January 26, 2005

Blue House

So it looks like the first couple of pages of Seven Seas' Aoi House are up online ... and let me be honest, this is not the impression that English-speaking "manga" ought to be making on the comics world. Anything that references Chobits on the first page as some kind of life ideal -- even jokingly -- is in dire danger of turning into fanboy wank along the lines of "AHAHAHAHA WE ARE ANIME NERDS." Now, I'm not the type to automatically dismiss a comic based on two pages (unless they're really BAD pages), so I'll give Aoi House the benefit of the doubt for now. I sincerely hope that it'll become good, character-driven situational comedy, and not a series of stilted anime references that are only funny to the joke-teller.

The whole point of good manga is to tell imaginative and unexpected stories that soar past the clich├ęs already set forth in the artform. Let's leave the self-referential snark to some other crappy medium, like blogs. ;)

ICv2's latest Retailer Guide to Anime and Manga is out, including a report on the state of the manga market. It's interesting to note that anime, which exploded at the turn of the century with the rise of the DVD, is now tapering off. Using that as a model, perhaps we can expect the manga "bubble" to reach steady-state at around ... 2009?


Anonymous said...

Doesn't the use of the word "manga" - good or otherwise - simply codify the artform into cliche? The same way that "comics" has become nonsensical shorthand for "Strong Men In Capes", or "Comix" is used to mean "Archly Hip Biographical Strips"?

Yes, why should English speaking culture, specifically America, get to define the term used for "sequential combinations of images and text". But saying you can be "good manga" says that the rules are different for different forms. (And it also sets up the expectation tht one form is inherently suprior to the other, the way that "Art Comics" are snobbishly held above "Mainstream Comics".)

Shouldn't the point be to tell good stories, and not insist on giving the audience the unexpected or defy convention or form?

David Oakes

9:14 AM  
Bryan Lee O'Malley said...

That "comic" is fucking terrible.

10:07 AM  
Pata said...

But the point is to tell good stories. I didn't mean to imply the other fields of comics beyond "manga" are somehow under a different set of standards. In everything I read, I look for imaginative stories, even if it's derivative pulp entertainment, because sometimes even an act of copycattery can contain strokes of cleverness.

What bugs me is that budding English-language comickers in the "manga style" (whatever that may be) seem content to make comics that simply re-create their favorite fandom-driven manga or anime. That's nice, but Japan has it pretty much covered. If English-speaking "manga-ka" want to make their mark in comics, they'd better be ready to come up with something that doesn't scream of Japanese Comics By Formula, Insert Characters Here.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous said...

"Japanese Comics By Formula, Insert Characters Here"

But isn't any American creator who attempts a "manga style" already by definition being derivative? Can they possibly do original work when the first step - the goal in fact - is to look like something else*? And if the intent is to be derivative, shouldn't they be judged on how well they copy the original, rather than how well they defy it? (Modulo the fact that it should still be worth reading, even if it is a perfect copy.)

* - The answer is of course, "Yes, but..." The current crop of "American Manga" is no different from the wave of American comic creators that *had* to draw like Neal Adams, George Perez, or John Byrne. Those that perfectly emmulated The Ideal Comic could succeed for a time, but eventually became stale and repetative. Those creators who were able to incorporate the style of The Ideal and yet adapt it and make it their own, they would last. (Last longer at least. And often become The Ideal Comic themselves, spawning - ahem - their own waves of imitators. Manga isn't the first "Hip New Style" to create a generation of poseurs who recognize, well, the Style and lack the Substance. Nor will it be the last. Decry laziness, sure. But decry it in all forms, in equal measure.)

David Oakes

3:01 PM  
Shawn Fumo said...

Well, I don't know about Seven Seas in particular (they are already in weird ground by deciding to print right-to-left), but I don't think it is fair characterize everyone who grew up with manga as wanting to slavishly copy it.

Probably one of the best examples is Bryan Lee O'Malley with Scott Pilgrim and Lost at Sea. Obviously influenced by manga but with his own distinct style.

Even with people following more closely, you can still have interesting original stories, like the new Peach Fuzz story. Actually, looking at the Rising Stars of Manga books, you get a pretty interesting range of different approaches.

I remember back when any kind of manga/us fusion seemed totally garish. There seem a lot more examples now of people getting a better handle on it, but it is also still early. Everyone is still being directly influenced by manga straight from Japan. But what about if someone grows up reading Scott Pilgrim and gets influenced by it and then puts his own stamp on it. That is then two steps removed...

I think there's plenty of people that start off with using their favorite characters as a sandbox/playpen to experiment and learn. And in fact a huge part of Japan is the "doujinshi" fanfiction. But as time goes on, they also tend to want to contribute something of their own and realize that setting all their stories in Japan while living in American probably isn't the way to go.

I say give it some more time for all the new creators to find their own voice before getting too too worried.

7:27 PM  

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