Much soul-seacrhing in the blogosphere today over whether manga is doomed to be a medium of kiddies and wanna-be ninjas. Much of it was kicked off by Kai-Ming Cha’s frank comments:
But that’s not the way manga fans work. Mike G. (and Lillian of TokyoPop who I posed this too as well), was like, they (the fans) don’t care. “They don’t care who publishes it. They only care that they have it.” I would go so far as to say that fans only care that they can read it – and not necessarily buy it.
It was a very strange moment of feeling a bit slighted. Like “she’s just not that into you.” It’s not the shirt, or the hair – she’s just not that into you. And that’s the overall feeling that I’m starting to get. It’s not the books, it’s not the company – fans are just cherry picking their faves and sticking with those.
Personally we see creator as opposed to brand loyalty as not necessarily a negative, but anyway, more weigh-ins:
As a result, any industry observer making any observation along these line opened them up to derision and charges of player-hating (sorry, but I think it’s the closest term) from people whose advocacy for and support of manga seemed to depend on an emotional investment in the publishing success of that expression of comics to equal that of American comics fans and that group’s joy in the superhero movies and TV shows and whatnot. So I think this blog post provides the notion of a potentially limited manga readership a bit of legitimacy it didn’t have before, and it’s good to have the idea on the table.
This may sound cold-hearted, but all the recent focus on American manga publishers, and attempts to extrapolate their health to the manga medium overall, smacks of unjustified self-importance. Sure, the US market has become financially important for Japanese publishers, but we’re still just a line item on their quarterly earnings report. When have we, the US market, ever really driven crucial development of manga itself?
1. Yeah, I joke about the lousy taste of teenagers, and I wish everyone read what I read (or at least enough people to keep my favorite series from getting cancelled), but it doesn’t really surprise me to learn that fans who were drawn into manga and/or anime fandom by a particular series or two might not stick around when the works that captured their imagination in a particular way ended or failed to hold their interest anymore. I doubt all of the rabid fans who simply couldn’t get enough Harry Potter turned to other series to fill the void left in their lives by the end of that popular saga.
At the same time, I’m detecting a tendency to expect the U.S. audience for comics from Japan to evolve at a geometrically faster rate than the Japanese audience for comics from Japan did. I mean, how long has what might be considered the mainstream North American market for manga been in place? (Del Rey is just about to turn five years old, and Japan’s third-largest manga publisher is just now taking the bull by the horns and opening its own stateside initiative.) How long did it take Osamu Tezuka to realize his dream of comics for everyone across the lifespan, and how does the adult audience for comics in Japan compare to the younger audience for comics in Japan? Were I to hazard a guess, based on casual observation and reading accounts from people who are a lot better informed than I am, I’d say the majority of the indigenous manga market is still geared towards kids, and that a healthy chunk of the people who enjoy it as kids leave it behind as they get older.
We’re somewhere in the middle on all this. When was literary ever mainstream? Is Haruki Murakami the most popular author in Japan? Who sells more, Margaret Atwood or Nora Roberts? True, Tezuka was the most popular manga-ka of his day, but would his later books have made him so?
I personally think expecting otaku who dress up as Goth Lolita or Hellsing to suddenly develop sophisticated literary tastes is unrealistic. However, we are always surprised that such gross-out masters as Umezu aren’t more popular among regular comics fans. If anything would cross the line between pop and literature, J-horror would fit the bill.
It’s worth remembering that a lot of movie viewers won’t go see foreign films on principle, even if it’s SEVEN SAMURAI. There are a lot of cultural divides to be crossed here and having realistic expectations is key to the process.