NPR’s On The Media looks at the cultural impact of manga:

Manga is Japan’s ubiquitous art form; a kind of comic book equivalent that illustrates everything from tax preparation to hard-core fantasy. But it is its growing success outside Japan that’s highlighted its new utility, what Japanese politicians are calling ‘manga diplomacy.’ Roland Kelts, author of Japanamerica, explains why politicians are recognizing the form as a powerful cultural export.

[Thanks to Kevin for the link.]

Roland Kelts, author of Japanamerica, has thoughts on manga as a feminist issue, in comparing the number of “strong female characters” in anime and manga with real life gender roles:

Indeed, a foreign fan of manga and anime might be forgiven for assuming that Japan, creative nerve center for the artwork itself, is a global leader in gender equity.

Yet just last month, The New York Times ran a damning indictment of Japan’s actual treatment of women in the workplace, noting that in 2005, women held a mere 10.1 percent of all management jobs in Japanese companies and government. (The U.S. figure is 42.5 percent.) In the United Nations index of gender empowerment, a survey of 75 countries, Japan ranks 42nd, far below Asian neighbors such as Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. The article predicts dire consequences for a nation with an anemic birthrate and looming labor shortages.