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Mechademia is an annual English-language academic journal on Japanese pop culture and related topics. Each issue has its own theme, and volume 10’s is “World Renewal.” In theory, this includes not only the branching timelines and parallel worlds of games and anime such as “Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni” (“Higurashi When They Cry”) and “Puella Magi Madoka Magica,” but also the epochal 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Mechademia 10: World Renewal, Edited by Frenchy Lunning
272 pages
University Of Minnesota Press, Nonfiction.

In practice, these two sides never really gel, not least because the chapters that engage directly with the Tohoku catastrophe are among the densest and most theory-laden in the volume. “Mechademia 10” is less about 3/11 than you might expect, but this doesn’t affect the quality of the individual contributions.

Susan W. Furukawa’s “Deconstructing the Taiko” is one standout. It examines the image of daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-’98) in postwar Japan, from the late 1950s movie series “Sarariman Shusse Taikoki” (“Diary of a Successful Salaryman”) to Tsutsui Yasutaka’s avant-garde fiction, which overlays the conveniences of the present directly on Hideyoshi’s exploits in the past. Elsewhere, Californian media researcher Andrea Horbinski argues convincingly for the place of Fumi Yoshinaga’s manga “Ooku” (“Ooku: The Inner Chambers”) in the alternate-history canon, while Matthew Penney’s experimental “Utopian Future of Japan’s Far Right” is an ironic future history of a 2050 Japan in which every real-life policy initiative and prediction from the country’s right wing in our own universe has come to pass.

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