan. I have to say off the top that this book is mainly targeted at those interested in the history and media theory of the anime industry, not at a general reader or even fan community audience. Examples from shows are few, endnotes are many. But if you are interested in the marketing and transmedia aspects of anime, and you want to know how the current system of manga/anime/gaming/light novel integration came to be, this is a ground-breaking book based on some impressive archival research.

Mini Media Mix )
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Broadcasting live from the heart of Grading Country, it's The Merin Minute, reporting on any and all things me-related! Today's top stories:

Teaching: is done! Both classes wrote final exams this week. Now to deal with the heaps of frantically-scrawled booklets, containing occasional gems of insight and lots of hazardous waste material ("Fritz Lang's Waltz with Bashir." I kid you not.)

Research: is beginning! I'm presenting at the Film Studies Association of Canada conference, held during Canada's massive week-long humanities Congress in May. My paper: "Digital Dreams and the Nostalgia for Cinema in Hugo and Paprika." Looking forward to this one!
I'll also likely be lecturing this summer at Wako University (Japan), in Ueno Toshiya's seminar on A Thousand Plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari. I hope to talk about the Body without Organs and "kyara" or character bodies (possibly in early shounen-ai manga/anime, possibly Hatsune Miku.) It sounds exciting, but I'm nervous about the cost of this summer's Japan research plans, in financial and emotional terms.

Anime: Apollon SQUEEEEE! The first episode of Watanabe Shinichiro's new series Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope) actually made me squee out loud. In retrospect, I get the feeling I'm being hooked by a formulaic narrative and typed characters: delicate classical music student Nishimi Kaoru transfers to a new school in backwater Kyushu, where impulsive, jazz-loving bad-boy Kawabuchi Sentarou takes a sudden liking to him. Kaoru is fascinated in return by Sentarou's "drumming." I see the bait there, Watanabe. But I like it, so I'll let the hook sink in and trust you to pull me somewhere good. Also, new music/jazz covers by Yoko Kanno, yay!

Personal: Feeling very "up-and-down" this month: content one day, overwhelmed by anxiety the next. Changes in schedule always upset me, even "positive" changes like the end of term. Still, I'm trying to be gentle and give myself more down-time. I'm drawing again, and writing fiction. Nothing I'd show the world, but it makes me happy.

Blog: Really thinking of switching to Dreamwidth, but see above about the anxiety-provoking effects of change. Any advice on how to switch over easily?

And that was your Merin-Minute. Tune in next time for another exciting installment!
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My life is full of grading. 55 sets of fresh assignments per class, ranging from film journals to full-out research papers to final exams, coming in every week from now til mid-April, YAY. And the parts that aren't grading are lectures. DOUBLE YAY.

So here, for your edification and/or amusement, is the intro to a lecture I gave last week on Nina Paley's wonderful film Sita Sings the Blues. Included are many links to try and build in the context covered in class. If you like Sita, copyleft activism, or criticisms of the "exotic erotic" figure in animation, I have an article about all three things that's in peer-review with The Journal of Postcolonial Writing right now. One more thing to look for later! (/shameless boost)

Singin' the Copyright Blues )
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It was my goal this term to post things I've been teaching in my Animation class, as a way of getting back into writing about anime. But now I find it's the works I put on the syllabus that are just slightly out of my range that excite me most. I feel like I'm kind of phoning it in on anime, honestly, since I know the material I'm teaching so well already. But when it comes to things I haven't touched for a while, like the avant-garde stop-motion short films of the Brothers Quay...well, it's fascinating!

To get the class talking about stop-motion, I had them read an article by Suzanne Buchan called "Animation Spectatorship: The Quay Brothers' Animated Worlds" (which conveniently enough you can access in the online journal EnterText). Buchan's aim is to describe how we can experience animation as a world, a haptic, embodied place, in which we "allow ourselves that most pleasurable experience of being moved, intellectually, affectively and emotionally, by what unfolds on screen" (98). It reminded me of my first startling emotional reaction to the Quay's films back in 2009 or '10. I wasn't able to fully articulate it in class, but I will post here some notes I wrote then about being moved by stop-motion.

The Quays' Uncanny World )
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I don't think anyone on my flist is in Montreal (besides [ profile] eacherown), but if you are, or if you just want to know what's going on in the academic anime-sphere, check out this event being hosted by Concordia University next weekend:

Experiencing Media Mix: Anime, Manga, Video Games

The keynote speaker is Otsuka Eiji on Saturday, and on Sunday there will be papers by Ian Condry (on Miku!), Thomas Lamarre, Ueno Toshiya and Thomas Looser, among other fine scholars. I'm going, and I'm pumped!

Now if only I can manage to finish all the marking/exam writing/lecture prep that needs to be done before I go... O.o
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I'd like to write a long, impassioned post on the whole SOPA/PIPA issue that's exploded this week. So many people have already raised their voices to counter the corporate and legislative restriction of the open Internet, but if the rest of us say "Oh, I don't have to do anything now, other people are speaking out," eventually, no one except the most extremist voices on each side will say anything. And that's unacceptable.

Unfortunately, I'm in such an emotional state right now that I'm sure to regret anything I post, and I can't battle that anxiety on top of everything else I have to do this weekend. I just can't find the words.

So, what do we do in times like this? We share animated .gifs and vids, of course! Because sharing is the online way!

[ETA: dammit, embed codes are not working for me today so here are the links.] protest gif

Nina Paley's "All Creative Work is Derivative
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In the year 2000, Saitou Tamaki published Sentou bishoujo no seishin bunseki, an early attempt at (psycho)analyzing Japan's budding otaku culture. I read sections of it in Japanese in 2010, but, frustrated by the psychoanalytic terminology, ended up working more off of others' critiques (notably Tom Lamarre's in The Anime Machine). From that exposure, I came to the conclusion that I did not like Saitou's general attitude towards otaku or fujoshi. Not at all. I thought it was condescending, pathologizing, heteronormative, and universalizing, in the way the worst psychoanalysis often is.

In 2011, the book was translated as Beautiful Fighting Girl by J. Keith Vincent and Dawn Lawson at the U of Minnesota Press. And reading the whole thing in English has changed my opinion, a little. I was surprised to find some ideas that I think do have value for creating a more nuanced and flexible idea of otaku, especially regarding the relation between image, reality, and sexuality. But these ideas are not things Saitou brings out well himself, and he often falls back on frustrating Freudian/Lacanian analyses that foreclose the potential of his own earlier suggestions.

Under the cut is a shorthand list of quotes and ideas I thought were helpful, and others I thought were rage-inducing.

Quotes and thoughts )

In conclusion, there are lots of interesting things to be found in the book, including long excerpts from letters written by Japanese and American anime fans and a comprehensive lineage of the beautiful fighting girl figure from 1958-99, with examples from dozens of series. There are also a few good concepts hiding like diamonds in the rough of lamentable psychoanalysis. It's not a long book or a very difficult one, if you've got some critical theory under your belt. Anyone who wants to study otaku should read it -if mainly as something to move on from.


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