Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Anime 101, Part 3 - Manga

In her book Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation, Susan J. Napier writes about “the cultural reasons behind anime’s popularity.” She states that, “one of the most obvious is the relation between anime and the twentieth-century Japanese culture of manga” (19). In fact, “many, if not most, anime are based on stories that appeared first in manga” (20). “Manga” refers to the Japanese equivalent of comics and graphic novels, and is at least as important a part of Japan’s pop culture as anime.

Anime and manga definitely have their own distinct aspects (the most obvious being that anime moves across a screen). However, “it is important to note that both media share a common heritage in a culture that most scholars agree privileges the visual far more than does that of the west” (Napier 21). Japan’s visual culture comes naturally to them. If you look at Japanese writing, you may conclude that the characters more closely resemble pictures than letters. Combined with their historical use of caricatures, this pictorial writing style sets a steady base for reading manga. Many of the same symbols and narrative patterns found in manga are also found in anime, and their history converges far more frequently than it separates.

Mark Mac Williams writes, “Manga and anime share a mixed or hybrid nature” (6). They combine words and visual, and “both are cultural hybrids originating from Japan’s contact with the modern West” (6). The combination of verbal and visual in these media agree with what Napier noted about Japan’s visual culture. Note also that manga and anime were influenced by the West. MacWilliams clarifies with what I consider an important part of understanding anime and manga: “Both are inspired by Western styles of visual culture while drawing up on Japan’s venerable tradition of caricature and sequential art” (MacWilliams 6). These media are incredibly rich in Japanese culture and history from both before and after contact with the West. I think this richness might be what attracts so many viewers across the world.

After a few paragraphs on the topic, it’s probably time to give a proper definition of “manga.” In Japanese, the word literally means “amusing drawings” (Wolk 35). Culturally, however, manga is a great deal more than a few humorous pictures. Quite a bit of material present in manga contains violence, tragedy, and heartfelt drama. Susan Napier would argue that so many consumers enjoy manga because, “even more so than anime, manga covers a dazzling range of topics” (19). This sprawling array of topics in manga means that “virtually everyone reads them, from children to middle-aged salaried workers.” In fact, about forty persent of material published in Japan is manga (Napier 20).

Manga and their Western counterparts have yet to reach the same popularity in America. Still, manga is available and enjoyed by many of the same Americans who enjoy anime. In an article written for Publishers Weekly, Douglas Wolk says that “there’s a complicated relationship between manga and anime… In the U.S. the rule of thumb is that any manga with an anime counterpart available in English will sell better” (Wolk 35). Wolk’s statement is most likely true. Still, as consumers become accustomed to the Japanese visual style, manga can be appreciated without an accompanying animation. I read an increasing amount of manga, especially when anime is unavailable to me. Manga artists (called “mangaka”) communicate to their readers using many of the same symbols and styles of their animated counterparts. In fact, I find little difference between my experience watching subtitled anime and reading manga.

And so ends part 3 of Anime 101. The next Anime 101 will cover more history. I plan to continue mixing normal posts with Anime 101. I wish I could post even more often, but life happens, I suppose. Anyway, here are my sources for this section:
Macwilliams, Mark Wheeler. Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and
Anime. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2008.
Napier, Susan Jolliffe. Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary
Japanese Animation. New York: Palgrave, 2000.
Wolk, Douglas. "Manga, Anime Invade the U.S." Publishers Weekly 248.11 (2001): 35.
Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 27 Apr. 2010.

Pictures are the covers of Sailormoon and Death Note, respectively.

No comments:

Post a Comment

CAREFUL! Read the buttons before you click!

Google decided to put a "sign out" button in the spot that some of us expect a "post comment" button. If you accidentally click "sign out," then you will lose everything you just wrote. I've done that several times right here, on my very own blog. Don't be like me. Pay attention to what you're clicking.

Thank you for reading. And thank you for commenting. Every comment puts a smile on my face. ^_^

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.