The relationship between Japan and the West in the Historical Development of Manga and Anime – and Comics and Animation
The origin of anime does not have specific origins. In the nineteenth century, the anime, viewed as a part of the animation culture emerged. It appeared in the Meiji era, covering the late nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, the time when a rich flow of artistic and technological knowledge came from American, European, and Japanese cultures. Artistic influences, theories, and approaches were toughly intertwined between cultures and had a significant impact on the development of animation, being an outcome of this interaction (Poitras, 2008, p. 49). Therefore, Western civilization and Japan’s vision of anime were at the core of the origins of animation as a whole.
Before the 1960s, the world saw earlier animated works in the forms of short movies represented as an addition to the main film. Imkawa Muzuko, The Doorman was among the first works introduced by Oten Shimokawa in 1917. The animated feature film called Montario’s Divine Sea Warriors appeared on the full screens in a war period to encourage Japanese children. In the post-period, anime was largely influenced by television, as a new media means of spreading animated works.
The period of television development also contributed to the emergence of a science fiction genre that remains the major theme in the anima. Among the main thematic concerns of this period was limited to the display of giant robots and the definition of differences between artificial and human. At the core of interaction of Japanese popular culture with that of Western trends in creating animated works, the Japanese people accept Western civilization and, therefore, they have to accommodate to the basics of the Western culture (Poitras, 2008, p. 271). At the same time, Japanese popular culture will never be Americanized because of the presence of strong cultural and traditional influences within the country.
The connectedness to the American culture can be brightly seen in the work called Spirited Away by Miyazaki, a Japanese animator, and manga artist. Pointras (2008) underscores, “Japanese…transcends temporal and territorial boundaries, tending toward inclusivity rather than exclusion, commonalities rather than uniqueness” (p. 271). In contrast to the true Japanese culture, which is considered static and narrow-focused, the artist manages to combine Asian and Western elements to create a new multidimensional work transmitting the Japanese people to new trends of development.
In supporting this idea, Levi (2006) puts forward an argument concerning the process of Americanization of Manga and Anime and its influence on Japanese culture. The authors state, “the impact of the Japanophile resistance can be seen in the awareness of the Japanese culture and fandom by even the most Americentric fans who utterly deny the uniqueness of anima and manga” (Levi, 2006, p. 44). The uniqueness of manga and anima as a separate phenomenon developing both in the United States and in Japan cannot be denied. At the same time, both paths of advancement take their roots from the mutual flow of cultural and scientific information.
Because both manga and anime are considered the most recognizable and widespread forms of media art, Japanese cultural encounter with American entertainment media was inevitable. Using the language of visual imagery, this form of story-telling goes beyond the geographic and temporal barriers and, therefore, comic books and animated stories cannot be regarded as a unique representation of a unique culture. Therefore, this industry has undergone the globalization process.
Positive and Negative Effect of Sex and Sexuality Represented in Various Kinds of Manga and Anime on Society
Newly emerged stereotypes in such media art as animated movies and graphic comics enable the global audience to take an alternative look at the concept of sex and sexuality. Hence, most comic books in Japan depicted lesbian and gay culture overtly and transparently to convey the idea of freedom and independence among all people irrespective of their sexuality. More importantly, the so-called “boys’ love” and “girls’ love” illustrate how culture and visual transmittance helped the audience and writers to liberate themselves from the heteronormative stereotypes, as well as encourage those to search for new alternatives (Welker, 2006). Therefore, the emergence of this popular genre complicated the global awareness of the functions and construction of the meaning of sexual identity and sexuality.
Among the most popular manga books was Rica ‘the Kanji!? that was translated into English and released in the United States. The story written by Takashima-Rica focuses on the protagonist Rica, a girl studying at Women’s Junior College in Tokyo. While studying, she encounters new people with different views on sexual orientation and relationships. The comic book sheds light on the attitude of society to homosexuality, which received a positive review from the American admirers of graphic novels. It has received a positive perception among the American viewers because of the funny and transparent representations of lesbian relations.
Representing the new genre –yuri manga – the Western audience was acquainted with a new vision on sexuality, as well as on freedom of choice in relations. Homosexual relations are also represented in yaoi manga – a genre of graphic novels depicting the stories of romantic relationships between males. This can be specifically pursued in Sanami Matoh’s Fake and Kodaka Kazuma’s Bonds of Love.
The popularity of the above-presented mangas in the United States is explained by several factors. To begin with, because the boys’ love genre was designed specifically for a female audience, these comic books displayed stories in the form of romance, which is the most popular genre among other styles of storytelling. Another reason for the increased popularity of manga representing homoerotic relationships with males lies in the possibility to think beyond the existing stereotypes concerning traditional relationships. Gender-based identification, therefore, has been given secondary importance (Pagliassotti, 2009). While presenting these arguments from these perspectives, the Japanese anime and manga have a positive impact on society in terms of their liberal perception of sex and sexuality.
The reverse side of the medal reveals the negative influences posed by the spread of Japanese graphic novels depicting romantic relationships between males. Hence, the overt display of sexual content can cause consternation among the U.S audience as well as discourage traditional heterosexual relationships (Pagliassotti. 2009).
At this point, the producers of Japanese manga and anime should take into account not only commercial benefits and growing consumer market but also moral and ethical concerns arisen from the newly emerged images of sex and sexuality. In other words, the popularization of the authentic Japanese genre in the American culture can lead to the distortion of existing traditions in the United States, as well as personal views on the emerged topics.
Various Aspects of the Relationship between Fandom and Producers in Japan. Role of Consumers and Fans in Industry and Role of Industry in Consumers’ Life
Because American and Japanese media cultures have common roots in terms of the development of graphic novels and animated industries, this media art form has become the major path of developing globalized fandom. Levi (2006), therefore, emphasizes, “…by interacting with the stories and characters of popular anime and manga through fan fiction “comply”…and video games, American fans have personalized and adapted the medium to make it their own” (p. 43).
Hence, though the Japanese market exclusively enjoys producing manga and animated films, it still considers the international market demands. Many animated works and comics are now translated to make them known to Western viewers. At this point, the Americanization of manga and anime has become an integral part of the expansive negotiation process leading to creating a global popular culture.
The uniqueness and static nature of graphic novels and anime can be overthrown by the emerged fandom – that of comic books and science fiction. They have become the catalyst for the increased popularity of the media genre. The proliferation of anime popularity was also due to the emergence of the Internet being the main source of spreading the popularity of animated cultures and increased interest in Japanese media art.
The influence of internet media channels has managed to attract Western audiences to watch animated films based on Japanese manga. At this point, much attention should be paid to the analysis of such media projects as Boy over Flowers, a Korean drama series whose plot was borrowed from a Japanese yuri manga. The influences of Asian images displaying an alternative vision of masculinity also spread over the Western space and make the American audience popularize those images. In a technological information era, the readiness for changes and constant transformation revealed a shift in perceiving “soft” popular content (Jung, 2010, p. 81).
Also, Jung (2010) also attained much importance to the fan action in distributing and enhancing the popularity of media arts by attributing it with the status of global popular culture due to the constantly growing consumer market. By sharing the imagination of Asian soft masculinity, the Japanese anime and manga industries play an enormous role in shaping global popular cultures and imposing new trans-cultural images. In particular, the heroes of Japanese manga are extremely popular “not only because they ‘damn pretty’ enough to attract global popular consumers, but also because they were increasingly familiar to those consumers” (June 2010, p. 90).
The consumer market, therefore, is closely associated with the concept of cultural proximity (Dasgupta, 2006). The notion specifically refers to the cultural similarities between investigated cultures. What is more appropriate is that both cultural audiences were interested in such common things as sexuality, fiction science, and representation of humanity. Therefore, the perception of Japanese culture was viewed through the representation of provoking themes and genres.
Overall, the concept of global popular culture originates from trans-cultural relations between the nations through raising interesting and common topics that would attract the global consumer market. In this respect, the role of Japanese anime and manga is enormous shaping and spreading the popularity of comic books and animated pictures through different media platforms. The fan function has also been decisive in turning Japanese animated features and manga into commercial beneficial projects in the international market.
Dasgupta, R. (2006). The film Bishonen and Queer(N)Asia through Japanese Popular Culture. In M. Allen, and R. Sakamoto (Eds). Popular Culture, Globalization and Japan. New York: Routledge.
Jung, S. (2010). Chogukjeok Pan-Test Asian Soft Masculinity: Reading Boys over Flowers, Coffee Prine and Shinhwa Fan Fiction. In D. Black, S. J. Epstein, & A. Tokita (Eds). Complicated Currents: Media Flows, Soft Power and East Asia. US: Monash University Press. pp. 81-96.
Levi, A. (2006). “Americanization of Anime and Manga: Negotiating Popular Culture”. In S. T. Brown (Eds). Cinema Anime: Critical Engagements with Japanese Animation. New York: Palgrave McMillan. pp.48-63.
Pagliassotti, D. (2009). Globalization and Hybridisation: Publishers’ Strategies for Bringing Boy’s Love to the United States. Intersections and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific. 20. 1.
Poitras, G. (2008). “Contemporary Anime in Japanese Pop Culture”, In P. M. W. MacWilliams (Eds). Japanese Visual Cultures: Exploration in the World of Manga and Anime. Ed. US: M. E. Sharpe pp. 43-67.
Welker, J. (2006). Beautiful, Borrowed, and Bent: “Boys’ Love” as Girls’ Love in Shoio Manga. Signs. 31(3), 841-870.