Literary Merit of Manga: My Unpopular Opinion

I don’t want to mess up my explanation of manga for those who are unfamiliar with it, so here: “a style of Japanese comic books and graphic novels, typically aimed at adults as well as children” (Google).

Let me start at the beginning.  Like most people my age, I grew up watching Sailor Moon and Pokemon in the mornings before going to preschool and kindergarten.  It was just what I did.  I loved anime when I was little, and I fell in love with it once again sometime during high school.  Okay, maybe it was a high school fling…  I only ended up re-watching all of the dubbed Sailor Moon episodes twice and that was the extent of the love affair.  I refused to watch Inuyasha or anything else that my friends tried to recommend to me.  So it wasn’t love.  Time moved on and the fling became just a fond memory that I looked back on from time to time between bad documentaries, romantic novels, and cheesy fanfiction.  High school ended and I started up at a junior college where dreams die and the weirdness of the population that you’d been sheltered from blooms like a potato (if potatoes actually bloomed).  In the mess of it all, I met her.  She’s both the most important part of this story and also the most irrelevant, so I’ll tell you a bit about her and nothing at all.  She graduated from that junior college a couple years before and just came back to tutor on-campus (which was how I met her: we were co-workers and tutored together).  She drew on her tablet anime-style and wrote “fufufu” in her messages to people and was obsessed with bunnies.  To sum it up, she was one of those people that I’d look at from afar and think “wow, isn’t she a little old for that?”  Yes, I used to be too judgmental.  Maybe I still am, but just with different things.

Not only did she get me back into watching Sailor Moon, but I also began expanding my horizons to new shows that hadn’t even been around in the 90s!  Big shock, I know.  I watched episodes of Inuyasha and Full-Metal Alchemist with my boyfriend and re-watched the original Pokemon series.  Then, as promised, came the newer stuff, which is how I started to read manga.  I’m going to be a little embarrassed to write this next title, but this is rather vital information:  Ouran High School Host Club.  For any of you who have seen the show, it’s just this cutesy reverse harem romance comedy piece of perfection that had me laughing and freaking out and laughing some more.  It was perfect.  And then the anime ended and, though it had a sense of finality to it, it didn’t give me the closure that I needed.  (Let me say that I realize that reverse harem oftentimes do not offer closure at all, but OHSHC definitely leans a certain way.)  So I talked to my friend about it, who was the one who had recommended it to me, and she told me that the manga continued after the anime.  Manga?  Manga?!  Wasn’t that porn?  What was she doing to my innocent junior college eyes?!  She showed me the manga that she was reading and it looked clean.  I mean, it was nun-worthy in comparison to some of the required novels in my Lit class.  So she shattered some of the misconceptions that I had.  Anime wasn’t just for children.  Manga wasn’t also smut.  I didn’t have to be ashamed simply because I enjoyed them, even though I was 20 years old.

I started buying used volumes of the OHSHC manga off of Amazon.  Then I bought some new volumes of Alice in the Country of Hearts from Barnes & Noble.  (I promise that not all manga that I read is limited to reverse harem and romance!)  That’s when my friend introduced me to mangahere and mangafox online…  I went crazy.  I still liked watching anime, but there was something so much better about reading it – expect that I missed the Japanese voices.  Since then, I pretty much read manga 5 nights out of the week, with the exception of when I’m in the middle of a particularly good novel.

Okay.  That is all the background information leading up to my main point: I honestly believe that there is literary value to manga.  Now let me clarify my rather controversial opinion that probably has my fellow English majors wanting to punch their computer screens!  There is no way that I would ever classify the mangaka or author of my favorite manga alongside Charlotte Bronte or Lewis Carroll, but they’re different.  Manga, to me, is like bringing the visuals of an anime show to the words of a book to create this beautiful collaboration which still allows for imagination to run wild.  Maybe I can’t create my own images like I can with a book, but that isn’t the point of a manga.  The art in the manga is there to make you feel.  So what if I can’t visualize the character in my own way?  The expressions and drawn actions do such a different thing that I can’t even think of comparing the two!  Literary merit.  Because the words and images have this perfect balance with one another to make the reader feel and experience the manga so differently from a book, I think that there is literary merit.  As well as artistic merit.  Maybe that’s why manga is so great.

I can sit down a read an entire book that I love in a few hours.  But manga…  I may rush through it a lot, but it keeps me relatively evenly-paced because of the details in the art.  Just last night, I read a psychological thriller that is still making me think about the twist.  I still don’t get what the hell happened!  Sure, a good book can do that, too.  But isn’t that the point?  A good manga has got me tripping out just as effectively as a good book.  Isn’t that marvelous?  Think about it!  Really think.  Have you taken the time to read different genres of manga or have you simply judged it harshly as I had in the past?  I think of manga as stepping into a different culture, and not because I’m from America.  It’s its own moving and living and growing thing that everyone can be a part of because there’s so much to it.  It’s more than just Japan or the Japanese language or Asians or even people who like it.  It’s combining everything and appreciating it as its own art – an art form that is so developed and yet under-appreciated.  Same goes for anime, in my opinion, but there’s something even more admirable about the art and words in manga.  It’s more an a comic or a written cartoon or whatever people call it.  It’s art:  just like drawings; just like paintings; just like books; just like every other artistic outlet that turns into something beautiful to can be shared with everyone.

Even if you can’t read bring yourself to read it, try to at least appreciate it and the effort that goes into creating it.

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