Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Babbling: Total Manga Confusion

Manga, Yaoi, Wha?

I like Superhero comics. And I like certain themed and independent comics. Teenagers From Mars remains a favourite book. My experience with Manga is limited. Generally it's seemed like one half of a series, the best part of which for me has been the anime. And yes, I'm aware that the Manga and the Anime while being in the same universe, with the same character histories, with the same names, aren't likely to follow the same plots or sometimes even have the same tone. But that's one of the mysteries (things I haven't or will never get ) I've just come to accept.

But I've been struggling understand something for about a week now and trying to write down my thoughts about it. It starts with porn. I find porn boring and uncomfortable and yet YAOI makes great porn. Yaoi makes not boring, not discomforting porn. Comics and sex = yay! And no, I won't be going into the why of that on this journal. It's just enough to say it works for me.

Yaoi is more than porn, though. And it doesn't seem to be an easy thing to skim or dabble into. It doesn't feel like enough for me to know that it's a Japanese word and what that word means and what that wordrepresents as to the sensibility behind the art. There are politics going on. Women's politics, identification politics, worries about the extreme right and possible censorship; the list goes on. Not only that but there seems to be this crack in the world of publishing where a fiscally sound niche is being formed. Yaoi, Manga, OEL and more, there's some kind of revolution going on and through it all I need to be schooled. The questions is where do I go? Where do I start?

One part of the debate seems to be about Yaoi specifically and it being things written by women for women. But that's not supposed to make me think of Slash, even though it does. There seems to be a lot ofvehement definition and differentiation against Slash. The best I've read so far declared that that true 'Slash' readers of Manga would be Aimai or those who like the hints. Not those whoactually like to see it out there, clearly written and drawn.

And Slash also tends to lead to fandoms(usually Media) and fanfic and fan action. Which is a different community than people who read and write comics with a Japanese art style. And then Yaoi breaks into Boys' Love, which is different from Bara even though the protagonists are both male and both going to end up in bed. And all of that is different from Dōjinshi which is the equivalent of fanfiction and doesn't seem to apply to original made works?

And then like any drawn work, there are artists to discover and writers. But there's also apparently direction styles within the art, in terms of presentation and that's new and confusing.

But while I'm muddling through that, there's a whole other set of confusion concerning young fangirls and over-sauration and too much exposure and 'Won't someone think of the children!' - which seems to point out the possibility of shifts away from interacting with art that can get you of and labeling it straight up porn; that is art (something erotic) created just to get you off. Or at least that's my clumsy self definition.

Because while Shōnen means made for boys, Shōnen-ai is gay romance made for women by women? And even if it's not explicit, that Manga is mingled in with Yaoi in certain chain bookstores? Which boggles me, maybe because I just don't know the titles, because I haven't seen much of anything looking like Yaoi in my local Barnes & Noble which has a huge section. And somehow my library system has managed to tell the difference, because it has a huge manga selection and I don't see anything like Shōnen-ai or Yaoi there either. Is Fruit Basket porny and gender challenging and hot and I just don't know?

And how is that in Japan these books are written by women for women, when the bunch of people I see borrowing manga or reading manga at the bookstores (the places that are supposed to have yaoi) are boys. I realize there are many different type of manga, just like there are many different type of American / English First / Non Superhero + Superhero Traditional comics. And that Yaoi is writtenspecifically for women. But with all the concern I see buzzing around, are these young boys, gay boys? Is Yaoi comfort for young closeted teens? Are people afraid that no matter the title those young boys will be perceived as gay? What's going on? Is there any where to get information where it's not already assumed a person knows what's going on? I can look up the names of things, Mecha, Mahō Shōjo, but that doesn't tell me anything.

And it's not even enough to keep up with the various blogs and bloggers who keep talking about how Manga is perceived as a girl thing. And that some female bloggers get pissed off when people see them buying comics and just seem to expect them to like Manga and know titles and know what's going on.

I've seen boys browsing, borrowing and buying, but I've seen girls too. They get very excited and want to grab up at least three or four volumes and chitter about whether or not the bookstore really has a broad selection. They like to look at their parents like their parents are so old and just don't get anything and no they don't want any other type of book kbaithnx. There's only been one occasion I've noticed a boy reading in the aisle and not get up and suddenly disappear when I showed up browsing the graphic novel section (and why isn't it labeled Manga and given it's own section? Or if they'll all be lumped - Sequential Art?) and that was a group of brothers and sisters and I think their best friends where the girls were trying to get the boys into Manga and at least one of the boys kept complaining that he doesn't want to read about two boys kissing all the time. I realize now I'd have been wrong and ignorant if I'd intruded and said I doubted they'd sell those type of books in Barnes & Noble. And besides, by staying quiet I got to watch one boy surprise another by actually knowing one series and agreeing with a girl that it was really good and the fight sequences were awesome. It was a bit of a shock to me to see his friend go "Dude? You like guys?!" And for the other to go. "Shut up! It's a good book." And them to just go on their way. I still don't quite know what I saw; tolerance, acceptance, plain friendship, broadening comic horizons?

Between stuff like that and the back and forth blogging responses, I feel old and out of tune. What am I missing? Was there a revolution? Where are these readers coming from? Who is this audience? And I'm not talking about the romance loving 13-17 yr olds because if it wasn't romance comics it'd be young adult romance novels. But how did this thing get so big? How come there are English Language Manga Writers for English First Releases? How does that happen? How come Harlequin has two Manga lines? What exactly are they publishing? What's the difference between what they put out and what young girls are reading? Why is there alarm at what the young girls are reading? Why the concern?? Where is the concern? Where is it coming from? I know I'm not the only one surprised and curious, so why is asking questions suddenly a bad thing? And doesn't every fannish community have it's indiscreet and idiotic, so why the fear of 'They're spoiling it all'?

Can anyone direct me to Manga 101?

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