Manga spreads Japanese Culture


Manga - Japanese comic books - has been making its way around the world lately.
In November 2004, the monster publisher Shueisha launched in US its popular comic magazine Shukan Shonen JUMP (Japanese title) as SHONEN JUMP and has succeeded in selling 300,000 copies.

Lately, the 9th volume of NARUTO drove its way up the chart "USA TODAY's This week's top 150 best sellers" - the same chart where Dan Brown and Stephen King reside - way up to the 29th place for the fourth week of February. This is a remarkable record since the comic market in US is said to be somewhat around 20% of that in Japan.

I grew up having manga by my side all the time, and I feel like it has given me so much dreams, energy and hope. Many grown-ups may give a dubious look, but there're lots that I learned from manga when I was a kid.

So the news of manga spreading around the world, starting to gain popularity and is now largely accepted worldwide really makes me happy.

For the first edition of MANGA, let's go over the basic characteristics of Japanese manga:

- unique art (fine lines)
- unique panel placement
- lines written inside bubbles
- hand-written sound effects in wide diversity
- the presence of expression skills called "manpu" such as effect lines

In addition to the above characteristics, there is also the presence of "ma" (betweenness, the use of time). In various scenes in Japanese culture and ways of expression you can see this peculiar presence of ma. For example, ma adds a exquisite touch to the performances of kabuki.
In other words, ma is the balance between response and motion, and plays a significant role in manga especially action manga. This structure with distinctive sharpness draws the readers into the world of manga and feels the catharsis similar to that of a kabuki performance when the actor makes a pose. This is what is commonly refered to as keren-mi (I think "deformation" would be the closest word to describe this). I personally believe that this keren-mi is the best part of Japanese art culture, and manga or anime being fit to express this deformation in a very effective way, thrived to grasp the heart of many people.

Even if it's not an action manga, bringing a huge panel with an impressive graphics after a series of small panels, the manga can also give great catharsis to the reader. This, is the ma and this ma determine whether that manga goes on the stream or not.

Other than that, the unique points about Japanese manga is probably the large eyes, small nose and mouth. Gekiga, a kind of Japanese manga with rather realistic art does not have this tendency, but I suppose that the main stream manga popularizing around the globe right now most likely has the mentioned characteristics.

This is said to be the influence given by Tezuka Osamu, who in the 60s started to draw like that greatly affected by the Walt Disney art.

I will pick up on other characteristics in more details in the following weeks. Check back


Made in Japan Contents
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    Spirited Away (2001)
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  • Yasunari Kawabata
  • Banana Yoshimoto
  • Yukio Mishima
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  • Japanese Tea
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