200611021214TheManganews forum picks up debates on whether the strict, audience-defined Japanese genres of manga are really useful outside of Japan:

The debate in the staff started a few days ago, when anitra saw the press release for Sweatdrops Studio (the one about anthology for boys = blue, girls = pink), and was a little unhappy (angry, even?) that they have to make a point to distinguish manga for gender (even for OEL titles). I agree with her. For example, I love seinen manga! My favorite manga magazines are Cheese, Yuri-hime, Comic High, Young Jump and Afternoon (See the trend there!? Beside Cheese and Yuri-hime, which are aim toward female, the other three are seinen magazines!). Am I the only exception? At least anitra has agreed that she loves seinen manga also!

In fact, if you recalled something we reported back in April on girl’s favorite manga magazine, the #1 manga magazine for girls is actually Shounen Jump! Is it just us female who are getting more feminist and repelling the traditional shoujo genre? Apparently not!

The discussion springs from Pata’s original comment here

Of course, I blame this partly on Japan’s kooky yet painfully logical system of shoehorning serialized comics and popular fiction into target-audience classifications that have no analogue in the West—I mean, when was the last time anyone ever heard of Neil Gaiman putting out a “girl” book or Alan Moore working on a “man” comic. Most English-speakers are used to the idea of “genre” being based on what a story is about, not who it’s for, and so when they encounter the Japanese words for BOY, GIRL, MAN, WOMAN being used to refer to entire subsets of comics, they mistake it for the kind of labels that they’re used to (adventure, comedy, drama, horror, historical, mystery, etc.) and … well … it makes them stupid. I know it made me stupid for a while until I figured my shit out.

The chatter continues in the forum. We don’t have time today to digest the entire thing, but off the top of our head, it seems that in a system that at least RECOGNIZES girls’ and women’s comics, they are allowed to exist. Here in the US, “girls’ comics” exist only as a hazy category in a few publishers fantasies. Which isn’t to say that girls don’t read comics, because they do, but each and every new female reader is still treated as something of a miracle of parthenogenesis — “Watson, come quickly! She’s reading SANDMAN! How could this have happened? It’s incredible!”

While we’re no fans of gender or any other kind of segregation, it does often create a safer place for material out of the “mainstream” — safely labeled as being cooty girlie stuff, it is no threat to the prevailing culture, even if everyone is free to read it — privately.