Tuesday, September 22, 2009

East vs. West: Making The World Safe For Manga

Icarus Publishing has a small tidbit buried in the bottom of today's blog that I think is right on, and I liked it so much that I wanted to give it a little more thought as well.
I’m a firm believer that the public’s embrace of the “Japanese style” and the manga boom enjoyed by Tokyopop and Viz could not have happened any sooner… it was the complete dominance of Japanese console video games during the 80s and 90s that really introduced – and accustomed – masses of kids to the Eastern cartoon aesthetic.
I'd go with that being the best explanation that i can think of. There was a time when the Manga look was instantly "Astro Boy" or "Starblazers" and that was about it. No self respecting comics fan liked the stuff. But wait, there were bootleg copies of the Yamato adventures floating around, and if you got a hold of one of them them then you realized just how bad the animation in the '80's was here in America. Ralph Bakshi was unwatchable to me after seeing "Be Forever Yamato". Or a better translation of "Galaxy Express 999" or "Black Magic M66". This was good stuff.

But your average public wasn't going to swallow the change in relationship to the character. It flipped everything that Disney told us to love on its head: If you put all the work into the main character then the backgrounds are secondary. Its like hiring a name lead actor and that's pretty much your budget. Anime has the opposite: amazing world creation and characters that were a blank face of cartoonish expressions, so that the audience could, in theory, project themselves on the leads. I'm not sure that I buy it honestly. I tend to believe that you can get anime when you've had enough education on their facial "shorthand", so that you no longer are thrown by the bizarre glyphs that the faces turn into and also no longer have to decode that expression.

Without the cheap labor to produce the games so that they could get marketed at easy toafford prices, I doubt that it would be as accessable to the American audience. It also helps that the cable channels needed to fill time and there was ready made product that probably could be bought fairly cheaply. Repeatition is key here. I have no doubt that without the videogames we would never have a generation of kids for whom the complete over the top cartoonishness of DragonBall Z seems completely normal. (Please note that i actually read the blog, not just stared at the girl's butt in the graphic at the top.)

Now we're going to have to deal with the cultural differences in nudity and sex that have caught more than a few countries with regards to child porn and censorship. The case in Germany is extremely troubling, but not more so than some of the midwestern busts that the Comic Legal Defense Fund has had to get involved with over the years. Whose attitudes will change first? the Laws, defined by prescedent or the publishers?

I do believe in truth in advertising, and enjoy that Icarus continues to be upfront over their Manga porn. Whether you choose to buy or not, at least you can't say that they hid their publishing intentions.

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