"What's with those comics with the big-eyed girls and clashing swords? If your child is a fan of manga, Japanese comics, you may be wondering just what he or she is getting into. We're here to help."
Help is exactly what you'll find on Manga4Kids, a website dedicated to concerned parents worried about what their kids are reading. That's right; Manga4Kids is not a site for your casual anime & manga fan, but for parents who wish to know more about what their sons and daughters are reading these days.
On Manga4Kids you'll find reviews and information on various manga series. However, these reviews do not follow the usual convention of simply rating the overall quality of a given series. What you'll find here is an in-depth analysis of the content of a manga, and whether it's safe for your child to read. From violence to psychological impact, every imaginable theme that might not be appropriate for children is discussed (there's even a cigarette-count!).
Manga4Kids does not give a score to its reviews; in fact, its reviews don't really "review" a series as one would normally expect. The site provides its readers with information on a given manga series, to help the parents understand the contents of the manga; it's up to the readers to decide whether a manga is bad or not for their children.
On the front-page, you'll find an introduction and the goals of Manga4Kids, as well as some basic Manga 101-type information to help parents get an idea of what they're about to learn, and to clear up a few misconceptions regarding manga.
The reviews are divided into two sections: Reviews by Parents and Reviews by Kids. While the reviews by parents are probably what most people would be looking for, the reviews by kids also help show how what the children think of manga (and judging by the length of those reviews, it can be clearly seen that most of them are too busy reading manga ^^).
The site also provides links to major U.S. manga publishers, as well as some other anime & manga review sites which have similar functions to Manga4Kids.
One can also find on Manga4Kids the MangaBlog, which provides up-to-date news and views of everyday manga happenings. The MangaBlog will be covered in more depth later on.
So what does the favicon stand for? According to the site: "These are the Japanese glyphs for the word "manga": ma-n-ga. We just use the first one as a tag for the site."
2005 March 4: Manga4Kids & MangaBlog launched - Manga4Kids was started by Brigid Alverson in March of 2005. Due to its short life cycle, the site has not experienced any major events.
2005 - 2007: Manga4Kids on Hiatus - No updates were made to Manga4Kids in close to 2 years, as Brigid was kept busy by MangaBlog.
Behind the Scene
Backstage: When did you start Manga4kids? Was there any difficulties involved?
Manga4Kids: I started Manga4Kids in March 2005. It was very easy, because my husband is a high-energy physicist and very good with computers. When I want something, I just tell him and he makes it happen ^_^ I wrote the introductory page about an hour after I got the original idea, and then I started working on reviews.
Backstage: What are the main focus and goals of Manga4Kids?
Manga4Kids: The purpose of Manga4Kids is to help parents understand manga and demystify it a bit. I included a few pages that explain basic conventions, such as chibi, but most of it is reviews.
It started when my kids ordered some manga over the internet, and when it arrived I noticed that it was rated for teens. As a parent, I try to be careful about what my children watch and read. It's not so much about censorship as being sure they don't get exposed to things until they are ready. So I sat down and read both books--Rurouni Kenshin and Inu Yasha. I really liked Rurouni Kenshin and encouraged them to read it; Inu Yasha I felt was a bit too scary for them at that age (they have both read it since then without any ill effects).
This incident got me to thinking that there isn't much guidance for parents about manga. The ratings are useful but inconsistent. Look at Tokyo Mew Mew, which is rated for young kids but the girls run around dressed like hookers and complain the boys are "perverts." I don't want to have to explain that word to an 8-year-old. Or Pet Shop of Horrors, which is rated for 13+ but has some pretty nasty scenes in it, and also some themes that younger kids won't really understand. On the other hand, Imadoki and Alice 19th and Crossroad are all rated 16+ but I don't have any problem with my 13 year old reading them. So rather than trying to classify books by age ratings, I decided to provide parents with information about content and let them take it from there. I know a couple of movie sites with a similar format, so I used them as a starting point.
Most people my age don't know anything about manga, because we didn't grow up with it, and a lot of people associate it with porn. So what the reviews do is go through each book and tell exactly what's in it. I have a brief description and note any potentially problematic content right up front, and for those who want to know more I give a plot summary and point out important themes and issues and then go into more detail about sex, violence, substance use, and language. It's very different from the reviews I write for people who read manga all the time.
Backstage: What were your original plans for Manga4Kids, have they changed overtime as the site grew?
Manga4Kids: I was hoping to put as many series as possible on the site and keep them current. But it takes longer than I expected to write the reviews, so I haven't done as many as I'd like. Actually, I got more interested in the blog and that has taken up most of my time.
Backstage: Any interesting stories you would like to share with the readers? Were there any articles/reviews you're particularly proud of? What were reader's reactions to the site? Any important dates for the website?
Manga4Kids: Not really, because it hasn't attracted as much attention as the blog.
Backstage: What do you see in Manga4Kids today, and what does the future hold for the site? What role do you see it play in the anime/manga community?
Manga4Kids: I'm starting to get back to writing the reviews, and I'd like to get Bleach and Naruto up before long. In the beginning, the focus was on shoujo manga but as my kids (and husband) read more shonen, I wanted to get some of that on there as well.
One thing I'm thinking of is setting up a database with links to all the reviews I can find of a particular book. I think that would be useful to a lot of people, not just parents.
Manga4Kids is not aimed at the anime/manga community at all. It's designed for people who don't know anything about manga except that their kids are reading it.