Sunday, June 9, 2013

Genderifying Manga : Shōnen and Shōjo Yokai

To modern manga readers it comes as no surprise that manga is heavily designated by gender and age. You have shōnen and seinen for males and shōjo and josei for women. Each genre has specific narrative boundaries and tones that are heavily weaved into each title and make it easier for consumers to gravitate toward the magazines that hold what they want.

The main reason why I have started thinking about this idea was that lately, I have been interested in reading manga that depict Japanese traditional culture, particularly yokai, Japanese traditional monsters and spirits. After I read Black Bird, I really noticed something in the way that all the yokai were drawn by Sakurakoji in comparison to the yokai that I read about in Kekkaishi.

What follows is a quick foray into my thoughts on not only yokai manga, but how manga has been slowly breaking out of the genderification that it has, almost willingly, put itself into.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Akagami no Shirayuki Hime and Women with Agency

Last post, I discussed how we were able to apply and connect Twilight criticism to the Japanese manga Black Bird. When looking at popular culture, from any country, I am always looking into what kinds of behaviors that piece is trying to teach the target audience. Does this show/book/song try to tell people what is considered masculine? Is it trying to tell women how to attract men? Are the young men and women reading that YA novel truly connecting and understanding what the author is trying to imply they are going through? How does that particular fandom respond to certain characters and what kind of fan enterprises are they embarking on? These are all questions that many pop culture critics and scholars research and expand on to further, scholastically, understand what constitutes "popular" and what a phenomena reflects back on to the culture that is consuming it.

While I was reading Black Bird, it was impossible not to see the obvious and tonal connections between the book/movie and the manga. As I said last post, Twilight could have been a shojo manga, it's tone, characters, and plot fit into the established genre so well. It was no surprise that the Japanese market picked it up and was widely popular. Never mind what unhealthy information about relationships the two imparted to its readers.

This post, I am looking at the complete other end of the shojo spectrum with a manga that's not too widely popular and a lot less soapy. Out of LaLa magazine, the one publishes Natsume Yuuchincho, comes the story of Shiyuki, or Snow White, is a rather inverted look at the fairy tale.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Twilight + Yokai = Black Bird

In the year 2005 a new pop cultural phenomena was launched and spread throughout the world. It released a giant of a question onto the world at large: Are you team Edward? or team Jacob?

I am, of course, referring to the giant franchise that spans 4 books, 5 movies, was on the NYT Best Sellers list and propelled Kristen Stewart into almost every home. That phenomena would be Twilight.

Now, I am not really going to go on about my opinion of the books one way or the other. I have actually read 2 of the 4 books while I was in college. My suite mates and I were passing around romance novels my senior year of college and I remember reading Twilight, the first installment of the series, in a matter of hours. For a YA novel, it wasn't great by any stretch of the imagination, but it had heart, the situation was entertaining, and the writing was so easily read that my brain didn't have to engage at all. It was like reading a really good fanfiction that was bound in paperback.

In 2008 Twilight, the first book in the series, was translated and sold thousands of copies in Japan. My Japanese teacher, an older and very smart women, actually read them because her friends were talking about it. The series and the books were a huge success in Japan, which is not very surprising because when you read Twilight and you've read some old shojo manga, you recognize that the plots and characters are made very similar.

Which is why it shouldn't surprise you that I am going to be looking at how Twilight and Black Bird, are very similar in a lot of ways.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Created families and Kiss Yori Hayaku

The joy of having such diversity in manga content is that there is always a manga to read that matches your mood.

Recently, I've been really uninterested in manga that make me think a little too much. It's probably all the reading I've had to do for school, but my mind just is not ready for Gantz at the moment. With this is mind, I headed to a manga that I could just read and enjoy without too much mind capacity needed.

So, I read Faster Than a Kiss, or Kiss Yori Hayaku, by Tanaka Meca. I have to admit, any of the manga that comes out of LaLa is usually a fun read. They tend not to be too serious, but have enough "cute tension" that you can flip pages quite easily and at a rather steady pace.

Within this manga, the biggest theme I saw was the created family.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Slice of Life, Arakawa and Silver Spoon

What does a story about alchemy and understanding of balance have to do with an agriculture student living in Hokkaido?

The answer: Arakawa Hiromu.

In my opinion, which is admittedly not a very heavy of lofty opinion, there is nothing better than having a mangaka that is able to create a real body of work. Not just having a manga that was so popular that is has crystalized a mangaka for all time, think Kubo Tite, Kishimoto, Higuchi Asa, Hatori Bisco, and Watsuki Nobuhiro when I talk about a crystalizing of an artist. Their careers have been defined by one long running epic storyline. While on one hand, this is amazing. They have entrenched themselves in the minds of readers and their respective magazines, but I have yet to see any of them write another manga.

As the great manga and anime Bakuman taught all fans, the manga world is an unforgiving place. If you can't get the editors behind a project and then reach the fans than you are cancelled and your place taken by another artist. You can have a hit and then be immortalized in the manga cannon for all time, as all of the mangaka I mentioned above are.

Yet, I can't help thinking that fact is kinda disappointing and a little sad. To only have 1 hit and 1 manga to define your career must be frustrating. When I read a book, for example, like it and connect with the world and characters that an author creates I go out and automatically try the rest of the books the author wrote. I do the same thing with manga. I've done a whole series of Adachi Mitsuru's manga and I've looked at both Tamura Yumi's epic post-apocalyptic series for that same reason. I love reading and comparing a writers/mangakas body of different series and seeing the progression of an artist because, lets be honest, that is the best part of art. Dissecting and discussing the changes and the continued fluidity of any art is some of the best arguments we can ever have.

All of us manga readers already know that Arakawa Hiromu was going to go down in manga history as the creator of one of the best shōnen manga of all time, Fullmetal Alchemist. The only anime that I am aware of that got reanimated within years of each other. No matter which anime season you watched, for the record I read the manga and then watched Brotherhood and couldn't have been more satisfied with every aspect of that anime, you knew that Ed and Al were going to become the next big thing in the manga/anime world of cosplaying. And I'm sure that everybody now knows about her next amazing manga called Silver Spoon, or Gin no Saji, that has been serialized in Shogakugan's Shōnen Sunday.