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Weekly Linkage: Where I Cheat With A Non-Link July 27, 2006

Posted by Samurai Tusok in Links.

Paul Pope, a purported ‘rock star’ of alternative comics who has never shied away from congratulating himself, but makes some interesting observations from his experiences as a gaijin manga-ka at Kodansha:

…the best manga is character-driven. Take, for example, Lone Wolf And Cub. A great concept, a great story. It doesn’t matter that it’s about a samurai … that it’s about a father and son so much. It doesn’t matter, the setting so much, or the way that they look. You know what I mean? It’s about the personalities that are coming through the stories. The stories seem very medieval in a sense, like The Cantebury Tales. He goes on a journey, and hears these various people’s stories in these character sketches.

When I was working at Kodansha, they’d always want to reduce things to the most basic elements of character. You’d tell them, “I have this story…” and you’d start telling them all of these plot elements, and they’d say, “We don’t care–just show us the drawing of the character.” “This story is about a young girl, who’s doing XYZ,” or “This story is about a young man, who’s an honest young man in a place where everyone’s corrupt.” You know what I mean? That’s what they wanted to see. They wanted to see these characters.

And then, on top of that, you might have some sort of facade to make it more interesting, based on whatever people are interested in right now–you know, maybe this year it’s going to be golfing, because of Tiger Woods. Or maybe this year, ships are popular because of Titanic. I will say that one thing they did really well in manga was to capitalize on topical trends, because the artists are trained to work so quickly. If there was some movie that was really popular, the editors would say, “Make your manga so that people would want to see it as a movie.”

Carl Gustav Horn is an editor at Viz Communications, but I remember him best as a contributor to Japan Edge, the Gen-X-era coffee table guide to Japanese subculture. In one chapter, Horn explains why fandom’s desire for self-insulation from the unwashed masses and wannabe otakus makes little sense to him at all:

I never started an anime club at Pomona [College], as I never did in high school. In part because I still walked funny from those early club experiences, but mainly because I truly believed anime was for everyone. Viewed one way, it’s just TV shows, video, and movies; so why would you need a secret handshake to see them, any more than you do to watch The Blues Brothers or Northern Exposure? I would simply have showings of the anime on campus, as if it was unextraordinary film and television.

Rob Vollmar, the former ‘Occidental Tourist’ of the late great Ninth Art and is currently the co-creator of Bluesman. In an article entitled “Woman Seeks Manga“, Vollmar devotes a couple paragraphs to bemused wondering about the appeal of shounen-ai comics:

It is important to point out that while shonen-ai manga may have homoerotic themes in them, they are not, in their essential function, works of pornography. In fact, one of the most popular shonen-ai manga, Banana Fish goes on for dozens of volumes without any act of sexual contact between the two male protagonists… This palpable sense of delicacy, while not applicable to all manga … is still one of the central tenets of shojo manga and in place more often than not.

Given [its] immense popularity […] the casual Western observer [is probably] wondering if millions of Japanese women are secretly fantasising about their husbands making love to other men. While not having a direct line into the psyche of Japanese women, it is my opinion that perhaps shonen-ai manga merely represents a sacred space for its creators and fans, where the masculine/patriarchal value system simply does not apply and they defend that space with the poison pill of “gay-ness” (these are straight men we are talking about repelling, don’t laugh!), thereby repelling potentially intrusive husbands and sons who would see such images and storylines as obviously not for them.



1. MangaBlog » Blog Archive » Morning news - July 27, 2006

[…] More food for thought: Bento Physics does some linkblogging, which is a little different there than anywhere else, as they always find interesting essays on Japanese culture—and quote the good parts at length. […]

2. Lea - July 30, 2006

Carl is actually manga czar at Dark Horse Comics, and has been for a couple years.

3. Samurai Tusok - August 3, 2006

I’ll remember to take note of that in future references to his person. 🙂

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