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  • Globalizing Manga:From Japan to Hong Kong and Beyond
  • Wendy Siuyi Wong (bio)

Many modern societies produce a form of visual and narrative art that contains a series of printed pictures, usually though not always with text.1 In English, readers may call it sequential art, comics, comic books, cartoons, cartoon strips, or graphic novels. The French term is bande dessinée (BD), literally, "strip drawing." In Chinese, commonly used terms are manhua, lianhuantu, and car-ton. The written Chinese characters for manhua are the basis for both the Japanese and the Korean terms for comics, which are, respectively, manga and manhwa.

No matter what it is called, this visual art form in various countries and languages has similarities and differences. Scott McCloud points out that this art form is a communication medium able to convey information and to produce aesthetic pleasure for readers.2 As a part of the globalization of media, American comics and animation have a long history of exporting such works. Studies find that American comics played an important role in introducing modern comics to Asia, as in Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960s.3 In Japan, the great comics artist Tezuka Osamu openly acknowledged the influence of early Walt Disney and Max Fleisher animation in his work.4 Japan's comics [End Page 23] and animation industry was the most developed among countries in Asia in the early 1960s. John Lent's study of the American animation industry and its offshore factory development in East and Southeast Asia confirmed that Japan was the pioneer in the field in the region at that time.5 Indeed, when comics started to take off in Japan in the early 1960s, the influences of manga began to spread to its neighbors, and American influence started to wane in the region.

Manga is "one of the features of mass culture in present-day Japan. In 1994, 2.27 billion manga books and magazines were published, making up 35 percent of all material published."6 The manga market in Japan is big, and genres are highly diversified. However, when examining the exportation of Japanese cultural products, including comics, the cultural economist Dal Yong Jin points out that these products "have hardly penetrated worldwide to the same degree as its [Japan's] economic power and the domestic culture market."7 It was not until approximately fifteen years ago, partly because of Japan's economic recession, that the Japanese manga industry began to grant copyrights to overseas publishers in Asia and to explore the transnational development of its cultural products.

The influence of manga in Southeast Asian societies is obvious. Outside Japan and Asia, the visibility of manga is clearly emerging into the mainstream media.8 Comics scholars and cultural studies scholars are optimistic that Japan can be "consider[ed] as another centre of globalization" because of the current global development of manga and anime.9 This chapter aims to investigate the flow of manga as a cultural product in the global market, from its country of origin, Japan, to the neighboring region and then to the rest of the world. Because of the influence of American and Western comics in manga, one may find that Japanese manga are

undoubtedly deeply imbricated in U.S. cultural imaginaries, but they dynamically rework the meanings of being modern in Asian contexts at the site of production and consumption. In this sense, they are neither "Asian" in any essentialist meaning nor second-rate copies of "American originals." They are inescapably "global" and "Asian" at the same time, lucidly representing the intertwined composition of global homogenization and heterogenization, and thus they well articulate the juxtaposed sameness and difference.10

I am interested in exploring these globalization flows by focusing on manga. To begin the inquiry, I open with a brief review of the concept of globalization. [End Page 24]

Globalization's Theoretical Issues

Globalization is one of today's hottest buzzwords. Stuart Hall reminds us that this phenomenon is nothing new and can be traced back through the long history of Western imperialism.11; Following this Western imperialism, many people in non-Western countries had experienced different degrees of colonialization over the past few centuries. Anthony...


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