on 25 July 2008
Frederik L. Schodt has to be one of, if not the, most respected voices in manga commentary. His first book, Manga! Manga! was a god-send to those who discovered the marvels of Japanese comics before they really took off in the West. But that was written in the early 80s, and desperately needed updating. Hence this voume.
The book is essentially a collection of essays and articles on different aspects of manga, the Japanese comics market, and famous authors. It suffers slightly as a whole from being an anthology of previously published works. However, it is still immensely informative and engagingly written.
Manga can seem like an ocean of foreign names and ideas to a lot of us in the West. This book is designed to help us pick and choose between, and understand the trends within, the different veins of manga.
And it is so good at that. The 350 pages feature a history of the rise of manga in Japan, the meaning of manga to the Japanese, extensive investigations of various authors (includng a generous chapter on Osamu Tezuka), and expositions of, amongst others, Pachinko and Mah Jong manga.
Also of note is the featuring of manga for Young Mothers. Apparently young or 'trendy' mothers are not easily accepted into the maternal clique in Japanese society. So, of course, a monthly manga publication has been released to help these women learn how to care for their children and integrate themselves better. As someone who works with children, I find this concept fascinating.
The whole book serves to demonstrate just how important comics are to the Japanese. In the year prior to publishing (1995) 40% of all Japanese books or magazines sold were manga - nearly 2 billion units! That doesn't include many magazine which serialise manga amongst other media, or the tendency for the Japanese to share monthly anthologies with their friends. Manga has serious power.
Erotic manga is also, so to speak, covered; and the somewhat worrying trends of lolita-fetish (rorikon) and sexual violence in comics. I find this stuff disgusting, but Schodt demonstrates how the society that consume this kind of image the most is also one of the de facto safest countries in the world in terms of rape and murder.
I suppose it's like those clubs that subway-gropers can go to and grope a lady instead of breaking the law. It's still weird though, isn't it? That is one realm of international sociology I would very much like to see further investigation on. Perhaps I should have focussed on that in my dissertation (yes, I have one of the most useless degrees in the world).
Another update is surely due (the republication has no new information). This book is 12 years old now, and virtually all modern books on manga either rip this one off, or bleat on about Pokémon, Naruto or whatever kids anime is flavour of the month for the latest legion of teenage wannabes.
Anyway, if you want to know more about manga, I honestly can't recommend this book enough. Aside from repeating itself occasionally and not being long enough (or containing the author-translated segments of rare manga which Manga! Manga! did), this is as close to perfection as you're likely to find.