Manga panic defense 2

Okay, this one I found on my own. I didn’t require any Bad Idea Bears to point me to it (though I do extend warm birthday wishes to one of them).

While surfing around to see what the kids are saying about manga these days, I found this thread at the Comicon.com message boards, which led me to this blog entry. It’s a response to Dirk Deppey’s essay from the shojo issue of The Comics Journal.

And… well… I think I’ll just pull some quotes and let Pat O’Neill speak for himself.

On manga, in general:

“Manga are not comics. Both manga and comics are forms of graphic storytelling…but so are kids’ picture books, but we wouldn’t call those comics.”

To elaborate:

“I think of the relationship between Euro-American comics and manga somewhat the way I think of the relationship between Euro-American drama and kabuki–both are forms of theater, but kabuki is not a form of drama in the traditional Euro-American sense.”

On whether girls really like manga:

“The percentage of girls buying and reading manga is probably smaller than the percentage of boys buying and reading comics, and almost all of those girls are participating in a fad, not a movement.”

Then why do they buy it?

“Simply put–it’s not American. It’s foreign, it’s exotic. To really get into it, it helps if you are willing to put in a lot of time learning at least rudimentary Japanese or learning about Japanese culture. The manga fangirls, to use Deppey’s term, are the same group of girls who would have gotten into French cinema two decades ago.”

On the future of the manga market:

“In five years, the currently burgeoning manga sections in bookstores will dwindle to two or three shelves…and the titles on the specialized anime racks in places like Suncoast Video will merge back in with the science-fiction or animated titles. The boomlet of interest in Japanese graphic culture will have died.”

And a parting shot:

“For now, let me end this way: Manga is not, and never will be, the salvation of the comics form in America.”

Ohhhhhhhhhkay.

17 Responses to Manga panic defense 2

  1. Jon says:

    Interesting. Not his predictions. Not his overgeneralizations of manga fangirls, but this:

    “I think of the relationship between Euro-American comics and manga somewhat the way I think of the relationship between Euro-American drama and kabuki–both are forms of theater, but kabuki is not a form of drama in the traditional Euro-American sense.”

    It’s interesting because I was just reading Neil Cohn’s article, Reframing “Comics” which bring up a different side of the issue of terminology.

    It’s probably something I’ll get around to blogging about since it’s precisely those types of terminologies that people use as descriptive terms that implicitly brings certain cultural connotations into the discourse that don’t always get focused on.

    Sure, manga and comics are basically the same thing, just as Japanese and English are basically the same things, but that doesn’t mean that meanings, “aesthetic” values, and implications are also be equivalent.

  2. Ed Cunard says:

    “I think of the relationship between Euro-American comics and manga somewhat the way I think of the relationship between Euro-American drama and kabuki–both are forms of theater, but kabuki is not a form of drama in the traditional Euro-American sense.”

    Ethnocentrism always warms my heart in a way only something I don’t really like can do.

  3. Jon says:

    I’m not so sure that was an ethnocentric statement, though–it really seems like he’s trying to articulate a differnce here but just lacks a solid framework to do so.

    See, Kabuki (and Chinese Jingju; Indian Kathakali; Thai Khon; Indonesian Randai) really is differnt than “traditional” Euro-American theatre. The development of “Western” (I’m going to bring up that false dichotomy again) stage the separation of different performative functions created a split between Drama, Ballet, and Opera that just isn’t found in most traditional Japanese (or Asian) drama. The only well established modern genres in the West are Musical Theatre–but the closest historical analogues in the West are the British Pantomime, French Vaudeville, or Italian Commedia del’arte. And these are obviously related in that the subject matter and content deal with humour.

    Western drama is script/text driven. Actors recite lines or read parts. Almost all traditional Asian drama (and see–this is where the “drama” term gets a little problematic) focuses on movement, dance and acrobatics in conjunction with text which is more often sung than not–and is quite often not even recited by the actors.

    There’s the saying that “Eastern” theatre is actor driven–the actors perform actions, of which reading lines is just one small part, and in many cases (e.g. Indian Bharat Natyam; Japanese Buyo) it plays no part. There’s also the close connection between traditional drama forms in Asia and the indigenous Martial Arts (Indian Kalaripayatt/Kathakali; Thai Krabi Krabong/Khon; Sumatran Silek/Randai; Chinese “Kung Fu”Jingju). So it shouldn’t really be surprising that alot of Asia Cinema focuses on “Kung Fu” and “Samurai” flicks–it’s a part of their theatrical tradition as much as scripts and text are as much a part of “Western” dramatic tradition.

    Scott McCloud mentions to some extent (Understanding Comics) smaller proportion of text and the higher proportion of aspect-to-aspect transition in manga. His explanation leaves a little bit to be desired, though he does echo the absence of text in Japanese drama.

    Aarnoud Rommens gives a more thorough analysis of the absence:

    The Japanese public and manga artists often describe European and American comics as too ‘wordy’ or ‘literary’.

    the amount of wordless passages in any volume of manga may be striking to the Western eye. To ‘read’ manga is to read images – the rhythm is determined by the sequence of images.

    As opposed to Euro-American comics, you will rarely find descriptive captions in manga. The use of these is kept to a strict minimum, which cannot be said of the prototypical European/American comic.

    Rommens main thesis being the ghettoization of Japanese manga as just a “a mere genre within comics’ constellation, thereby denying the fact that manga is a medium in its own right. Manga is treated as an exotic feature within the Euro-American comics’ field.”

    Similar value judgements and comparisons/contrasts could be made of Chinese manhua, Korean manwha, Indonesian Cerita silat bergambar, and Thai Ghadoon books.

    Anyway, I just opened up a whole can of worms that I should be bloggin about in my own space.

    All I’m saying is that it’s a little bit more complicated than a simple case of ethnocentrism…

  4. Lyle says:

    Pat O’Neil? Is this the same Byrne hyper-fan who used to deride continuity (as an unnecessary tether to storytellers) on usenet? Oh boy, so he’s blogging, eh… I think I found I liked him best as unintentional comedy.

  5. John Jakala says:

    I’m sure there are many interesting similarities and differences between Western comics and Japanese comics and all kinds of other comics but I don’t see why it’s necessary to stake out the generic term ‘comics’ as applying specifically to “American” comics. That’s what seems ethnocentric to me.

  6. Johanna says:

    Don’t ever take anything Pat says seriously. He’s someone who’s tried to tell published writers like Kurt Busiek and Mark Evanier that they don’t understand how publishing works. He’s simply wrong 95% of the time.

  7. tangognat says:

    Wow, those are some crazy-wrong quotes. And it is interesting how he has the power to read manga fangirls’ minds.

  8. Dorian says:

    So…what about European dramatists like Bertholt Brecht who were influenced by Japanese drama, and in turn heavily influenced later dramatists?

    I mean, you could certainly make the arguement that the big event shows owe a debt of influence to Brecht’s emphasis on the nature of drama as performance and spectacle, and he borrowed that notion wholesale from kabuki plays he was watching.

    Or have I already over-thought this?

  9. Ed Cunard says:

    Dorian, I don’t think you’re over-thinking it at all.

  10. Michelle B. says:

    Right. When girls like pop culture created for them, they’re shallow, fickle creatures following a fad. When boys do the same thing, it’s a serious movement worthy of respectful inquiry.

    Everyone knows that women are incapable of serious intellectual pursuit or appreciation of Great (Comics) Art. All they care about are babies. That’s why they don’t read real comics.

    / sarcasm off

  11. Jon says:

    I mean, you could certainly make the arguement that the big event shows owe a debt of influence to Brecht’s emphasis on the nature of drama as performance and spectacle, and he borrowed that notion wholesale from kabuki plays he was watching.

    Right, Dorian–I don’t think you’re overthinking it at all. The reason I posted the link to the comments section in Jim’s post is just because we were discussing Post-Colonial criticism, Said and Orientalism. It was my qualifying statement for the overgeneralisations I made in the previous comment. There’s alot of overlap and commonalities between “Western” and “Easter” drama–but alot of differences as well. I was just articularting some of those differences.

    But how Brecht interprets Asian theatre in general and in particular Mei Lanfang and Japanese Noh would fall under precisely what Said describes as the “West turning to the East for salvation” (my bad paraphrase)–Comparative Drama Theorist, Min Tian, has written a number of articles criticising Brecht’s “(Mis)interpretations” to Asian theatre.

    I won’t deny Brecht’s connection to Asian drama-nor his influence in dramaturgy–but I would question how the assumption that that influence demonstrates a transitive relationship from traditional “Eastern” theatre to contemporary “Western” theatre.

    It’s not a separation of the two that I’m saying is inevitable–or just about Brecht in particular or even about an “East vs. West” thing. I’d say the same thing about Artaud’s connection to Balinese theatre or Wagner’s connection to ancient Greek Theatre.

  12. Mark Fossen says:

    I remember PDO from ye olde USENET days … and remembered how little I though of his opinions back then. Seems things haven’t changed.

    I won’t comment on his industry speculation … ’cause I don’t have my crystal ball handy. His kabuki analogy is nonsense, however. Is kabuki different than American Naturalism? Sure … but not every piece of theatre in Japan is kabuki. Nor is every piece of theatre in America naturalism. Suddenly, every style variation in an artform means they are utterly separate?

    Nonsense.

  13. David Welsh says:

    Everyone knows that women are incapable of serious intellectual pursuit or appreciation of Great (Comics) Art. All they care about are babies. That’s why they don’t read real comics.

    But Michelle, in real comics, women care so much about babies that they invent imaginary ones, go crazy, and kill all of their friends! What more moving testament to motherhood is there?

    (Unfortunately, my sarcasm doesn’t have a reliable off switch. At least on certain subjects.)

  14. Jon says:

    (Unfortunately, my sarcasm doesn’t have a reliable off switch. At least on certain subjects.)

    We hadn’t noticed David. ;)

  15. Oliver says:

    This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

  16. Oliver says:

    None dare call it racism, though.

  17. David Welsh says:

    From a position of comfortable anonymity? No, I’d rather you didn’t.

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