Anime is not a genre – but considering genres is one of the ways to at least begin critically approaching Japanese animation. In this way, Rayna Denison presents a focus on anime genres “because of the way genres are often seen, like anime, to operate as cultural categories or phenomena”. And, as Denison points out, studying genres calls for an awareness not only of differences between them, but also of their “meanings”, such as the ways that both audiences and critics respond to particular ones. This kind of awareness can highlight instances where particular genres draw popular attention, but remain relatively obscure in terms of criticism and analysis. Denison herself uses the example of horror anime, while Lucy Fraser and Masafumi Monden, in The maiden switch: New possibilities for understanding Japanese shōjo manga (girls’ comics) have examined “early 1980s and 1990s shōjo manga that were primarily targeted at the youngest band of readers, stories with early adolescent heroines in light, romantic, and fairytale-like narratives” – in contrast to “texts that enact more explicit gender subversion”.
One genre where this kind of gap between popularity and critical recognition is particularly prominent is isekai. Definitions for it include “(literally ‘different world’)…an anime and manga genre whose plots usually consist in a main character that enters (or is forcibly transported) to a fantasy world, whose setting can combine fantasy Middle Age elements with a science fiction or steampunk appeal” (Oscar García Aranda, Representations of Europe in Japanese anime: An overview of case studies and theoretical frameworks), and “a specific genre of storytelling in which people move from one world to another, usually through some sort of a portal such as a gate or a doorway” (Giovanni Tagliamonte and Yaochong Yang, Isekai: Tracing interactive control in non-interactive media), although these authors add to the definition, noting that “isekai usually refers to a specific set of qualities: amateur-publishing, fantasy worlds with varying levels of game-like qualities, and a self-reflexive commentary aided by platform publishing”, and as a recent Japan Times report notes, isekai has “dominated the manga and light novel markets“. But beyond a few essays and articles such as these and Zachary Samuel Gottesman, The Japanese settler unconscious: Goblin Slayer on the ‘Isekai’ frontier, and Tani Levy, Entering another world: A cultural genre discourse of Japanese isekai texts and their origin in online participatory culture, it remains a genre that is yet to attract significant scholarly attention.
It is with this mind that Dr. Michael Cserkits has announced a call for papers for an Explaining Isekai essay collection. Proposals of 200-400 words for papers on range of topics, such as the history of isekai, gender and social aspects, violence and the military, and case studies of particular titles, will be accepted until January 23, 2023. The expected length for the final papers is approximately 5000-7000 words, with expected submission in August 2023.
The full Call for Papers is available below and at https://networks.h-net.org/node/73374/announcements/11213439/explaining-isekai-%E2%80%93-call-contributions.
Explaining Isekai – Call for Contributions
Type: Call for Papers
Date: October 10, 2022 to January 20, 2023
Subject Fields: Cultural History / Studies, Film and Film History, Japanese History / Studies, Popular Culture Studies, Social Sciences
This book anthology will provide a compilation of various themes that are within the broad scope of the Isekai genre. Starting with an introduction and a historic overview of the recently very popular anime and manga genre, the different chapters will deal with specific aspects in the field of film and visual culture, religious studies as well as possible effects on the militarization of societies. Authors can cover the thematic issues of gender representations, violence, the representation of state and religion, the military, and the societal aspect of transgressing to another world. Hence the aim of this book is to be a valuable source for all those who are willing to look behind the scenes of Isekai and other worlds, unraveling the mysteries, impacts, and social functions of this popular genre.
Topics may include but are not limited to:
- History of Japanese Isekai novels, manga and anime
- The evolution of Isekai and its rise in popularity
- Gender aspects, Gender Swap, Gender Based Violence, Gender Role Models, Isekai Harem
- Religious aspects , The image of religion in Isekai
- Violence and the military in Isekai
- Unique features in Isekai
- Societal aspects of Isekai
- Case studies of a specific Isekai series/novels
Final submissions should be between 5000 and 7000 words (including bibliography and reference). If you have additional suggestions or topics that you would like to contribute, please feel free to email them. As this anthology understands itself as interdisciplinary, proposals from Japanese Studies, Cultural and Film Studies as well as from Popular Culture and the Social Sciences including Humanities are welcomed.
Submission details Please send your proposal, approximately 200 to 400 words, covering the topic and methodology used before 20th January 2023 to the editor. Please also provide a short academic bio of around 100 words. Your work should be original and currently not submitted to another publisher or Journal. Decisions will be communicated in February 2023. Chapter manuscripts are expected to be submitted in August 2023. A detailed guideline (citation, spelling, chapter structure of the book) will be communicated together with the decisions.
Contact Info: Proposals and any inquiries should be sent to the editor’s email: Dr. Cserkits Michael (independent post-doc scholar; University of Vienna/Austria) firstname.lastname@example.org (Project email)