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Almost Otaku: What's Weird About Manga?

Prepare for my theory about the differences between manga, comics and Euro comics.

 I've been meaning to read the rest of this for years. I heard it's even crazier than the movie.
 I've been meaning to read the rest of this for years. I heard it's even crazier than the movie.
lizcat: What's your experience with manga? Have you read any? What have you read? Does anything in particular about manga seem really strange to you or scare you away?    

The funny thing is that I’ve read lot of “comics theory” articles relating to manga, but not much of the actual stuff. I’ve read one of the EVANGELION manga volumes, some parts of the first volume of AKIRA and some of that DIAMOND GIRL one we got a while back. Actually, now that I think about it, when I was living in Singapore as a little boy, I remember reading some OLD MASTER Q collections while I’d wait for a haircut at the barbershops. Though, that was actually manhua. Have any of you heard of it? I don’t know how popular it is out Hong Kong and other Chinese nations.

Do I find anything strange about manga? I still think some publisher’s refusal to flip the pages so you can read them left-to-right is a little unreasonable. Sure, I know there are purists. Sure, maybe it costs more to the do the flipping. Sure, a lot of you have said you get used to it.  But I just had the hardest time trying to reverse my way of processing information.

 The pole on the opposite end of the spectrum.
 The pole on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Aside from that, the kind of stuff I was put-off about when I was a teenager have been assuaged by what I hope is a broader perspective. There’s actually been a lot of cross-polination in the comics world, anyway. A lot of American creators have been consciously adopted “decompressed storytelling” to follow some examples from Manga.

My own theory, cobbled from Scott McCloud’s theory book UNDERSTANDING COMICS is that American comics lie between the two poles of manga and European comics. Manga’s super-decompressed, with a lot more space afforded to give the story breathing room, to focus on individual moments, et cetera. Euro comics are super-compressed, whether they're limited by space in anthologies like JUDGE DREDD in 2000AD or because of they've got bigger album pages for more panels like Jodorosky’s INCAL and METABARONS. Hence, the pacing is usually wonderfully fast. One is not better than other, just different.  

I might start reading manga for this some time. I'm pretty busy, as is, watching all this anime! 
 
Anyway, keep the questions coming! Post them in the talkback and I will answer them.

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of HYBRID BASTARDS! & UNIMAGINABLE. Order them on Amazon here & here.

rubberluffyon Aug. 28, 2010 at 7:26 p.m.
I do have a problem with US publishers flipping manga to make it left to right.  Dark Horse with their first release of Gunsmith Cats (they've since released a "revised" edition that is the original right to left), and it was distracting.  Since Gunsmith Cats takes place in the US, Kenichi Sonoda of course drew the cars to be left-side driver, but the flip made all the cars right side driver.   Okay, maybe not really -that- big of a deal, but I find it distracting, even after reading through the whole series multiple times.
agila61on Aug. 28, 2010 at 9:03 p.m.
If English language manga publishers were clever, they would overcome the "how do I read it" hurdle ~ and whether its a big hurdle or a small one is not the question, any hurdle gets in the way of sales ~ by embedding panel dimension and sequence info into digital manga images, so that smart players can take the reader "through" the work in the correct order by just paging through panel by panel ... exactly as paging through an ebook.
Gaseroon Aug. 28, 2010 at 9:10 p.m.
There's nothing weird about manga, just different. It's already bad enough that many people would think I am weird because I still watch "cartoons", but some people might say its even worse to read comics and especially manga. 
 
I've read comics and manga and I like both on different levels for different reasons. I got used to the right to left thing after reading the first chapter of my first manga. Not a big deal really. I would say that it would be nice for some images in a manga to be colored. Sometimes I lose track of the action because the scenes aren't colored in and I have to decipher the lines.
rubberluffyon Aug. 28, 2010 at 9:58 p.m.
@Gasero: 
I like the black and white-ness of manga.
 
There's actually a great chapter in Yakitate!! Japan (which is a series about bread baking) where the main character bakes a turtle shaped bread that is so green that it causes the manga to be in full color.   I think it is one the most clever bits dealing with the whole lack of color in manga.  Usually you just see a  "Special! 2 pages in color!" in the beginning of a chapter, for no reason.  And with a little searching, I found it.
Count_Zeroon Aug. 28, 2010 at 11:16 p.m.
@rubberluffy: Yeah, the handedness and side-of-the-road thing caused a problem for me too when I was getting into manga, back when it was flipped. 
 
One other thing I remember, off the top of my head, in favor of leaving manga unflipped, was reading several interviews from manga-ka in one of the Animerica books, where the Manga-ka were reluctant to outright hostile to the idea of their manga getting licensed for US release because we flip the art and mess with what they had in mind for their books. IIRC, Masamune Shirow was more annoyed over Ghost in the Shell getting flipped, then he was about the lesbian sex scene getting cut.
ShadowKnight508 moderator on Aug. 28, 2010 at 11:29 p.m.
@Gasero said:
" There's nothing weird about manga, just different. It's already bad enough that many people would think I am weird because I still watch "cartoons", but some people might say its even worse to read comics and especially manga.   I've read comics and manga and I like both on different levels for different reasons. I got used to the right to left thing after reading the first chapter of my first manga. Not a big deal really. I would say that it would be nice for some images in a manga to be colored. Sometimes I lose track of the action because the scenes aren't colored in and I have to decipher the lines. "
Well put...the only issue I had with manga was getting used to reading right to left after reading left to right for roughly 13 years (started love of anime/manga at 13). It took until the third chapter of my first manga to finally get used to it. I do not mind manga being in black and white either, but a few colored pages now and then would be nice too.
FoxxFireArt moderator on Aug. 29, 2010 at 12:33 a.m.
@Tom_Pinchuk:  

" Do I find anything strange about manga? I still think some publisher’s refusal to flip the pages so you can read them left-to-right is a little unreasonable. Sure, I know there are purists. "

I don't think I've ever disagreed more with you on an issue.  I realize that it's just how you feel on the matter, but it's that very issue that has caused such trouble for readers. I also believe is one of the major causes the fuels the scanlation groups.

 
It isn't about purity. I think it's more unreasonable to alter the artwork of the original creator to suit others. More so when the formatting of the pages are also read right to left. If you flipped the page format. You would also have to flip the panels. Which would require heavy edits to the artwork, such as how a character my have an eye patch on one eye or a certain tattoo on one side?  You would have to go in an manually redraw the tattoo if it said anything. One example would be the tattoo on the left arm of Portgas D. Ace. Also, all the Marine ships in One Piece have "MARINE" printed in English on them. That includes their uniforms.
What's the solution to this kind of problem if you don't want to deal with the mirrored image issue? Just remove his tattoo altogether?

Where do US publishers get off tampering with an artists original designs? The only thing US companies should be doing in the practice of distributing mangas to the American market is translating the text to English and publishing. Not writing their own versions of scenes or changing artwork.
If someone is that bothered by the issue of right to left. Don't read manga. The artist's vision shouldn't be altered. We should be seeing the artist's vision. Not someone else's version of it.
 
The US market place already has to put up with a lot of seriously irritating alterations to the content of manga. My favorite series Detective Conan was butchered in the US, because they wanted to "adjust" the series. The entire cast was changed from Japanese to Europeans. Despite the fact the entire series takes place in Japan, and they kept all the Japanese names for the bit part characters. The villains Gin and Vodka were changed to "Melkior and Kaspar" for the US version for some reason never explained.
 
The US publishers make these alterations and never offer an unedited version. Why are so many publishers adjusting series to appeal to people who don't like what makes a manga a manga? If they publish manga the way you suggest. We would never get an alternative for how the artist really wanted the story. It would be different if they would provide an unedited version along with an edited version. I would be much more open to the idea, but no publisher does that. They only put out one version. Nothing more.
Publishers have been getting slightly better with the amount of edits, alterations, and censorship in the more recent years, but not with the older series. Whatever changes they made to those series they are sticking with, and that's the only version they will ever release.
 

Changing Topics
A lot of my favorite mangas aren't so focused on a single narrative to the broader story. Sure, they have a strong linear tale, but it's not uncommon they have little side adventures for fun. Sometimes they are for laughs, or they build relationships between characters. Right now, US comics are far too focused on keeping characters of whole series into event after event. It's as it they are comic version of the series "24". When do they rest, eat, or go to the bathroom? The events almost never really change anything. It all goes back to normal eventually, as if nothing ever happened.
With Batman, there was never a chance in hell they would really kill off Bruce Wayne. Though with Death Note, they were actually bold enough to kill off L and keep it that way.  When Bruce Wayne "died" it wasn't really shocking or sad. It was just a waiting game till DC decided to bring him back. The death of L made it so you had no idea how this was really going to end.
 
If I lived closer to you all. I would let you borrow my Evangelion mangas. Those were rather interesting. It has a slight twist on the story, and adds a tale in for Kaji's past.
zaldaron Aug. 29, 2010 at 9:34 a.m.
interesting.  I find the differences in comics and manga like I do hollywood movies and anime.  Manga covers broader topics and topics of interest to adults and covers most topics with at least some of an adult spin (not all but the Japanese do treat their kids more like adults than we do).  Watchmen is the only american comic I have found that comes close to what I would say most manga are like (except the moe crud we get now...) while western comics are very cut an dry usually with one evil and one good person no shades of grey which all most all manga has.
lilmikeegeeon Aug. 29, 2010 at 10:45 a.m.
it always bugs me when a company does not presents whatever the foreign property they are producing the way it was presented in its origin country. stop dumbing things down people.
 
and it's not just flipping. it's making rice buns donuts.
changing name (al la alita)
or not doing the research.
 
feh
ninjadude853on Aug. 29, 2010 at 12:50 p.m.
dude, reading right to left is not hard at all, its easy, you call it reversing the way you process information but its an incredibly simple adjustment, its not like they mess with the words, just the panels, ITS NOT THAT HARD
Gaffon Aug. 29, 2010 at 1:39 p.m.
Old Master Q, Old Master Q... 
  
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Master_Q    

Oh, man... I REMEMBER THAT!
AgentJon Aug. 29, 2010 at 4:02 p.m.
Flipping is pretty serious, mostly for reasons that people have already brought up. It used to be that they'd flip the artwork and wouldn't bother changing inconsistencies. They'd be lucky when the result was a t-shirt changing from saying "may" to "yam". but it's usually far more awkward than that. 
Mezmeroon Aug. 30, 2010 at 9:48 a.m.
My favorite manga series has got to be Blade of the Immortal.  Interestingly enough HIroaki Samura the creator, had it adapted for the U.S. as a graphic novel series distributed by Dark Horse.  They even had the paneling redone to read from left to right.  It's one hell of a read.  Check it out if you haven't already. 
 
Comics don't really capture me like manga.  Comics have some of the best characters ever concocted by humans, but the storytelling can veer in so many different directions because of different authors and artists.  The quality can be on so many different levels that it can be jarring to want to keep up with your favorite franchises.  The way that they're given out piecemeal can feel pretty unreasonable as well.  Every time I reach those cliffhangers I usually feel fairly unsatisfied.  My last beef is probably the dialogue.  I am aware that there are some fantastic writers on the scene today but I've witnessed so many cheesy strings of dialogue in any other medium.  I grew up with comics but I got soured on what they had to offered.  I've been trying to get back into reading them but the only comic I keep up with is The Walking Dead.
JackSukeruon Aug. 30, 2010 at 3:31 p.m.
Heh, whenever I would show someone a manga and they point out that you read it in the opposite direction I always get surprised. It seriously never crosses my mind anymore.
Naruto79on Aug. 30, 2010 at 4:28 p.m.

My experience with manga has been pretty good. I have read various and have thoroughly enjoyed the experiences. I've generally read mangas that I have been introduced to via anime but have started to branch out recently. In generally, I am generally impressed by the fact that they are able to keep up their schedules, especially as a comic book reader and dealing with the general delays on most chapters. 

secretzfanon Aug. 30, 2010 at 5:21 p.m.
Manga is a easy thing for most anime fans. I don't read many manga done by Viz.  In fact I don't read many manga to begin with.   I do have a few Bleach volumes, but that is it. I do own a full collection of DBZ manga however and I do have one of Sunrise's Code Geass manga
dcfoxon Aug. 30, 2010 at 5:45 p.m.
@rubberluffy: I loved the Yakitate Japan anime but haven't the read the manga. I need to check that out!
lizcaton Aug. 30, 2010 at 8:59 p.m.
Woo, my question got an answer. 
 
Anyways, it's interesting you brought up flipping manga... interesting that a new fan coming from the American comics side of things actually might consider reading "backwards" a hurdle. To me, it has become so natural that I sometimes accidentally read newspaper comic strips backwards. (It kind of ruins the jokes).  
 
But then I didn't come to manga from American comics; the first comic book I ever read was an unflipped manga. This was back in middle school, but I really don't remember being confused by it. To me, flipping seems like a waste of time and money, plus it screws with the artist's original intent and causes all the problems that everyone else has already mentioned.  
  
Also, since I have a very (very very very very) limited experience with American and European comics, I'm kind of interested in reading some and seeing if this story compression spectrum generally holds true. Gaining perspective and all that. 
hitsusatsu11on Aug. 31, 2010 at 11:49 a.m.
Manga should not be flipped, it should remain how it is originally. 
zanrihonryeon Sept. 1, 2010 at 8:09 p.m.
@hitsusatsu11: yep absolutely!

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