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Manga peopleI feel very sorry for Manga characters. I have been reading some samples of the kind of Manga I normally avoid, the books having been acquired for free at Comic-Con the other weekend, and my heart goes out to all those poor characters who suddenly lose facial features when they are drawn smaller than normal.

It’s bad enough, I imagine, for these characters to constantly be sweating raindrops when nervous, or for a Reich star to appear somewhere on their faces when angry, but that must be nothing compared to the embarrassment of suddenly losing their detailed eyes, noses, and mouths to more easily-drawn geometric shapes, like ovals and half-moons. Their bodies, too, often undergo amazing simplification, and the long, supple limbs they may have had on page 45 suddenly shrink to Mario Bros. proportions on page 46.

When these tortured ink people are drawn so tiny, it is often while they are showing most of their emotion, meaning these odd manifestations of themselves are contorted into wacky, cartoony positions. They also have to dodge the tiny spirals or hearts or flowers that have been spawned within close proximity. How rough for them all!

It’s the real tough-guy characters who must find all this the most distressing. They might be moving along quite comfortably in a violent fantasy world where people are sliced and maimed with bloody abandon, only to find themselves shrunk and Hello Kittied in the middle panel. How are they to be menacing and deadly when they have saucer eyes and a Lucky Charms mouth? Impossible!

Thanks to this over-reliance on artistic übersimplification, the artist might also visit some more horrors upon his or her characters by describing everything they do using cute little text asides. Instead of being trusted to convey action and emotion, the poor Manga people are left to move about through a maze of quips and throw-aways which explain to the obviously moronic reader that, in fact, Mitsuo is ignoring Mitsuru and, in addition, thinks he is an ugly poopy-pants.

Then there’s the final insult: The non-emotive “animal” sidekicks. Our poor abused Manga friends might have to share their limited space with some kind of creature that resembles an animal the same way a ping pong ball resembles Hamlet’s friend Yorick. Eyes of simple punctuation, limbs of simple ova forms, creepiness of simple simplicity, these often-floating fauna add the cherry to the genuine Manga experience.

I know this is all cultural, that the Japanese love cute things, but I prefer to stick to titles like Akira and Lone Wolf and Cub, which, while enjoying their own artistic liberties, don’t go in for any of that bloopy bopsy giggle tee hee hee aesthetic. A few of the newer titles I’ve been reading, like Vagabond and Planetes, are serious works that, nevertheless, stoop to the occasional Manga iconification of their characters. It’s distracting. I’m not getting used to it after hundreds of pages of reading. It is out of place to me!

But then again, so is raw fish.


John Expounded Thusly:

That’s a lot of raving over drawings.

Wednesday, August 4th, 2004 • 10:51am • Permalink

Same Guy Expounded Thusly:

On the other hand, you do have to feel sorry for mouthless, noseless people. I often do.

Wednesday, August 4th, 2004 • 12:09pm • Permalink

Alexander Expounded Thusly:

Check out Bananafish, which is a little old (1994) but features a blond stone-killer ex child prostitute named Ash Lynx, who’s a sureshot hottie gang leader, as he takes on his ex-boss, Dino, the much older Sicilian mob boss who used to regularly, uh, use him. He’s joined by his true love Eiji, a Japanese teenaged ex-pole-vault champion, in America as a photo journalist’s assistant covering teen gangs in NYC, and who falls for him when he receives his first kiss from Ash during a prison visit. There’s about 20 of them. I can’t stop reading them. I also love Akira and Lone Wolf and Cub—also see Lone Wolf and Cub 2100, a cyborg retool of the same. It should suck, but, it’s brilliant.

Tuesday, August 17th, 2004 • 12:32pm • Permalink

The Wren Forum » Intellectuals and Poor Choreography Expounded Thusly:

[…] First, a nice essay by Aaron Swartz, who always writes so well. It’s called “What It Means To Be An Intellectual.” Using Aaron’s concepts and definitions, I am proud to discover myself an intellectual, as I enjoy both contemplating items of minutiae such as the stylistic quirks of Manga and a change in the federal highway sign font, and subjecting others to such contemplations through fiendishly clever and well-worded writing. (You may or, more likely, may not be interested in knowing that while in Austin this past weekend, I saw Clearview in use everywhere and, as expected, it was just simply no good.) […]

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006 • 4:42pm • Permalink • This is a Pingback


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