Monday, September 29, 2008


American Manga


An imprint of DC comics intended to function as an American alternative to manga, has folded shop. On the surface, Minx seemed like a good idea; why not translate the manga medium for a more American audience, using cultural references that don't necessarily leave parents scratching their heads? Japundits could have told publishers years ago that manga has a growing audience. To hear one of editor Shirley Bond tell it:

“I started to wonder what was going to happen in a few years when those readers would want something new,” she said at the MINX launch in February, 2007. “So I pitched this line as an alternative to manga, but also as an alternative to traditional fiction, because I thought that it was really about time that teenage readers had their own imprint and that they could experience a brand new visual reading experience."

But it didn't work.

One British reporter wonders why and has this to say:

just as British kids of my generation grew up watching so much Saved By the Bell and Sweet Valley High that we talk about "jocks" and "proms" even though these barely exist within our direct experience, tomorrow's Americans will be looking around for the otaku and bishonen that are supposed to populate every school. It's nice to see cultural colonialism happening in reverse, and of course teenagers love to plunge into an esoteric world that makes no sense to their parents, but at the same time it does seem a bit ridiculous that an American 16-year-old can't pick up a comic that more closely reflects her own life.

True that. When I watch American "high school" movies with my British born husband, he delights in identifying the cliques while I squirm, remembering yet again that I was a geek. (He doesn't believe me).

At Japundit, we've observed for a while that popular culture isn't necessarily flowing in the one, hegemonic direction that apologists always fear. But it does occur to me that part of the appeal of manga may be its very "foreign-ness" and its imaginative use of setting and character and design, and the narrative risks that writers in Japan take naturally. For audiences around the globe, this kind of story-telling is thrilling. Do

I'm curious to hear from the experts--this means you--on what it is about Japanese manga that is so compulsive for you and if you think its success could ever be duplicated in the west.

(To shortly be posted at Japundit.)

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