Sunday, February 18, 2018

Reader's Diary #1737- Paul Gravett: Mangasia

I've been into comics for some years now but I still consider myself a student. One area I still don't feel particularly knowledgeable about is manga, even less so with other Asian comics. Outside of Japan comics, I've read exactly one manhwa (Korean comic) and a handful of middle Eastern comics. I'd hoped that Paul Gravett's Mangasia: The Definitive Guide to Asian Comics would lay a solid foundation.

While Gravett didn't touch upon Russian comics or anything west of Pakistan, it was nonetheless very enlightening. While I'd come to easily recognize the typical style of Japanese manga, for instance, seeing styles from across Asia was interesting. Just as Japanese manga has had a huge influence in North America, however, it's also had a profound impact across Asia and their style has largely been adopted. I also found it fascinating to compare to North America in terms of themes; in Asia there seems to be more examples of historical themes, overt propaganda, folk stories and religion. While we certainly have examples of those in North America (I've found, for instance, that North American indigenous comics tend to have more folklore and historical themes), there is more of an emphasis in our part of the world on superhero stories and for older readers, travelogues and memoirs. Again, you'll find superheroes, travelogues and other memoirs in manga as well, but the balance is different.

Some of the similarities are also compelling. Both regions, for example, have dealt with censorship and with misconceptions about comics being just for kids.

A more subtle discovery for me was the independence of their comics scene. A lot of what I've read prior has suggested, or outright declared, that manga was highly influenced by American comics. Gravett doesn't for one second pretend that American comics didn't have on impact on manga, indeed giving some illustrative examples, but I began to better understand that Asia has fostered its own manga art-forms, dependent more on local histories, cultures, and relationships with Asian neighbours than on America.

Finally, for my student role, I found the book incredibly helpful. First off, I felt much better about the amount of manga that I've read so far, finding many more titles that I recognized than I'd expected. Secondly, the list of influential titles that I didn't recognize has led to an expanded tbr list, which is never a bad thing! A solid foundation, for sure.

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