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The Mega-Manga Americanime-Madness Controversy!
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MrZ
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Warning The Mega-Manga Americanime-Madness Controversy!

THE MEGA-MANGA AMERICANIME-MADNESS CONTROVERSY!
A Messay Essay by Mr. Z



When people think about "Chinese Food" in North America, some of the first exotic items that come to mind are Fortune Cookies and Chop Suey. In truth, both were invented in North America, but because of sheer marketing muscle and displacement of fact, they have become a staple of every Chinese restaurant in North America to satisfy the illusion that the consumer has been handed on the silver platter that is the common wisdom. Real chinese food on the other hand... is very different. Those who have tasted both, know that there is a difference, and to say that their isn't one, is just to be blissfully ignorant. Arguably, they are both equally preferable, but the fact is, they are suited for different tastes. What troubles me, is that the vast majority of potential otaku have found the original flavor delicious, yet aspiring mimics who absorb elements into their style, have the tendency to market it as the same, when it is clearly different. It is not the artists that I attack, it is the marketing department that distorts the media that I spite.

There is nothing inherently wrong about American-created, manga-inspired comics. I will say this right here: for them to say that they are manga artists is an honor that they would take the time and dedication to take on something foreign and make it their own. Just as Osamu Tezuka, the "Manga God" emulated Disney, founding the roots for manga and anime, it is flattering that Americans would borrow from a foreign art form. It has the potential to grow into something great, and I am not accusing it of being sacrilegious by any means.

Anime/manga possess a vast library of types of styles, very broad schools of thought that have been interpreted in a million different ways by millions of different people, just like Chinese food. Within this large spectrum of variety, however, there is stability and consistency that unifies it as a whole, a whole that is inconsistent with American Manga, because although they both might be "cats", they are not of the same breed and hereditary -- one is a tiger, and the other is lion.

If western manga-inspired comics, which more often than not, incorporate the standard western comic book production are put into the same field as manga, the result is counter productivity on both fronts because the USA, like always has, will encourage home grown talent among the majority over foreign imports, and the small but very loud Otaku will boycott manga-inspired work for being impure, western comic fans will also shy away from it. As much as I like diversity, when people buy a product, they buy an image. Would you buy wine from France, or the USA? Japan was the founder of manga -- and no amount of American talent, even if perfectly replicated and exceeded will make that ignorable. We are talking about mere superficial things here... if the difference between French wine and American wine is great, the difference between American manga and Japanese manga is greater.

In Japan, "Manga" is not a style, it is a medium, a very different meaning, it is so popular, that there is no question about what it is, that is why they interpreted it differently than westerners. The Japanese have their own unique word for western comics, but it is not as well used, and in the general sense to them, all "comics" are manga. This is a fact often lost in translation in North America, where "Manga" is a buzz word... Heavy duty classification for the difference between manga and western comics has only truly been born in North American with the Otaku Revolution (in other words, Otaku are snobs at times). This is how even the pioneers of manga can classify western manga as true, because to they have not experienced the contrast between the American comic and manga scene that have forced Otaku to defend their preferences so strongly with classification.

There are subtle, but multiple differences between American Manga and Japanese Manga. These are not "mistakes" but carryovers from the western style of comics to the eastern that otaku tend not to agree with: overly thick lines with no contrast of thin ones; big lips on petite girls; saturated coloring with painfully large amounts of contrast with overly crowded scenes; overly hardened faces; everybody has a hard well-toned, buffed-out body, even the most fragile of shrine maidens; exaggerated tapering of muscles; characters looking angry and overly dynamic juxtaposing with the character's actual personality; bulky, tacky, impractical outfits with no relevant design; disregard of tried and true techniques and traditions that define the very art form (Manga inking tech is different from western and panel layout is off at times... that and a lot of American manga tends to ignore the standard page size format and the fact that 99.5 of all manga pages are printed in black and white, pretty much everything besides of the cover and back). These are only a few of the things that are attributes of American manga.

Even genuine manga artists have used these aspects when the situation need be, but utilization and application are different. Images can often speak what words cannot -- but the difference is there -- any person who knows that Dragon Balls aren't a type of chinese cuisine can see the difference, but it varies so greatly and it is so situational that generalizing would be nothing short of a hardcore otaku's witch hunt. A strange example of reverse anime interpretation is with the Animatrix, it is genuine in its production roots, but there is something with the style the lends to the west more so than the east and otaku tend not to regard it as well as western Matrix fans did (It should be noted that the Japanese themselves loved the Matrix). This scenario exhibits the fact that preference is not merely culture based. Rave Masters is also done by a person with a Japanese name, but the style actually looks western to some extent.

Akira Toriyama exhibited his particular ability to exaggerate masculinity and violence in Dragon Ball Z, a talent obviously not exclusive to Manga artists, but at the same time, exhibited that he was capable of quite the reverse with Doctor Slump. Rumiko Takahashi exhibited her witty charm and play on Japanese folk lore in Ranma and Urusei Yatsura, while at the same time, displayed her dark side on such manga as Mermaid Forest. With all these variables on mood and style, from the ultra violent to the ultra cute, it is not with ease that one can classify them under a single unified category, so it is with regret that I find it difficult to explain this in words, nor do I have the right to classify the difference merely by country, culture and race. There is apparently a specific charm that is instilled into Japanese Manga that has been failed to be accurately captured by American Manga -- perhaps a different charm, but not the one I'm talking about. Perhaps it is the novelty, or the cultural nature... whatever it is... the fans know, and the professionals don't, because although the charm is often present in fan-art by amateurs in monthly anime and video game magazines, it is void in most "American Manga".

There are standards for each particular genre (Shoujo Manga, Shounen Manga, Sports Manga, etc.)... what American manga does however, is it takes a genre and utilizes a mishmash of styles that a composite of multiple genres that the artist has a preference for from what they have seen in anime, and uses them out of place. In a children's anime, simplicity is key. It is not uncommon to have tiny little delicate eyes, such as in Hello Kitty or huge cartoony simple eyes like Korroppi and Doraemon. You however, do not expect to see huge lashy bishojo eyes on Hello Kitty or evil brooding eyes typical of characters from action anime on Doraemon, it is just not part of the genre. Point in case, you must compare genres within a style. The Italians have a very different idea of comedy from than the Americans, and to say that they are the same and can't be classified because they are both funny, have people on them, and are shot on film is just a tad vague. This is how you can have so much variety within manga artists in Japan, but still retain stability and consistency... Very few people in this world like all genres, even if it is done in the same style, that is why classification is necessary, to specify targeted audience. The primary reason why American manga and Japanese manga should be split is because although their readers might not have a logical reason for it, they will always like one more than the other.

(On a side note, the well-known productions of GAINEX and CLAMP may be mentioned in the context that one might have a preference for bishoujo, or bishounen, as that is the two companies are primarily famous for [Well, CLAMP is famous for being insane, but that's besides the point]. This seems to be the cornerstone interpretation of what people like in North American from genuine anime/manga, yet ironically, it seems to be the number one thing that American manga fails to replicate well. In my experience, it seems you either have to be asian or female to draw cute anime characters... cause everyone else seems to have a phobia of drawing cute things.)

Old Post Feb 16th, 2004 01:45 AM
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MrZ
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There also happens to be a common trend among american manga artists not to the know the difference between anime and manga style and there is a difference other than the fact that one is in motion and color. Masamune Shirow is anime style, actually he was one o the key founders (This is definitely not to say that he didn't do manga, but like Hayao Miyazaki, he is best known for his animated works), notice how the noses are drawn like triangles and hair comes in big solid clumps of color more often not, this has been copied by many anime artists, because it instills simplicity, and although Masamune Shirow is capable of insane amounts of detail, this type of style works best for animation...

Style is style, every one takes on their own and absorbs what they like. What irritates me is when people repeatedly use the word "manga" as a buzz word: Mangaverse, Rising Stars of Manga, more How to Draw Manga books than you can shake a stick at! I wish they would have just tossed it out as a regularly formatted manga and name and stop ranting the buzz word in an attempt to attract attention to those potentially interested -- that way, when I see the non-asian name on the side after reading it, I will actually be surprised. Not to say this scenario has never occured, but the vast majority of them look closer to Archie than anything manga in stylistics. If you have noticed, I am not trying to say what is and what is not manga, but rather I am purposing a direct retaliation to this literal spewing of marketing muscle, and explaining why there should be a difference. The only relief I have from this is the gentle honesty they admit when they say "manga inspired". In conclusion, Manga isn't simply a style, it is a culture... elitist perhaps, snobbish even. When western elements are tossed into the direct manga scene, it creates an atmosphere that Americans turned to anime/manga for the sole purpose of avoiding. Admittedly, American manga has been well selling to a notable extent... and this is perhaps what scares Otaku the most.

All I can do is give another example I guess... one that I hope can reflect what I am trying to say relevantly without dancing around the issue. The Chinese have the same character for Manga as the Japanese, but it is pronounced as Manhua, but means exactly the same thing. Like Korea and Taiwan, the manga interpretation thrived in Hong Kong. Under British rule at the time of it's prime and before its decline, it borrowed both elements from the west and the east, perhaps the first clear manga hybrid from two different sides of the world. Despite sharing the exact same character as Manga, it was clearly different. Ironically, however, instead of living in unity with Manga and western comics, the market tried to directly compete with them, but ended up declining to a state of mediocrity because of low demand and a talent drain.

To be personally honest, there is only one sole reason why I will admit to hating American manga: How to Draw Manga books. Back in the old days, you'd be lucky even if you found any book on manga, not to mention manga itself or books on how to draw manga. As soon as Christopher Hart and certain unscrupulous individuals saw how successful the official Japanese How to Draw Manga books were doing, they decided to jump on the bandwagon -- despite having little to little or no credible experience in the field -- and proceed to make book after book claiming the radically diverse style contained within repetitively as "Manga". The books themselves are not bad -- they provide good instruction to those would tolerate his style, but the overuse of the word "Manga" as a buzz word is unforgivable. I suppose it is valid as an alternative, but the question remains, how far can one style deviate and still be related to its root? Many people have since joined onto the How to Draw Manga bandwagon after that, including Ben Dunn. Ben Dunn himself stated in an interview that he didn't classify his work as manga itself, stating that it really was more of a buzz word and his style is his own. This is an opinion I can respect, and I like this work, I was following NHS at one point myself... but I wish he didn't jump onto the How to Draw Manga bandwagon... sad

People like simplicity -- for example, Techno music has many branches and sub-categories in it (and the word "techno" itself is geographically split up into all manner of regions, i.e. Detroit and Cologne), but play it next to Classical or Country music, and pretty much anyone can tell that there is a difference. So you probably ask, "if a westerner makes Japanese music, are you telling me that it is not Japanese music, or if a western author writes a book in Japanese, is it not a Japanese book?" This is a very difficult question, as our culture and society has not openly adapted to absorbing another's culture, then spitting it back out on a relatively large scale... as a matter of fact, the anime/manga scene is probably the biggest acceptance of a completely foreign culture that the North American culture has ever taken on. Korea, Taiwan and China all have their own genuine "manga" or "manhua" and for the most part, Otaku accept it (Although there is a still the attitude of Japanese Manga only). This leads me to believe that majority dictates the classification... perhaps this is what scares the otaku elite... the fact that if manga becomes too popular and too westernized, that the majority will take control and the circles of the otaku elite will dissolve.

My opinion is not of the fanatical Otaku who believes in ethnic cleansing in the media arts, as one might accidentally believe, but rather one of challenge and proposition so that I and others might better understand the unspoken difference between styles of west and east in hope of furthering the mediums. I hate to state so, but I have analyzed and practiced the manga (I have also studied western comics, but it is my secondary) artform very vigorously throughout my life, and I can see the difference more prominently than certain others... but in any case I am a lifelong student of the arts, always seeking to learn more, and I have only the most pragmatic, altruistic vision for the future of this art.

Just like how Anime was a French word that changed meaning due to repetition and misuse to mean Japanese Animation, the reason why many otaku fear the over use of the word "Manga" is because of dilution. When the average person hears the word "Anime", it is not too uncommon for the ideas of bishojo being raped by giant tentacled monsters, pedophilia, or other sexual deviancy to spring to their mind. This is xenophobic imagery that occurs because of ignorance and the media to the vast majority. In many people's minds, anime and manga roughly translate into "Adult Cartoons and Comics". It is because of this that a dividing line has to eventually be placed in the interests of classification. Not because they should be distinguished by quality, but rather, be separated -- so one does not interfere with the other's growth and is free of hype and marketing pressure. Many western artists often already state that their work is "manga-inspired" and I appreciate this. They are very noble about their element application, but when you throw in the dimension of western comic stylistics into the parameters of manga, a very distinguished artform gets dilluted... not polluted however.

Manga, a word that already is confused with anime amazingly frequently (think: "hip-hop" and "rap"), has a significantly powerful meaning to otaku that cannot be described, and when people jump on the bandwagon just because it is popular, it does both American comics and manga a great disservice. Thankfully, it seems times are changing, American manga and Japanese manga are already drawing the line between themselves. The difference also provides variety for all tastes, covering what neither could do alone in North America. I understand that american manga artists have a hard time on both fronts, both oppressed by their western comic colleagues and hardcore otaku, and I take great note of this. Perhaps my gripe is still with the fact that no fully published series of American Manga (Some shorts in Rising Stars of Manga have pretty authentic stuff) has fully taken a completely step into the the original Japanese form, for the most part, the stylistics, mood, theme and feel are still western in dominance. Some marketing ploys have gone so far as classifying Simpsons and South Park as anime... maybe by the original French word, but not by otaku standards, not by a long shot.

So, I ask you: what are manga and anime to you, and what does it all mean?



Postclaimer: If you have personal questions or comments, please feel free to address them to me at [email protected]. Thank you very much for reading. I intended this essay to be fun and thought-provoking and is NO way meant to disrespect anyone mentioned within. I am friendly and come in peace. Thank you. ^_^

Old Post Feb 16th, 2004 01:45 AM
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Kitoky
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Um...did you take breaths in between paragraphs? confused


Manga and Anime means a free trip to Japan for me.


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Old Post Feb 16th, 2004 02:13 AM
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dragonpisces272
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first of all...whew...that was long stuff


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Old Post Feb 18th, 2004 08:03 AM
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'chelle
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was that a paper for school?


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Old Post Feb 18th, 2004 03:19 PM
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SaTsuJiN
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lol... in my opinion anime = big eyes , manga = animated realism
however I do know that Anime is animated series or movie, and manga is comic book style. Sometimes it feels like anime like ghost in the shell and ninja scroll along with AKIRA are in a league of thier own...


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Old Post Feb 18th, 2004 03:57 PM
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