Musing on Manga

The comic shop says that the Spidey Manga didn't turn up last week. They said that it wasn't a big seller, and they wouldn't be surprised if it didn't last much longer. I wouldn't be shocked either. Check out Al's review of Spider-Man: The Manga Fifth Arc, starting in Spider-Man: The Manga #16.

In that review, Al makes reference to the increasing difficulty in crossing the culture divide as regards to that comic. I'm going to claim not to be ignorant about things Japanese. I've spent a short while in Japan, and have met many wonderful Japanese friends. I speak a little Japanese, and have touched the culture through playing Go, studying Karate, and following Manga/Anime.

There are however some mentalities which I find very difficult to understand. Specifically their attitudes to portrayed violence (and specifically sexual violence), their extreme deference to authority, and the bizarre interplay between power, abuse, and guilt.

Having said that, there is much to appreciate in their culture - but stories such as the latest Manga are difficult to fathom. The characters are hard to empathise with, and their motivations are as opaque as their interactions are shallow. The story topics are often distasteful without being thought-provoking, the plots are forced, and the art is uneven and frequently dreadful.

I wonder what the Japanese think of 'American Spider-Man'. How would they criticise the characters? Self-indulgent and Too Fortunate? Well, that's a hard label to put on Peter. Flashy? Perhaps, the spandex could be a little over the top. Judgemental and Interfering?

Japanese Anime/Manga shows flashes of genius. Check out Ghost in The Shell for some good Anime. Get the dubbed version, not the sub-titled one. However, at least 90% of the Anime/Manga output appears to me to be dross. I wouldn't like to propose an exact 'dross-quotient' for Marvel and Co., but I would suggest that it wasn't as bad as that.

Is that difference in quality a matter of cultural perception - or cultural reality?