Javantea in Japan
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Manga in Tokyo
by Joel R. Voss aka. Javantea
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April 14, 2006 20:56 JST
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Manga is Japanese comics. When I talk about a manga like Shounen Jump, I'm talking about a thick book which has a dozen manga series. When I talk about a manga like Naruto, I'm talking about one of the series. You can buy the thick book if you want to read many series or you can buy a graphic novel of a single series.
Manga outside a bookstore in Jimbocho

There's a full discussion of whether foreign* artists who write manga-style comics are creating comics or manga and whether manga artists are creating comics in Japanese or whether they have an asset in calling it manga. I like to think that manga is a style and an asset which can be created by anyone no matter their nationality. My reasoning is 2 parts: 1) manga can be clearly identified as different from realism-based comics and funnies, and 2) the word comic is diluted, especially in America (where it can mean stand-up comedy, funnies, or realism-based cartoon serials). For example, my manga is Javantea's Fate. Megatokyo is a good example of an American made manga.
Ad for One Piece, Dragonball Z, Naruto Fighting Game

* You'll notice certain English words are linked like the word foreign. They are linked to the proper Japanese translation. They also have a tooltip so you can read the translation in tiny print without opening the online Kanji-English dictionary. Disregard these if you aren't interested in learning 1 Japanese word per paragraph.

Shounen is not my favorite type of manga, but it definitely is the easiest to read. The kanji 少年 [しょうねん] shounen is translated into boys. Shueisha Shounen Weekly Jump is probably the most popular. I have gotten it each week and both weeks has had episodes of Naruto and One Piece (very popular anime series currently in production).

The cool part about Shounen is that next to each kanji, there is the hiragana, which allows you to sound out the word (to practice conversational Japanese) and look it up in the Kanji-English dictionary (to learn Kanji). Once you've looked it up in the dictionary, you can put it into a text file (using a utf-8 editor), which will eventually hold a pretty good translation of the manga. I have done this for 6 or so manga and although it takes about 1 hour to translate 10 pages (100 kanji), it is worth it to translate. How else do you expect to read it?

Translating Shounen manga also an excellent way to learn Kanji and conversational Japanese. With that text file that you created, you can study commonly used kanji. The next time you see the kanji or have want for a word, you can look it up or remember it and you'll have the English translation in the file.

Shoujo is similar to shounen in that it has hiragana next to the kanji. The difference is that it was written for young girls. The kanji 少女 [しょうじょ] shoujo translates into young girl. I wasn't able to pick out a clear leader, but I ended up getting Sho-Comi. You can tell from the site that it was made for girls. With that much pink, it could hurt somebody. The cover of this issue doesn't have any pink thankfully, but the lettering is in diamonds (yeah..). Here's a sample page:
Secret Unrequited Love

Prevalent themes in shoujo are certain to boggle the male mind. Every character is pretty and girlish, boys and girls (except maybe one). Every episode contains at least one passionate kiss. Tones will be overused to show amazing emotion and beauty. Exciting topics with amazing moral values that never delve into sci-fi will be explored in every episode. Depending on which series you're reading, 1/10 episodes will have a 1-box sex scene that is just two human shapes without clothes or detail.
Honey Honey Drops
The above manga series is called Honey x Honey Drops and is quite popular.

Why am I showing negativity against shoujo? Good question. I am a curious person by design. Questioning those things that confuse me is one of the goals of this blog. Asking questions and examining strangeness (even in critique) is helpful in understanding. Note that I'm not trying to say anything like this is bad, this is blah, I'm just analyzing and trying to understand. Why is shoujo the way it is? What makes it popular amoung girls? And I don't think it's that bad myself, I'm just wondering why it's so stereotypical. Maybe it isn't. I really haven't read enough to make a good opinion. Maybe shounen is very stereotypical male and I'm blinded to it. Certainly the new series Galaxy is a wonderful sci-fi adventure that has been done 1000 times. It's a given that the female part gets a lesser role. The moral value of honoring a person's parents is pretty clear (even though it doesn't make the point correctly). Perhaps most manga is based on the same stereotypical junk that I avoid in American cinema. The novelty of manga may wear off as I understand it better.

Gally Gunnm Vol 6, Fight 48
But that's not correct, the story doesn't end with shounen and shojo. As we head toward the manga that is not written for young people and not written as erotica, we find a section of pretty decent manga. I have to say that Gunnm (Battle Angel Alita) is certainly the most creative story I've ever seen. Yukito Kishiro has written an absolute masterpiece. UltraJump is the manga that publishes Gunnm. Sadly, it doesn't get imported into America (Gunnm does, UltraJump does not). Getting 1 or 2 copies of UltraJump is one of the reasons I came to Japan. It's a pretty small goal and it only took a short while to find it, but it is pretty cool. Gunnm is going in a strange new direction right now where Gally hasn't been seen in 10 or so episodes. I have confidence that Yukito Kishiro can make it work.
Gally Gunmu Vol 6, Page 179

I was thinking that since I'm here, it'd be cool to visit Yukito Kishiro since I like his manga so well. I couldn't find an address or phone number except UltraJump, so I can't even contact them to see that no it isn't alright to just drop by and check out their studio. Maybe I could see if he needs any assistants.
Gally Gunnm Vol 6, Page 113

Breifly on the topic of hentai manga aka erohon aka adult manga. There's a lot of it out there. In fact it's often right next to the non-hentai manga. It always gives me the heebie jeebies to see it outside of it's specific area (B1, 2F, (18+), the erohon shop by my house, etc), but I have to remember that their sensibilities are a tad different here. I have two pieces of hentai manga and I can vouch for it's quality. Some have decent stories, most have good artwork. It's really a matter of taste and dignity, very similar to music where you have rap vs pop, electronica, rock, classical, jazz, r&b, and alternative. Due to a recent Supreme Court decision, all of it is legal in the US.

I imagine a day where sex will not occupy the minds of people worldwide, but that day is sci-fi. Until then ADIDAP (All Day I Dream About Physics).

If you want, click the link below to get this same front page with the Rising Sun logo at the top.
Rising Sun Sakura

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