Thursday, November 20, 2003

...subject matter such as transformer-style robots, samurai warriors, teenage soap operas, big hyperexaggerated gladiatorial arena-fight style sagas, sometimes all at once...

Boy, I certainly got a lot of mileage out of that statement, didn't I? And I got some excellent responses, always a good thing.

But I said earlier that I wanted to clarify, and I will, and point the finger at my amateur-hour writing skills, which often lead me to make statements that are fuzzy or half-formed. Graphic designer here, not journalist. Anyway, yes, I'm aware what the target audience for Shonen Jump is, and I know it's no more indicative of what Japanese comics are like than oh, say, Batman Adventures or Powerpuff Girls are of American comics. Also, my exposure to manga is quite limited, consisting mostly of having read several titles like early chapters of Akira and Barefoot Gen many years ago, along with more recent instances where I've stood at the graphic novel rack at Barnes & Noble, looking at the manga trades and trying to see the sailboat, having had my curiosity piqued by all my comics blogging homeboys and enduring the disapproving stares of the floor workers. So what I'm trying to say is that I shouldn't have generalized quite so much. I'm very aware that the above statement isn't necessarily gospel, but it is representative of what I've seen so far, and I fully admit I need more exposure more manga so I can have a fully formed opinion.

But I still stand by my contention that based on what I've seen, I'm still not convinced that American comics should become more like manga, except perhaps in format, and I'm not exactly sure how that would work except that instead of monthly installments of whatever, we would now get bigger volumes less frequently. Tradeoff- maybe more creators would be able to finish a project, and not have to rely on fill-ins or replacements because they couldn't meet deadlines. Maybe it's because I'm an old-school fanboy from farther back than I like to admit, but I'm not so sure I want comics to stop (or de-emphasize) trying to be written with adult themes and viewpoints, all the better to appeal to that 12-year-old demographic which is expected to save the industry. Frankly, the manga I've seen, with rare exceptions, has been lacking in depth and subtlety, and art-wise has a monotonous look, all pointy noses and hair, speed lines and clunky-looking lettering, or superdeformation. Maybe it's just a question of getting acclimated to what is apparently more of an acquired taste to me than it is others. Maybe if I'd been 13 in 1984 instead of 23 and dug the hell out of Transformers and Voltron and so on. Who knows.

Apparently, or so I'm told, there is manga out there which deals in mature, sophisticated subject matter in a myriad of genres in a myriad of styles. And I'm definitely convinced of the convictions of the converted, who seem to know better than I. But to me, it's like the Taj Mahal- I know it has to exist, because people tell me it does and I've seen pictures...but I've never seen it with my own eyes, so...

What's a poor ignorant gaijin to do?

Maybe there's hope for me, though- when I was a preschooler I absolutely loved seeing Astro Boy on channel 13 (they'd never show anything like that now, that's for sure) and Tobor the 8th Man on Louisville channel 3 a few years later, and I really liked anime like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and especially the wonderful Spirited Away. Even got in the habit of catching an occasional Cowboy Bebop on Cartoon Network, although I haven't watched an episode in months and can't get interested in any of their other offerings. So anime I have no problem with, apparently. Maybe it's just the comics format then. Maybe I'll just end this now and see what kind of reaction I get.

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