Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction from Origins to Anime

Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction from Origins to Anime - Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr. At times very dry and other times interesting, Robot Dreams suffers from the usual malaise of media-essay type books – being a bit full of its own opinions,

the first section is a discussion of written Japanese Science Fiction - I have no point of reference for these, having not read any direct, so felt more at home in the second part, concentrating in the main on anime.

The interesting parts of this are the depiction of women as cyborgs, and of the emasculation of men. It can get all a bit Freudian in places (especially in the section in the section on Otaku and Yoai sexuality), which I found to be almost incomprehensible due to my own bias against psychoanalysis.

Prominently featured throughout is Shin Seiki Evangerion, highlighting the male inferiority in the form of Shinji, a cowardly adolescent with a distant father and surrounded by women (and girls) who are just so much better than him. There is much discussion about the representations of self, and the relationship between EVA and pilot. I'm afraid I did not pick up all of this in the Anime myself, though accept that I am more of a 'Look! Cool robots!' kind of anime-fan. I did however pick up a few more films/series from the text that I have not seen, and will be checking out to see if there is anything to the discussion, including Serial Experiments Lain, from which the rather gorgeous cover image was taken (yes I really do buy books by the cover; +1 star here for that).

The tone of the book is feminist, and I don't mean this as a criticism, the representation of women in Japanese Sci Fi is, however, described mostly in a negative way and in the case of Final Fantasy, the Spirits Within, as a necessary but subservient cog in the machine. I don't think I agree with this, since I think the exact opposite it true – it is the positive representation of women that makes Japanese Science Fiction (and Anime) so much more interesting in the usual American Sci Fi, where, before the influence of Japanese Science fiction, one rarely saw a woman in a role that was not subservient. I guess that is the beauty of interpretation – you can believe what you want!

Overall I think I am left a little disappointed by this collection of essays, mostly because people talk such bollocks about things that they can't possibly know (and provide only evidence in the form of other peoples' opinions). Evangelion excepted (I concede that there was quite a lot of thought gone into this), I just don't think that Sci Fi writers and animators spend so much time constructing theses of sociological analysis before they put pen to paper – more likely I think, they say ' yeah, lets blow some shit up', or 'wouldn't it be really cool if...'