Japanese Cartoons As A Cultural Product

1217 words - 5 pages

The cultural product that I will be focusing on is Japanese cartoons. A more colloquial term “Manga” is used when referring to such comic books. I hereby focus on Manga because of its popularity and ubiquitous nature in Japan. About 35 per cent (Allen & Sakamoto, 2006) of all publications are in serial and paperback formats and they are read by people of all age groups and class (Craig. J, 2000). The prevalence and popularity of such manga suggest that it may be an accurate indicator of social norms and values in the Japanese society. This realm of the fantastic, albeit not to be taken literally in many instances, serve as metaphors for culture itself and speak about the world we live in today (Craig. J, 2000). Hence, this sophistication has allowed manga to spread beyond Japan to places like the other parts of Asia and the western world. As such, I find it imperative for an acute analysis of this cultural product and the crucial actors involved in its production and consumption.

To give a brief introduction to manga, they are story-driven, (audio-) visual narratives, which deal with “nearly every imaginable subject” (Schodt, 1996). Visually crafted, they exemplify multifarious experiences and can potentially reveal the nuances of contemporary society, like a kaleidoscope. Diverse disciplinary fields are inherent in these narratives and serve as not only pivotal points for modern Japan, but post-modern society as well. Manga evolved from sources like graffiti and picture scrolls in the Edo Period (1602-1868). Although prominent from the Edo period, it was only during the post-war period which socially deemed it as a significant form of artistic expression. Post-war baby boomers and radical experiences of social change defined the themes in manga during this era. The first modern conceptualizer of manga, Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989), who is referred to as the “god of manga” was held in high esteem because he invented the “story manga” as a graphic novel (MacWilliams 2000). Naturally, storytelling became a mainstream for manga and many popular works were animated. Like many literary genres, there is a unique intertextuality when reading manga. This is because readers need to know and be aware of a variety of visual codes as a form of manga literacy. Without which, reading would be almost incomprehensible. Such conventions are not only physical, but pictorial and cinematic. Hence, story manga provides limitless fictional arenas for artists to explore any subject which literary forms had been dealing with (Bryce & Davis, n.d.). Because of the existential nature of manga and the cultural ramifications it poses to society, manga as a cultural product has sheer power as discursive tools within society and provides deep insights into what is otherwise, inaccessible.

Manga production involves a number of social actors such as artists, writers, publishers, editors, assistants, commercial planners and readers. However, editorial influences often...

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