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I'd been meaning to post a rant like this

...but Bustertheclown on the Comicgenesis forums beat me to it:

The [manga] being imported these days, for the most part, isn't classic stuff. It doesn't even have the makings of classic stuff. A huge percentage of it is trite pop fluff. That's understandable, since publishers like TokyoPOP are in the game to make a healthy profit, which they are. The part I don't like is that now the trite pop fluff is the stuff that's influencing people. ... I see a trend of clueless youth shunning the old hat title of cartoonist for the perceived glitz and glamor that is manga-ka.

Believe me, the tactics are there. "Read it backwards! Pretend you're Japanese!" Sorry folks. When I'm reading English, I want to read it from left to right. It gives me a headache otherwise. If I read it in Japanese, I'll read it Japanese style. "Big eyes are more expressive!" Yeah. Bullshit. Big eyes, small eyes, no eyes; if you don't know the rules of caricatured expression, all your characters are just going to look like mannequins. "The page layout is so much more open and fluid!" Fluid, to me, means having a readable narrative sequence, i.e. looking at a given page or strip, and understanding what the hell is going on. I'm sorry, but when it comes to forming a sequential narrative, I'd pick American cartoonists over Japanese manga-ka any day of the week.

The stuff in quotations are all arguments I've heard being fed from publishers and purveyors to readers for the past few years (and, of course, my responses to those arguments). When you dispute them, the standard retort is "you just don't understand Japanese culture!" Well, I understand it well enough to know that I'm not Japanese!... I don't understand why, in manga, when a young man sees a girl scantily clad, he either starts crying or gets a gushing nosebleed, because an American comics, when a young man sees a scantily clad girl, he usually starts wrestling with her.

These are cultural differences which have been developed over generations! As a man who's interested in the cultures of the world, enough to try to learn many different languages, and enough to surround himself in the last six months with dozens of new friends form all over the world, I'm very concerned that the cultural sampling that's taking place in the instance of cartoons is not terribly healthy. In bringing in so much manga and anime in so many venues so quickly, and almost ignoring other forms of cartooning, a truly American artform is being diminished at it's core.

I don't agree with Bustertheclown in every particular, because I see comics as an international art form, but the wasted potential in American and European pseudo-manga irritates me as well. There's so much that Japanese comics can add to a cartoonist's expressive vocabulary, but instead, western imitators latch on to the lamest aspects: the stupid clichés involving big nosebleeds, sweat drops, blood types in character profiles, giant hair and giant eyes. It's dull and turns the less knowledgeable reader off the great work that has come out of Japan because they are trained to expect nothing but that rubbish.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 8, 2005 12:52 PM.

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