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Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction From Origins to Anime – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Consisting of a collection of essays based around Japanese science fiction, Robot Ghost and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction from Origins to Anime explores the influential and visual impact that Japanese science fiction has had throughout the world and also investigates some fundamental relations and differences between both traditional prose science fiction and science fiction animation.

Given that many books based on a collection of essays are tough to distinguish concerning their applications on the subject, Robot Ghost and Wired Dreams successfully divides its read into two sections detailing the rise, influence, and reasoning behind the association of science fiction amongst Japanese works; the first half of the book dealing with the area of prose science fiction, and the second half of the book dealing with science fiction and its use within animation. While one might want to skip the first half and immediately look forward towards digesting the second half dealing with Anime, it’s important to realize the written form of Japanese science fiction literature as a first and necessary step to understanding the true origins of it future incarnations. The chronological ordering of the essays were helpful in that aspect and the book is constructed and edited in a way that allows for a transitional timeline to become visible and understood as one reads through it.

Looking at this collection as critically examining subjects far beyond superficial affixation, the areas explored in the book are various as they are academically measured. The actual scope of Japanese science fiction is extremely expansive and considering this, the book takes a more generalist approach during its second half. This is not to say the second half of the book is downgraded because of it, it’s just that most of the authors during this portion of the book tend to bring about the same films and series to establish their arguments. While these arguments are varied in their deliverance, more focus on other titles would have been appreciated.

And considering the academic nature of the book, the articulation of the subjects explored is not for the reading impaired. One will most likely not understand a majority of what is presented in the book because of this, so the suggestion that this would be an easy read for the average science fiction and/or Anime fan would be sorely under appreciating the value of the information provided. As with all essays, they are subjective and at worse too opinionated at points, but the information and analytical discussion found here more than makes up for it.

Overall, Robot Ghost and Wired Dreams was an interesting book considering the content in which it addresses. The focus on the various areas of Japanese science fiction, including its origins, make for a very good collection of essays to explore and critique. Like I brought up earlier, Japanese science fiction is an extremely expansive subject to address all in one book, and some subjects could’ve been added to round out the reading, but for what it presents in its current form, Robot Ghost and Wired Dreams is one of the most enlightening, engaging, and thought provoking books on the subject currently available.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION
by Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi

PART I–PROSE SCIENCE FICTION
Chapter 1. Horror and Machines in Prewar Japan: The Mechanical Uncanny in Yumeno Kyûsaku’s Dogura magura
by Miri Nakamura

Chapter 2. Has the Empire Sunk Yet?–The Pacific in Japanese Science Fiction
by Thomas Schnellbächer

Chapter 3. Alien Spaces and Alien Bodies in Japanese Women’s Science Fiction
by Kotani Mari (Translated by Miri Nakamura)

Chapter 4. SF as Hamlet: Science Fiction and Philosophy
by Azuma Hiroki (Translated by Miri Nakamura)

Chapter 5. Tsutsui Yasutaka and the Multimedia Performance of Authorship
by William O. Gardner

PART II–SCIENCE FICTION ANIMATION

Chapter 6. When the Machines Stop: Fantasy, Reality and Terminal Identity in Neon Genesis Evangelion and Serial Experiments Lain
by Susan J. Napier

Chapter 7. The Mecha’s Blind Spot: Patlabor 2 and the Phenomenology of Anime
by Christopher Bolton

Chapter 8. Words of Alienation, Words of Flight: Loanwords in Science Fiction Anime
by Naoki Chiba and Hiroko Chiba

Chapter 9. Sex and the Single Cyborg: Japanese Popular Culture Experiments in Subjectivity
by Sharalyn Orbaugh

Chapter 10. Invasion of the Women Snatchers: The Problem of A-Life and the Uncanny in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
by Livia Monnet

Chapter 11. Otaku Sexuality
by Saitô Tamaki (with an introduction by Kotani Mari)

Afterword. A Very Soft Time Machine: From Translation to Transfiguration
by Takayuki Tatsumi

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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