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  • The Influence of Manga on Japan
  • Vern Bullough (bio)
Kinsella, Sharon . 2000. Adult Manga: Culture and Power in Contemporary Japanese Society. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0-8248-2318-4.

Sharon Kinsella, who researches emergent Japanese culture and social trends at Cambridge University, has basically written a history of adult manga. She traces its sources to the 1920s when classic American children's comics such as Felix the Cat and adult political cartoons were translated into Japanese. Soon after, a number of Japanese independent associations of cartoon and comic strip artists began to produce works on their own. The writers and illustrators of some of the more political ones quickly ran afoul of the police, but a more cautious form of manga continued to grow despite censorship and media control during World War II that led to a decline in production. Many artists were thrown out of work but managed to survive by producing wartime propaganda for the military.

In postwar Japan, a reinvigorated manga appeared at very low cost, first as picture cards and then in book form. Since most Japanese could not afford the books, distributors rented them for small fees. During the 1950s, a teenage artist, Tatsumi Yoshihiro, invented the term gekiga (dramatic picture) to describe the new genera of adult manga that explored new topics. As Japan's economy grew, manga rapidly expanded between 1956 and l961 in the form of weekly magazines. Animated manga stories on television became a new form of public entertainment. Many manga publications were antiestablishment and leftist, a stance that appealed to the working classes who were its largest audience but also led to considerable criticism from the establishment.

For the early manga, a single artist both drew and made up the story. As the number of new magazines increased, the creative and publication processes also changed. Editors developed a theme or story line and gave it to the artist to illustrate. This arrangement soon led to a sort of oligarchic control of manga, with five companies producing most of the material appearing in a variety of magazines. By 1994 the circulation of their twelve magazines was more than a million. However, the actual readership has been estimated at three times the official circulation because the magazines were [End Page 173] inexpensive enough to be discarded when the reader was finished, only to be purchased by additional readers for next to nothing.

The variety of magazines led to increasingly diversified forms of manga designed to appeal to different audiences. The standard was a weekly magazine with one episode of each running story. Somewhat more expensive was the manga book, which usually had fifteen or more episodes of one story. Since the books were compiled from cartoons that had already been published, republishing expenses were minimal and profits high. Readership expanded as manga books and magazines came out aimed at specific markets, with titles aimed at boys, others for girls, and still others for adults, from businessmen to literary aficionados. Some were designed to appeal to women in general; others to specialized audiences of women. The same was true for those aimed at men.

Kinsella is very much interested in manga production and how the industry could adjust and thrive in a changing market. Each change demanded a rethinking of methods and topics. For example, the forty-eight-volume manga history of Japan (Manga nihon no rekishi) was published over a four-year period. Although Ishinomori Shôtarô was the artist illustrating it, he relied upon a team of fifty academic specialists for information. The result was a series that came to be recognized as suitable for use in the state schools.

Manga, however, remained diverse, and as it became more and more acceptable, other authors and illustrators took to developing new forms that challenged the establishment. What Kinsella terms "Lolita Complex" manga featured a little girl heroine and was developed in the 1980s by and for men. She maintains that the girl reflects the increasing power and centrality of young women in society as well as a contrary reactive desire to see these young women infantilized, undressed, and subordinated to the male. The result of the growing erotic and...


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