So previously, I explained a little about the manga industry and how it is kinda failing on one side but also gaining ground on another. On the magazine side, there are numerous manga magazines that are aimed at certain age groups and genders. Those who read scanlations online might not know the complete workings, but they understand that Naruto and One Piece come out of Shōnen Jump magazine. While Jump is aimed at young kids from elementary school to middle school, any age can and does read it. I saw a middle aged man reading Jump on my train to Kyoto last week and I couldn't help but chuckle a little. It does look pretty funny.
The main publishers; Kodansha, Shogakukan and Shueisha have manga magazines for every age group and gender. Some are more popular than others, but they all compete against each other. In the shōjo scene there is Ribbon, Sho-comi and Nakayoshi. They all fight each other to the death over sparkly eyes, cool guys and slightly sensitive girls.
Today, I will be focusing on a mangaka that has only appeared in Ribbon, Tanemura Arina. Those of you may remember her from Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne and Full Moon Sagashite. They were both pretty popular in both the 90's and 2000's. I remember my friends and I huddling around the compter for the new episode of Full Moon when fansubs were just starting to take over the internet.
I decided to use these two for a reason. They show more of a progression in actual depth in the plot and some of the characters. But first, let's start with a little more discussion on Ribbon and the usual types of manga that they distribute. Now Ribbon is one of my favorite shōjo magazines because they usually have many different types of manga in there at once. Instead of only having Slice of Life like other shōjo or josei magazines, Ribbon usually has a fantasy, horror, slice of life, historical and dramatic genres all in the same magazines. Of course this is a good business strategy since there will be something for everybody in the magazine, but it also shows a wider range of mangaka as well. Because of this range in genres, the magazine is usually worth picking up and it also makes it much more interesting to read.
Since Ribbon already has this range of genres the mangaka that are published there are able have a little more creative freedom. For example, Tanemura went from having a magical girl to a death story and now is publishing Sakurahime Kaden; which is a historical romance. Of course, her style always stays the same and that style is pure shōjo sparkly, big eyed and fluttering clothes and hearts.
It was really easy to like Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne because it was light hearted and entertaining. There weren't any real deep messages in the story except for female empowerment and knowing how to let go of the past. Maron has to learn to let go of the past and how to stop pushing people away before they push her away. It is a tried and true plot line that shōjo has used time and again that never gets old. There will always be new middle schoolers how will connect with her character with past hurts and lost friendships. It was an easy development and a tried and true ending. The little Christian splash was cute and it added credence to the message of pushing past loneliness.
From Kamikaze, Full Moon Sagashite had a much more adult message. While the heroine was a little hard to identify with at first, she is dying after all, her circumstances and loyalty to her first love is something that many women sigh over. It was the message on shinigami being people who committed suicide that was the most interesting and deep message of the manga. While it can be said that Tanemura was showcasing death and life a little too lightly, we just have to take into consideration the audience to know that if she had gone much deeper it would have been aimed at a different age group and in a different magazine entirely.
Taking the age group into consideration, I felt that Tanemura did a very good job at delivering the message just right. The readers would understand the concept of suicide and understand why they could come back as shinigami, but also see that the shinigami were also childlike in their own right. The amount of regrets will pile up no matter who you are or what your circumstances, but the fact that they can still grow and develop as "people" was a good move. The amount of darker feelings and manipulations that derive from the sticky issue that is suicide were delivered really well. It didn't take away from the seriousness of the issue at all, it just displayed it in a much lighter light.
I have yet to read the other manga that she has done, I know that Sakurahime is not yet finished and that scanlations seemed to have stalled around chapter 19 or so, but I would be interested to see what kind of story it has. I read a couple pages of the Japanese and saw that it's about a princess that is engaged to marry at 14. The historical setting is what interests me the most. Recently there have been a lot of manga that has turned more to historical slice of life settings instead of modern ones. Those are always fun to read.