Yeah, I like manga

April 10, 2008 at 5:20 pm (Manga)

I’ve just started leading a manga book group for teens.  Unlike regular fiction, I have a real easy time reading outside my usual genres in manga – maybe because it’s a fast read, or maybe because even outside of genres there are a lot of other aspects to manga that can be appreciated, such as the art style and so forth.

Manga is something that is becoming very popular in America, not just with the kids, but with adults as well.  Manga has its standard categories – giant robots, girls with psychic powers, etc. – much the same way American comics have their standard categories – superheroes, mainly.  But there is a wide range of other topics covered in manga that appeal to a wider audience than most of the popular American comics can appeal to.

Don’t get me wrong – there is a huge variety of American comics and graphic novels that appeal to a vast range of tastes and interests, but until very recently most of the non-superhero comics have not made it into the mainstream of comics.  In Japan, there are many titles in many genres that have become popular, so the things that are being translated and imported for our consumption are widely arrayed.

I recently went on a trip to our local large book store to discuss manga with our manga selector, and had the opportunity to put my thoughts in order on the topic, so I thought I’d write them up here in case anyone needed a crash course.

First, manga is a Japanese word meaning “comics.”  Pretty straightforward, I know, but there you go.

Manga is separated into several broad categories, but mainly “Shonen” meaning “for boys” and “Shojo” meaning “for girls.”  There are other styles of manga for adults, such as “Seinen,” which is for older boys and young men.  Some other types of manga you might run across include “Yaoi” which means something like “boys love” and feature young men in love with each other.  Another style of manga is “hentai,” which is essentially XXX, and at times can also be very violent, bizarre, or otherwise disturbing.  A final category you might run into when researching manga is “doujinshi” which is basically comics that feature popular characters, but which are written and drawn by fans, not the authorized artists.  In America, this practiced would be squashed as quickly and as brutally as possible because it infringes copyright.  In Japan, there is a general unspoken agreement that as long as the amateur artists don’t get too big for their britches, and since the doujinshi help to express the popularity of an existing manga, then it’s OK, and everyone just lets it go.  Doujinshi often portray the main characters of manga and anime in romantic relationships that don’t exist in the original manga.  These can range from innocent and fanciful to hentai style.  It’s not likely that as a selector or a big chain bookstore shopper that you will come across any doujinshi, but if you shop on ebay for manga, it’s all over the place.

Well, that’s enough for now.  I’ll write more on this topic in the near future, and start some lists of titles that seem to work good for kids.  In the mean time, have a lovely day!

Sgt. Frog - comedy manga - looks interesting...


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