August 13, 2008

Over at Sporadic Sequential, John Jakala is hosting a conversation about what comics possess literary merit. There are some fine suggestions, some you’d expect and some that you wouldn’t. For my own purposes, I’m going to focus on the coming-of-age novel. I know there are a ton of coming-of-age stories in graphic and prose media, and not all of them are even remotely literary, but three did come to mind as bumping up from entertainment (nothing wrong with that) to literature.

  • Genshiken, by Kio Shimoku (Del Rey): The lives and loves of a group of college geeks in a club that celebrates manga, anime, games, collectibles, and cosplay.
  • Paradise Kiss, by Ai Yazawa (Tokyopop): An unhappy grind finds herself through association with a group of oddball student designers.
  • Ohikkoshi, by Hiroaki Samura (Dark Horse): College students steadfastly avoid facing the future in the ways that college students do.
  • I think the shared element that gives these books a literary quality, at least by my standards, is the almost melancholy way the characters are nostalgic for their present station in life. They’re moving on to the next stage, but they’ve reached that transition point where they appreciate the current moment, partly because it’s about to end. There’s something lovely and wistful and thoughtful about that.