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Monday, July 09, 2007
Oh No! I'm A Statistical Anomaly!
This week, the comics controversy was over how manga aimed at adult men doesn't sell, and those people who like manga aimed at adult men should just shut the fuck up because manga isn't for YOU, it's for girls!
Gosh, that sounds familiar...where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah, when female fans of super-hero comics ask if they could have a little less misogyny in their escapist entertainment, please? Now, some folk might say that "turnabout is fair play." I think it's just slightly hypocritical, myself. Especially since it's not a question of "boys manga" not selling while "girls manga" is. It's a question of "adult manga for men and women" not selling while "manga for teens and preteens" is. As usual, go read what Chris says for a good approach to the topic that doesn't mince words and has the added benefit of coinciding with my own position.
Of course, my mind gets to turning on these things, and somehow my own experiences don't seem to jibe with everyone else's reality. For example, when I worked in the comic shop, where everyone said that the adult manga is selling like gang-busters, most of our customers were teenage girls and little kids. In fact, apart from blatant fan service titles for which I know we have guaranteed sales with a couple of customers, I tend to avoid ordering too heavy on more mature titles. But when I go to my local chain bookstore, who do I always see in the manga aisles? Not teenage girls. Nope, I see Asian male UCSB students, Goth and hipster girls in their late teens/early 20s, and a smattering of jock and skater-type teenage boys. (Hey, guess who I always catch reading the yaoi when I stroll the aisles? Hint: I think American manga publishers are idiots for not licensing some manga aimed at actual gay men...particularly gay men who might not identify with wispy, effeminate eunuchs, but are still of an age where they're looking to the mass media for role models.)
Now, my own manga tastes tend to the eclectic, so I can't really draw any broad conclusions based on what I like. I mean, I like Yotsuba!, xxxHolic, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Monster, MPD Psycho and Reiko the Zombie Shop. Crap, based on how the Japanese categorize manga, those are all aimed at adult men, aren't they? Well, maybe not MPD Psycho, but you wouldn't know that from the way it's being marketed in the U.S. Well, maybe my tastes have simply evolved...what's on my "discontinued manga shelf"? City Hunter, Worst, Apocalypse Meow and Ginga Legend Weed. Dammit. Oh, and a handful of Inu Yasha volumes I pre-ordered but never read before dropping the title because, seriously, they're still looking for that damn jewel?
Well, what manga specifically for boys am I reading? Musashi #9...that's about a female spy. Reborn...that's about a toddler who trains people to join the mafia. Death Note...that's about a sociopath. Inubaka...that's about a girl working in a pet shop. Tsubasa...that's more of an ensemble comedy/continuity porn book. Welcome to the NHK...no, that's a biting satire of otaku culture. Dammit! Don't I read any manga about young boys fighting so that they can become the best fighters so that they can win the big fight! Everyone keeps telling me that's what shonen manga is all about! Wait, there was Ranma 1/2...no, that's finished. Damn! Kindaichi Case Files maybe?
Well, what about the girly manga? Surely my tastes align with the mainstream with my girly manga! Let's see The Wallflower...no, that's a total inversion of the formula. Angel Sanctuary...no, that's apocalyptic melodrama with extra bonus incest. There's a ton of Fumi Yoshinaga stuff...no, that's yaoi, or may as well be. Fruits Basket is pretty cliche-ridden. Oh, wait, of course! Yu Watase! All of her comics are about a spunky yet clumsy girl who somehow manages to get all the pretty boys to fall in love with her! It's damn near the Platonic ideal of a shojo manga. Yes, all of them.
So, yes, I think this whole controversy is just a little bit silly. Though, I do think those rushing to defend the primacy of teen and pre-teen manga would do well to glance over the history of American comics. You know, that form that used to publish works in a large variety of genres for multiple age ranges...and is now something like 90% super-hero books written for teenagers and adults. Avoiding the stigma of "that stupid kiddie stuff" now might be a good idea.