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Manga Studies #2: Manga history: Shimizu Isao and Miyamoto Hirohito on Japan’s first modern ‘manga’ artist Kitazawa Rakuten by Ronald Stewart

Kitazawa Rakuten’s (1876~1955) place in manga history is secure. Yet the two important manga historians of today, Shimizu Isao and Miyamoto Hirohito, diverge considerably in their understandings of what Kitazawa represents in this history. Shimizu sees him in terms of continuity, while Miyamoto sees him in terms of discontinuity. Both of these scholars are in agreement that Kitazawa was Japan’s first modern manga artist and that he was an important figure in early-twentieth century manga development. However, Shimizu considers Kitazawa as an important link in a manga history that connects manga’s present to ancient Japanese past, whereas Miyamoto views him as part of a radical separation from the past that established and popularized a new genre recognizable as manga today.

Here I want to explore these two scholars’ contrasting perspectives on manga history with a focus on Kitazawa whose own thoughts on manga I will take up at the end. As many readers are probably not familiar with this artist, I will firstly sketch out his life and career.

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Posted by on 2014/06/14 in Guest Writers, Manga Studies

 

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Manga Studies #1: Introduction by Jaqueline Berndt

Manga [1] does not easily attract scholarly interest as comics. In the name of manga, the critical focus is usually less on sequential art but rather a certain illustration style or character design, and closely related, fannish engagement in transformative or derivative creations (dōjinshi), up to and including cosplay. In many cases, scholars turn to manga as an entry point for research on girls’ (shōjo) culture and female consumers, gender and sexuality, the subcultures of fujoshi (self-designated “rotten girls” engaged in Boys’ Love, or yaoi)[2] and otaku (geeks). Attempts at elucidating the peculiar role of the comics medium in that regard—for example, by focusing not only on “shōjo” but also “manga” when discussing shōjo manga [3] —remain a distinct minority whenever sociological and anthropological concerns prevail. Be it “fan culture,” “subculture” or “scene,” user communities are given preference over media specificity, texts and individual readings, at least outside of Japan. This applies especially to Japanese Studies, which is still the field yielding most manga research abroad. Here, manga is taken to represent, if not national culture in general, then Japanese popular culture, in the main understood as a youth culture with significant global impact and economic effects. Consequently, the utilization of manga as mere object appears to matter more than methodological diligence.[4] Whether subjected to symptomatic readings of social issues or to sophisticated critical theory, media-specific contexts and manga-related expertise tend to be neglected. This is as much due to specific institutional requirements as it is indicative of a lack within the institution, that is, the absence of a respective field of research and criticism.

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Posted by on 2014/05/11 in Guest Writers, Manga Studies

 

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Maus in the Indonesian Classroom by Philip Smith

As regular readers of Comics Forum are aware, the site recently featured a Themed Month which sought to examine comics as cultural production. The issue looked first at the work of comic book authors (Woo 2013) and ended with an autobiographical account of one scholar’s experiment as a comic book retailer (Miller 2013). In the following article I hope to continue to chart the life of a comic book by examining one particular comic after sales as it is read not by academics, but by a much larger demographic of comic book consumers: teenagers, specifically, Indonesian teenagers.

There has been a debate concerning the role of comics in language acquisition and literacy which can be traced back to the 1950s when Frederic Wertham, among others, argued that comics cause retardation of reading ability (Wertham, 1954). Many modern scholars argue that comics serve as a gateway to literacy (see, for example, the Canadian Council for Learning website, 2013).[1] This article will document my experience and observations as a teacher who uses Art Spiegelman’s Maus in the Indonesian classroom with advanced English-learners. I will describe how I prepared the students to read Maus, the concepts and history which I taught alongside the text, and what the students themselves brought to, and drew from the work.

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Posted by on 2014/02/18 in educators, Guest Writers

 

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Propaganda in Comics by Cord Scott

Comic books are the art of fantasy, exaggeration and power. So it was not surprising that soon after the creation of the comic book medium in the United States in the mid 1930s an element of propaganda began to blend into the artwork.

The idea of comic book characters being utilized in propaganda was illustrated through the comic book character Superman. The creation of two Jewish teens from Cleveland, Superman fought for the essence of American culture and societal justice, starting in 1938. In a specially created two page comic story and accompanying article for Look Magazine in February 1940, Superman flew to Berlin then to Moscow to gather up their respective dictators, Hitler and Stalin, and flew them to Geneva, Switzerland and placed them on trial for crimes against humanity at the League of Nations headquarter. Given that the US was not in the war yet, this was a bold action. Hitler’s chief propagandist Josef Goebbels even responded to the article in Das Schwartze Korps where he noted the creators’ origins and how decadent American ideals were the reason why the West could never defeat the Nazi ideology.

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Posted by on 2012/06/08 in Guest Writers

 

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