Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mainstream

I started reading Manga (Japanese comics, literally "irresponsible pictures") and watching Anime (Japanese cartoons, the name being taken from the first three syllables of "animation") about twenty years ago. Back then it was definitely a small, subculture group. We watched fifth or sixth generation VHS copies of "Macross: Flashback 2012" at the clubhouse of the apartment complex that one of the members lived in. Good times.

Nowadays the style has become ubiquitous, parodied as much as imitated, but always as a subculture or youth oriented culture, despite the fact that Manga in Japan is targeted at all age groups. (Check out Frederick Shodt's "Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics" for a lot more info.) Well, today the front page of the Fox News web site had a picture that surprised me greatly. I took a screenshot for your benefit. The actual story can be found here.

Way back in the early 90's, Japanese publisher Viz Communications partnered with American publisher Eclipse Comics to publish a few Manga titles. Area 88, Xenon and Mai the Psychic Girl were published biweekly and quite inexpensive. I absolutely loved them. In the end, Viz terminated their relationship with Eclipse to go solo in the American market, proclaiming the coming explosion of anime/manga popularity over here. I don't things have exploded the way Viz wanted them to, but when the Japanese giving out a manga award makes the front page of a major news web site, Manga has officially been absorbed into our culture.

2 comments:

  1. Amen, Brother!

    I find that I am both regretful and annoyed at the absolute EXPLOSION of manga available to the American public. Regretful, because I remember how hard it was to find anything in English and how me and my friends would buy the original Japanese comics and just do our best to interpret the story based on the pictures. Annoyed, because there's just so much CRAP available. The stories and artists of 20 years ago are gone, and the current stuff just makes my skin crawl.

    The thing that frustrates me is that I'll be in a Borders or Barnes or Booksamillion, and I'll see the expansive manga section, and for a split second, I will be SO excited... and then I'll remember I don't care about it anymore. I'll look at the titles available, and not recognize ANY of them. It just makes me sad.

    And Gundam is now unrecognizable.

    Alas, where is my Tezuka, Miyazaki, Takahashi? All gone. Hey, does anyone want the first 20+ issues of Ranma 1/2? In Japanese?

    In cheerier news, Terra E is now available!

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  2. I think the difference is that back in the day we had some automatic filters that we took for granted. Nothing made it over here unless it was cool enough (or in some cases niche enough) for someone to care about it. I'm sure that there is quality manga and anime readily available, but I'm not willing to filter through the volume to discover it.

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