I just got the best card. A thank you card re: manga/comics school presentation. It includes a tiny smile-y Ryuk-face. SO NICE!—
Claire (@illusClaire) March 02, 2011
I burst with the joy of occasional teaching!
They also gave me flowers. School is SO MUCH NICER when you are on the outside of it!!
That beautiful egg-yolk colour. Mmm, delightful!
Since I have been so spoilt, I seek to spread it by sharing (sort of, some of) my presentation with you.
It was a little unnerving, I will tell you, because the person who was supposed to introduce me (and who I know from my yoof, I knew her son since I was eight) was off sick.. so the head of English just sort of said “here she is.. go!”. In front of a hundred and sixty teenage-cusp kids. Eee.
So I went.
These were my notes, for the first part.. which were the only part of them I got to use, because I forgot that having them on the laptop my videos were playing from meant that everybody would be able to see them if I could. So I went without.
* I’d like to show you two videos
* These are to express the feeling of reading
* Reading is intimate, talks in halls are not, so these are a metaphor
*These are all available in manga form, mostly adapted from manga
*These are favourites mixed with ones so famous I have to know them
*By no means a pan-genre selection
And these are said videos, I forget if I shared them before or not:
I’ll tell you the truth: I’m really proud of my editing in these.
Then I showed ANOTHER video, which I am not going to show you because it has my face in. My face, as you know, is private if I am not directly showing it to you in real life! Also that video has a buttload of pictures I don’t and could never hope to hold the copyright for. I think mostly they would fall under fair use, and the ones that might not are being used for education and against ignorance and stereotyping, so.. I’d hope that no-one would mind? But I’m still not just putting it out for the whole world indiscriminately.
But I will share the script, with annotations so you can imagine you’re seeing what they were seeing! Hurray!
[me walking, vlogstyle] When I was contacted to talk to you for world book day I was asked if I could talk to you about “manga”. I haven’t been a regular reader of Japanese comics for a few years just because I haven’t had the time to search out titles that I really like or frankly been able to afford to buy collections of recommendations I’ve received, but nevertheless – I said [skit of me on phone in dressing gown]“of course!” [end skit]And that was fine, because:
[me straight to camera] The first thing to remember about “manga”[word appears, with three translations] is that it just means comics[word appears].
Manga, manhwa, bandes-desinee, stripverhalen, “sequential art” comics and so on [words appearing on screen with appropriate country name] are all words from different languages for the same form of communication: narratives driven by the change in picture between one panel to the next.
When you read a comic, you can tell what’s happening because moving to the next panel will show you what’s happening in this new frame, but also lets you understand what has happened since the last one. [slow scrolling through 4coma, panel changes annotated]
[flipping through collected comics paperbacks on screen - Maison Ikkoku vs Bone vs Usagi Yojimbo]But the translation to “comics” is something that’s overlooked in a lot of entry-level conversations about manga because generalisations make it easier to market things. If you can say “This thing is different!” it makes it easier for people to notice it, so saying “Manga is different to comics!” is a way to make the sequential art sections of bookshops look more exciting, and comic shops to look modern and in-touch. It’s also a way to make these particular comics seem more appealing to the consumer, because newness and exotic-sounding difference are both often desirable.
(The actual version I used in the video has Doc replying “..Unbelievable.” – just FYI)
But it doesn’t actually really tell you anything much about what you might find inside of a book of Japanese comics. Saying “manga will this kind of stuff in it” is about as useful as saying “Japanese people are more likely to have black hair than English people are” – [streetview of many dark-haired people in Tokyo] stereotypically that may the case, but it doesn’t mean that, if you meet a Japanese person, you know that they’re going to have black hair [pictures from FRUiTS; multicoloured hair examples; natural and dyed]. A lot of people will tell you “manga art has big sparkly eyes!” [examples of big sparkly eye manga/anime] but if you pick up any of these books, you’ll see that the eyes are more realistically sized [examples of small eyes; Death Note, Cowboy Bebop, some characters from Shaman King, Fist of the North Star, etc].
Having said that – other than for marketing, we call Japanese comics “manga” because we respect the fact that if something is from Japan, it was probably created by a person whose points of reference come from Japanese cultural history. The fables [izanagi + izanami], pop culture [SMAP, Ringo Shiina] and character archetypes [Ultraman] that they will probably be used to and that will probably have inspired their story and their art, will be a little different to the ones that we, the foreign readers, will be used to [izanami + izanagi with Jesus, SMAP with the Spice Girls, Shiina with Angelina Jolie, Ultraman with Batman]. Like maybe some of the rhymes and verses to playground chants at [local primary school] were a bit different to the same chants at [other local primary school a] or [other local primary school b] – being around one group of people means that there are in-jokes and references and shared experiences that make more sense to the people involved than they do to someone on the outside. It works on a small scale like amongst friends, but it also works on a large, national scale – especially, perhaps, when the country went through a long period of being sternly isolated from outside influences – as Japan was for much of the Edo period [timescale and VERY basic facts about Japan's isolation on screen in text].
That’s why there are some tropes common to what we call Manga that are uncommon in, say, American super-hero comics [magical girl series; Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Mai Hime, Mai Otome, a couple I can't remember right now]. People who have grown up American, or reading American comics, are more likely to use the story and art structures that they’re used to. People who have grown up nationally Japanese, or reading Japanese comics, have the knowledge of what’s usual in Japanese comics to work from [flicking through Shaman King, annotated in similar fashion] when they choose to make their own. That’s why you can make generalisations about “manga” – but you have to recognise that they will never be cold facts.
But you see, that’s also why there’s less and less point in using the different words, manga, manhwa, stripverhalen, comics. With the internet being such a large part of people’s social and cultural lives [me watching Dekaranger on youtube, dancing to theme music] these days, and with [footage of scrolling through manga-reader sites, doujin sections of rinkya, etc] imports and exports being an important part of trade, not to mention the large large numbers of people immigrating around the world, people are growing up with international influences. Ninjas are second nature to us now[various examples of ninjas in western comics, thanks scans daily], but ninjas don’t belong to Britain’s history. They’re a new addition but they are, by now, a trope that has migrated from Japanese to American and British comics. You can see characters that even we can recognise as stereotypical Americans in Japanese pop culture [G-Men, gun crazy big-nosed americans, and cowboys from various series] – they’re also a cultural import. The very successful Japanese Lupin the Third [footage of Lupin official site] is based upon an early twentieth century french novel series [footage of flicking through Leblanc volumes on amazon] and one of my favourite animated series is an adaptation of the careers of Agatha Christie’s two most famous detectives [clip from Meitante Poirot and Marple].
The point is, there’s no point trying to figure out if you like or dislike “manga”. What’s important is to think about the types of stories, characters or art that you think you might like [screen-scattered montage of flicking through the widest range of art styles I could find that were school-appropriate in my collection] – and find what’s on offer from every source.
I hope that there’s nothing in there that makes you think I’ve been ruining young minds! Please, if you do, do tell me. Let’s discuss!
Then I did a big “it doesn’t matter how detailed you want to be, everything is valid and everything is a choice you get to make, that is what is SO GREAT ABOUT COMICS, also comics can be about anything” thing..
And the rest of my presentation was pretty much just me going through three slideshows and discussing them with my captive audience. There were page layout, panel focus, and text/speech bubble/symbol use sections.. which I am SURE I have mentioned in an entry before.. But.. now I mention it again! I wanted to get across the way that the literal page that the comic is created on is a part of the comics, how an amount of.. almost fourth wall breakage? How a symbolic acknowledgement of the limitations of ‘comic strip’ can further the artistic and/or storytelling achievement within one.
And then we had questions, and then the more questions (including “what’s your favourite manga? ..OH COME ON IT MUST BE DEATH NOTE!!” to which I could only reply that yeah, actually, I guess it probably was, considering*) and one-to-one comics workshopping. There was actually a really good range of questions.. questions about historical facts (who invented manga? who is the most famous manga character?), questions about character design (why do They have that big giant hair, why do They have big eyes and small noses, and yes I surely did address and attempt to deflate the capitalisation of those Theys), questions about becoming a creator, practise time, industry entry questions, questions that were just “have you heard of..”, and one boy – to his friends’ GREAT EXCITEMENT – asked me “do you know.. anything.. about the Moomins??” And of course, I did! Hurray!
If you get the chance to do something like this? You totally should. It was NEAT.
I was pretty sure they mostly enjoyed it by the time I went home, but now that I have a card with student names and messages and tiny Ryuk-face in it -
*Not counting Kamen Rider Spirits