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Weekly Linkage: J-Rock Deconstructed, Fantasy Matters and Portable Culture July 17, 2006

Posted by Samurai Tusok in Links.
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Bread rocks.We apologize for the lack of updates here at Bento Physics, but Naughty Ninja and I have been really busy. Juggling our responsibilites such as her day job and my thesis work has proven to be challenging. Yes, you heard me right – Naughty Ninja works now so she can earn money to support the material for this blog – such as manga, anime and lots and lots of coffee.

All the while, I continue to maintain my useless standing in society as a perpetual student, but that’s okay, because earning money is what girls are for. See how feminist we are like that?

Ix of Yuri to Boushi to Hori no Tabibito deconstructs a track from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and examines the appeal of Japanese appropriation of Western rock by using the phenomenal manner in which bread culture has been appropriated as a point of comparison in order to come up with some interesting conclusions:

However, the genius in which some Japanese rock and pop songs are written, I believe, is embedded in the way they embrace Western culture. Let me give you an example. I went to Japan last year, and one of the things that made a great impact on me was bakeries. You can’t go 500 yards inside any largish Japanese town without finding at least one bakery.

And these aren’t your regular run down British affair, oh no. Bread is an extremely big business in Japan [...], but the types of bread on offer may surprise many Western bakers. For instance, Kare-pan; a deep fried doughnut type bread with curry inside, when the most adventurous thing we put inside ours is jam. Even more controversial, Meron-pan – the fusion of two different kinds of dough (cookie dough and normal sweet bread dough).

It’s as if Japanese bakers took one look at Western rules for baking, gave it the finger and just did whatever they wanted. In the UK: starchy things like potatoes in sandwiches? BLASPHEMY!”

I had heard of Queenie-chan before Bento Physics came to being, but I am glad to have rediscovered her excellent musings particularly this rant about the nature of role models, personal fantasy and manga (bold emphasis mine):

“[...] I just came back from the NarutoFan forums, with it’s legions of shrieking fangirls who live, breathe and drink “Naruto”. They all probably fantasise about becoming really powerful female ninjas, and romancing equally powerful, handsome male ninjas – which is a pretty good fantasy to have. Now, “Naruto” is a shounen manga, but the discussion we’re having is the effect manga is having on young female minds, no?

And the discussion has leaned towards shoujo manga, because it’s assumed that young girls tend to read shoujo, right? Well, NarutoFanatics prove one thing – young girls are just as likely to have power fantasies as young boys. And girls who are inclined towards power fantasies will seek in out in whichever manga provides it, which is usually not shoujo romance.

So if you’re worried about impressionable young girls, keep in mind that only a small percentage of them are impressionable in the way that people ought to be worried about. The majority are probably too sensible to take it seriously, or would rather be given a fantasy world where they can be a powerful adventuress and go butt-kicking with alot of handsome warrior-types.”

One of self-proclaimed love swami Warren Ellis‘ musings that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is a bit old, but is worth linking anyway. It’s about why manga’s ‘small format’ fuels comics literacy (at least with respect to Japanese commuters):

See, that right there is a big part of the manga success — those things go in a coat pocket or in a backpack. It’s why paperbacks were such a revolution: they were cheap and they could be stuffed in a pocket. Dave Gibbons, talking about the later Martha Washington books he did with Frank Miller, talked of his desire to do a “roll it up and stick it in your pocket comic”, which speaks to why that form lasted so long.

Portable culture is crucial to any society in motion. Manga in all its indigenous forms has been a thing built for Japanese commuters. Part of why that style of anthology doesn’t play so well in America is that America’s a culture of private cars, not public transport.

Personally, if I’m going to spend an hour or two on a train, I want something I can stick in my pocket. A paperback book, or a copy of LONE WOLF AND CUB or something similar. [...] But mostly, it’s a form/ambition thing. You’ve got 90 pages and a perfect portable format. Write something so important that people have to carry it with them – because they can.

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1. MangaBlog » Blog Archive » Monday links - July 17, 2006

[...] Bento Physics greets us this morning with thought-provoking links and commentary. I particularly liked the excerpt from a piece, which I would never have found on my own, that compares Japanese appropriation of Western music to Japanese appropriation of western baked goods. Also, Queenie Chan talks about shoujo and Warren Ellis explains why size matters, at least for comics. [...]


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