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Kwai-Cheung Lo. Chinese Face/Off: The Transnational Popular Culture of Hong Kong. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2005. ISBN: 0-252-07228-6.

In East and Southeast Asia, the influence of Japanese manga and anime is prominent. Since the 1960s, comics and animation from Japan have been popular leisure materials in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea. The growth of Japanese manga and anime in this region contributed to the spread of manga and anime to Europe and North America in the 1990s.

Among these regions, Hong Kong has been able to maintain its unique local culture by hybridizing others. Kwai-Cheung Lo’s book offers insight into globalization and transnational identity by examining such topics as newspaper columns, book culture, film, kung-fu comics, and theme parks.

While this book analyzes language, images, and objects found in Hong Kong popular culture, Lo also incorporates a global and transnational perspective, declaring that the effect of English subtitles in Hong Kong films is “to represent a certain cultural specificity or designate certain ethnic characteristics are a hindrance that—paradoxically—facilitates globalization” (19). Action movies and kung-fu comics as examples demonstrate how Hong Kong popular culture struggles to form its own identity when encountering external influences, a process of global localization or “glocalization.”

Kung-fu comics, like many popular culture genres in Hong Kong, have a long history of hybridizing their own Chinese tradition with foreign examples. We can trace the American influence on Hong Kong comics back to the 1920s Shanghai cartoon character Mr. Wang (Wang Xiansheng), created by Yeh Qian-yu and published in Shanghai Sketch in 1928. This genre of miniseries entertainment cartoons was influenced by Western/American cartoons such as Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday (1884) by Gilbert Daliziel and The Yellow Kid (1896) by Richard Outcault.

American cartoon books in English were available in Hong Kong before the Second World War. By the early 1950s, some American cartoon books had been translated into Chinese and published in Hong Kong, popularizing [End Page 266] characters such as Pinocchio, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Elmer Fudd. Due to the lack of new manhua developments in Mainland China and the relative lack of experience and exposure of many local cartoonists, American cartoon books became the highest form of manhua available to Hong Kong readers at that time. As a result, many locally produced cartoons exhibited obvious American influences.

With the advent of free wireless television broadcasts in Hong Kong in 1967, the 1970s saw an increasing influence of Japanese popular culture in Hong Kong through television and pirated Japanese manga. Japanese television became prime-time entertainment in the early 1970s, with programs such as Young Sparkler (1969–70, Sign wa V).1 Children’s afternoon viewing time was filled with Japanese cartoons, including Candy Candy (1976–79, Kyandi Kyandi), Ultraman (1979–80, Za Urutoraman), Little Monk Ikkyu (1975–82, Ikkyu-san), Doraemon (1973, 1979–present), and many others. Generally speaking, Hong Kong’s younger generations still tend to identify more with Japanese manga and anime characters than with American comics and cartoons. Apart from the “official” distribution channel through television, “unauthorized” Japanese manga reproduction and distribution became widespread in the mid-1960s.

Several popular manga in the 1960s, including Astro Boy (1952–68, Tetsuwan Atomu) and Princess Knight (1953–56, 1958–59, 1963–66, Ribon no kishi) by Tezuka Osamu, and Mochizuki Mikiya’s Wild 7 (1969–79, Wairudo 7), were among the titles reproduced without copyright authorization by Hong Kong and Taiwanese publishers. At that time, copyright issues were not widely considered to be important by Chinese readers or even by many of the copyright holders of the pirated Japanese manga. The booming popularity of Japanese manga in 1970s Hong Kong was actively initiated by Hong Kong publishers themselves, rather than the Japanese manga publishing houses. Yet, throughout the decades, Hong Kong comic artists were able to develop a genre and style of their own.2

Kung-fu comics integrate American and Japanese action comics, and are an excellent demonstration of the globalization of popular culture where origin is no longer...


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pp. 266-268
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