manga, Uncategorized

A review of Manga, Manga

A review of Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics
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Frederik L. Schodt’s monograph Manga! Manga! was one of the first and most influential books detailing manga’s impact upon Japan. This book functions as a work for interested fans, a study for academics, and as one of the first titles to promote and translate major Japanese works into English. In many ways this book is still a prime example of manga history and cultural analysis, but like many texts based upon popular culture in other ways it hasn’t aged well. Schodt’s strengths are his presentation of strong arguments, detailed information regarding early manga history before Tezuka, a uses variety of sources and the referencing of direct images from comics as examples, and giving the reader a clear over view of Japanese comics. Despite this relevance the world of manga has changed a great deal since this work was published, especially in the area of English language publication and Schodt fails to give in text citation of his sources outside of the use of imagery. While this text remains a highly important read, due to fast changing environment of the manga industry, especially in terms translation within the United States it is important to investigate more recent history and culture further.
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Schodt presents a clear argument, while making sure that his opinions are not over powering. His writing style is presented in a personal manor, which I feel gives the text a more natural and less traditionally academic feel. He also often presents historical information chronologically in an almost narrative form. While some might take issue with this style of presentation, I found it pleasant while retaining a sense of detail many informal works often lack.
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One thing I noticed about this work’s approach to writing was that it emphasized early history a lot, basing a lot of its presentation of information upon on retrospect. The benefit to such a style is that it doesn’t really date as much as a style more focused upon the current work of the period. This allows the text to remain significant, despite being written around thirty years ago. This does, however furthers the issue of the text not portraying the more recent manga history of the period as strongly. Though this approach of emphasis does have its issues, it has allowed this book to remain a beneficial text.
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Schodt has a very unusual means of in text citation. Rather than using the traditional means of citing paraphrased material, he employs the use of actual manga pages as a means of clarifying and emphasizing his arguments. While this style is excellent at presenting a theme and visual representation, it is less successful in allowing the reader to determine where information was drawn from. While he does present a quite extensive bibliography at the end of the book, this style gives the reader an impression that a lot of the text is based off of personal research. His form of citation is very interesting; especially considering how little pictorial citation is generally used within more academic texts, but I would have appreciated knowing more about where he directly acquired some of his information and how much of the book was produced through individual research.
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The greatest strength of this text is the presentation of manga in a way that can both appeal to a fan or academic, while providing information in a way that someone unfamiliar with manga could appreciate. Manga! Manga! contains an excellent overview of Japanese publication practices and manga history, but isn’t afraid to explore topics related to manga such as questions of literacy and how manga reflects the needs of its readers. I have read a number of texts regarding manga publication that have struggled when trying to clearly explain the basic principle of manga publication. Schodt’s style in contrasts this by making the writing approachable, clear and detailed.
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Where this text struggles, however is in its examination of a more modern perspective, particularly the growth in US publication. Since the release of this book the U.S. translated manga industry has grown substantially. This growth has made the conditions of US manga publication vastly different from when this text was originally published. It is understandable for this reason that Manga! Manga! mainly focuses upon Japanese publication rather than US publishing which was nearly non-existent at that time. Due to this monograph’s age even the practices, styles and popular trends within Japan publication have changed drastically since it was released.
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Despite Schodt’s clear attempt to remain relevant, many aspects of the industry have changed drastically including the development of US publication which cannot be overlooked. Manga! Manga! is a key work of manga fandom and studies, and helped to encourage the development of a US manga translation industry. Its examination of Japanese manga history and culture, especially before World War two is clear, easy to read and highly informative to a variety of reader types. While it has clearly become dated and could use more in text citation, it is a wonderful window into the practices during the 1980’s, and what works and practices are important within Japan. Manga! Manga ! set the stage for the study of manga and English language publication.
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Schodt, Fred L. Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics New York: Kodancha USA. 1983. Print.
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