Wednesday, April 24, 2013

On the mechanics of anime illustration - The Japan Times

On the mechanics of anime illustration - The Japan Times Japan has to be the top comic/animation loving nation in the world.  I have no statistics to back this up.  For all I know, it may actually be China or South Korea or even France.  But I do know comics and animation are mainstreamed here in Japan in ways denied by audiences in my native US, despite the media's discovery every three or four years that "BAM!  POW!  Comics aren't just for kids anymore!" and libraries stocking graphic novels. Publishers of super grown-up type books like Penguin Group (USA) occasionally take initiatives to broaden the appeal of comics.  And so do publishers like Scholastic for younger readers.  They offer comic books through their ingeniously titled graphic novel divisions or imprints.  And remember DC's late, lamented Minx line?  They advertised in teen fashion catalogs, which probably seemed like a great idea at the time.  Graphic novels and comics-- especially the monthly ones-- still tend to be a niche product, with a shelf or two of the most obvious titles at what few brick-and-mortar bookstores that remain in your malls and shopping centers.  People will watch uneven TV shows and go by the millions to craptacular movies based on them, but publishers have to push the idea that comics can be about anything and read by anyone.  They make huge noise whenever they do, and their best intentions still don't always pan out. While here in Japan, almost every bookstore you go to has huge comic book sections with a wide range of genre titles available. Anyway, this rant comes inspired by the Japan Times, which ran the story linked way up top there about a museum exhibition of the works of Kunio Okawara, who designed giant robots for Mobile Suit Gundam and created a phenomenon.  While I don't know a whole lot about his career, even a cursory glance at Japan reveals his pervasive influence.  The news article catalogs some of it briefly, and it's breath-taking.  I'd say a lot of what we Americans think about Japanese pop culture is a result of Okawara's work even if we've never actually laid eyes on a Gundam model kit.  If you've ever watched that South Park where they satirize Pokemon or that one The Simpsons where they watch Battling Seizure Robots or the other one where they go to the Totally Sick, Twisted, F***ed-Up Animation Festival, then you've been exposed to Okawara in some small way. What does any of this have to do with graphic novel imprints?  Eh, probably nothing.  I just wanted to show you how what in the US is considered entertainment for a specific audience is mass entertainment in Japan.  Not that everyone here sits around building Gundam models-- although a character SMAP star Shingo Katori plays on a recent TV drama does in his free time, when he's not talking to his beautiful ghost roommate (and even when he is)-- or reading comics, but in Japan, you're just much more likely to see a train load of teen girls into comics US publishers find so elusive, or run into the middle aged dude who spends a lot of money on plastic toys and isn't considered a weirdo.  It's still not cool to achieve the status of otaku, but you can indulge your geek-tooth without having to explain to people this stuff is for grown-ups, too. And that suits me just fine.

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