Tuesday, December 11, 2007

OEL is an oxymoron

This is one I've been intending to rant about for a while, but a recent snippet of news I've seen sent me over the edge.

Marvel have decided to produce an X-Men manga. None of the people associated with it are Japanese. Now I think Raina Telgemeier is a very talented writer, and may well produce an excellent comic, but it still won't be japanese, and it probably won't read much like a comic produced by Japanese creators for a Japanese audience, so calling it "manga" seems a bit of a cheat to me.

Original English Language manga is to me a contradiction in terms. If it's created by English speaking people for an English speaking audience in a western style for a western publishing format, then it doesn't matter how big the eyes are or how many speedlines you include, it's not manga. It's no more manga than strawberry flavoured candy is in any way related to actual strawberries. It might be very nice strawberry flavoured candy, but it can only compare favourably with other strawberry flavour candy. When compared with actual strawberries, you cannot help but notice that it is not a fruit.

It's cultural appropriation at its worst. Japanese culture tells stories in a different way, with different emphasis and pacing, and with different references. Attitudes to the medium of comics are different in Japan, which leads to a different publishing structure. It's not just difficult for an American production to properly emulate a Japanese comic, it's almost impossible. And most of the time, they don't even try. They simply pick up a few superficial stylistic tips, and think that's enough to hitch a ride on the manga bandwagon.

And one other thing: if you are a westerner, creating a comic to be published in America to be read by Americans, constructing it so it reads right to left is a ludicrous affectation and I will mock your foolishness and cast aspersions on your character.

You have been warned.

1 comment:

Jack Norris said...

Not to be all "ah, silly purists" or anything (though I generally consider purists of all stripes silly), but this is just going to become more widespread and any attempts to stop this trend are pretty much hopeless.
Unless the purists do one thing:
Come up with a term for this stuff which is both as catchy/easy to remember as "manga", and, almost as important, has no more, and preferably fewer, *syllables* than the word "manga".
Otherwise, people's inherent laziness will prevent any other term from catching on.
I've always leaned pretty solidly left, in regards to diversity, gender relations, etc., but when the righties started exploiting the whole "politically correct" thing, I felt they were able to because of a mistake on the part of those of us who thought you could ask people to replace terms of one or two syllables with terms of seven or eight syllables without generating resentment at expending the extra energy. You might say that's a piddly amount of energy, and it is, but people really *are* that lazy, especially when asked to change habits.
Similarly, on the right end of things, southerners are never going to get people to replace the term "Civil War" with "the War Between the States" or "the War of Northern Aggression" as long as "Civil War" only has three syllables.