Saturday, 27 December 2008


Good opinion/rant piece about Tokyopop 'manga pilot'

Anyone interested in the comic book industry, or had considered using this as a gateway route might be interested in reading. Its pretty funny and shocking. This is fairly old news, I know, but I thought I’d link it here in case anyone hadn’t heard of this yet.

I can’t say I’m surprised. When I first saw the advertisements for this competition it really did raise my suspicious that TP were out to exploit artists. They just come off as incredibly patronising, I mean just read that terms/conditions contract. I’ve never seriously considered entering before I read this as more than a passing fancy, and [quite arrogantly] I thought, would I really want to be published with a company which has a whole branch of ‘American manga’ and spreads misconceptions. I know that having any kind of publication is an achievement, and perhaps this sounds like I’m just jealous of some of those decent artists and bitter of the idea that the precious manga style isn’t tainted by filthy westerners, but it’s not like that. I think that when you are passionately interested in something, enough to be inspired to do something creative because of it, you should make the effort to understand the context and history of that thing. Don’t the two come together? It seems not. If it did, more people would know that manga refers to comics made in Japan/by people brought up in Japan. Its manga because they have that whole history and process in their work. I don’t want to put too much emphasis on this part, because of course it’s still a grey area, but I do believe that comic books that go through Japanese publication and have been made by someone who has absorbed that culture [its that more than a race thing, but how many white people are born and brought up in Japan? It’s easier to refer to race] should be the only comics we refer to with a Japanese word, just like manhwa refers to Korean comics. It’s just logical, isn’t it?

I like comic books from any country. Even if I come across as fanatical [please don’t agree with this] I don’t worship glorious Nippon [like any country, there are of course repulsive things about it as well as interesting]. But I don’t see why these Western comics should be marketed as manga just because they have a few googly eyes and effeminate men in there. It just comes across as shallow to me. No matter how well the style is emulated [what is ‘the style’? Manga is any kind of narrative art coming out of Japan, we only see like, a tiny tiny percentage of what publishers think would appeal to consumers over here. There is no definitive style, it’s like saying all American comics feature big, steroidy muscular men in tight pants], it’s still a comic. It’s like those people don’t acknowledge their own influences outside of manga at all, and selling stuff as Amerimanga just shows the publisher’s ignorance [or they’re underestimating their audience?].

So, my family is pretty working class and we’re from a decent rural pocket of a rough area. Kids slapped teachers at my middle school and all that sort of thing; my school experiences were most likely no better or no worse than anyone else’s to be honest. Just think how absorbed you are into British and American culture, even if you’re not aware of it. Everyone has had some great memorable experiences in their lives. I don’t see why all those things shouldn’t influence you when writing/drawing a story. I don’t know how anyone could feel comfortable writing a story about a Japanese high school with Japanese characters in a completely foreign place where all the character’s relationships are idealised. That’s pretty much what most of the RSoM entries are about. There’s nothing wrong at all with doing it as a personal escapist thing. But I think....People should consider if anyone would want to purchase and read their escapist fantasies in print.

I once played a fan-made visual novel game which I thought was pretty cool. The scenarios were put together pretty well. Then I read the artist’s bio in which she described herself as a Spanish girl who didn’t identify with the Spanish culture at all, and only typed in English or Japanese. It made me think, how can you not ‘identify’ with your own country? You are a product of your country’s culture whether you like it or not, you can’t just ignore something so fundamental. After that, I played the game again and found myself to be highly critical of it. I don’t know whether I was just angry at the artist for saying those things in her bio, but second time through I found the characters and dialogue to be very unrealistic and full of bad melodrama. It’s probably a bad thing that I let the artist’s personality and views influence my judgement. But I still have this negative disposition to people who call their work manga when there’s no reason for it. It’s a bad habit. A lot of the RSoM entries are very good, the 2006 winner June Kim
has some really awesome illustrations on her site [please look at it!], and the comic 12 Days was great – it didn’t even feel like manga, which its not supposed to, but the publisher says differently.

So, I don’t like Tokyopop so much, the only comics about Japanese highschool I want to read are from people who have been through Japanese highschool. Please Amerimanga artists, read some good western comics and write something about your own experience, I would very much like to read it!


Zongyi Chen said...

Lol yep, I heard about this "manga pilot" thing awhile ago. Sounded freaky.

Blair said...

I can't believe they got away with it! Haha.

thomas li said...

...pfft, tokyo pop should be shot lol. there is so much crap manga being imported anyway who cares if its gonna be tainted by filthy westerners, its had its day. dont get me wrong, i grew up with alot of the classics and it helped to shape me and probably most of us but its dying a death. go to any leicester comic shop and its like 90% crap.

Blair said...

Publishers should translate actual quality series that are only getting fan translations, instead of what they think would sell because it follows the same clichés. But I would say that, I don't have to make money from the titles. It seems Dark Horse is moving in the right direction by picking up seinen titles like Gantz.

thomas li said...

heh we just started watching gantz... its SOOOOOO SLOOOOOOWWWW lol.

i dunno ive seen some awful stuff with the darkhourse logo on :(

but if it keeps them afloat and they keep supporting the good stuff i guess its ok.

what does "seinen" mean?

(also my word verification thingy to post this reply was vombles... VOMBLES!!!! german wombles LMAO)

Blair said...

Gantz is pretty long, it takes a while to get through the first few arcs, but I haven't seen the anime yet.

Seinen is a demographic which means is aimed at young men about 21+...Most of what I like falls into that category!

LOL, Vombles!