Regarding the use of the word “manga”

For some time, there’s been debate about whether an american comic can be termed manga, if done in a japanese style by american creators. Seven Seas publishing have been throwing around the term Original English Language, or OEL manga. Here’s my thoughts.

The people objecting to american’s use of manga are pretentious dicks. The distinction is entirely artificial, and a result of pig-headed elitist snobbery.

The main objections to the OEL manga term tend to be:

1) “Manga” means japanese comic.

– Manga is the japanese word for comic, and, to the japanese, an issue of “superman” would be considered manga. It’s usage in america is our own business, a social construct, there is no objective definition.

2) Manga is uniquely Japanese.

– The assumption here is that it’s impossible for anyone outside of japan to capture the unique qualities of ‘manga.’ Utter bunk. Not only is manga not ‘uniquely japanese,’ being highly inspired by early american comics and animation, but competent creators are capable of imitating the aspects of any art form, that’s something creator’s do.

The more you look at it, the more the geographical aspect seems nonsense, especially considering today’s international environment. What about a japanese citizen working for an international publisher? A japanese american? An international team of creators? A japanese creator with a non-japanese influence? An american who’s studied in japan? The geographical distinction is utterly artificial and nonsensical.

3) American content is ‘mispreresenting’ japanese content

– One of the oddest things I’ve seen is the comment that american products are making people ignorant of which ‘manga’ comes from japan. First of all, anybody who gives a shit can tell the difference, it’s only the peopel who don’t havfe any interest who don’t. Seven Seas, for example, makes it very clear that they are americans on the about the creators bio, and everyone with any familiarity with the comics publishing industry knows which companies publish translated mangas and which don’t. But, furthermore, the unstated assumption is that the japanese stuff is superior, and is being dragged down in reputation by american crap. Bullshit. There’s plenty of bad japanese comics out there, and it’s quite simple to find examples of american manga that are superior to examples of translated japanese ones.

Considering that some of the seven seas and tokyopop stuff looks indistinguishable from a made in japan product, there’s no way that the ‘manga means made in japan’ group can win. The blurring of the lines has already occured, a more inclusive use of the word manga in inevitable.

Note: Yes, I make the distinction between “manga” and “manga influenced” on my own web site, but that’s because I’m specifically interested in what american’s are doing manga-wise as opposed to what the japanese are doing. I’m well aware that my distinction between what is “manga- influenced” and what is a regular comic is largly a meaningless construct.

Part of Christopher’s Priest Caspor Cole arc, in Marvel Comics’s “Black Panther”, was inspired by Lone Wolf and Cub, which I know because it’s mentioned in the actual web published script. To someone who hasn’t read the script, the influence in the actual comic is probably not evident. On my site, manga- influenced means “looks a lot like manga,” and its, like much else with art, a judgement call. Black Panther would not fall into the “manga-influenced” category. My use of the term manga influenced doesn’t mean I have to object to the term OEL manga.

Leave a Reply