"Dreamland Japan" - The Manga and Anime Market - Book Review

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“Dreamland Japan” is both an accurate and exciting comic theory about Japanese manga and the Japanese manga market. Despite the worries about the openness of Japanese culture, one of the most widely-spread genre concerning Japan is be Japanese manga and anime.

The fact that  most of the comics or TV animations we enjoyed watching in our childhood were Japanese, we are able to recognise how early Japanese manga and anime already penetrated our lives . What is the substance of Japanese manga which puts down deep roots into our popular culture, and what fascinates fans so much about manga that they have even been given a neologism, “Otaku1”?

Frederik L. Schodt is an American translator, interpreter and writer. At the same time, he is a manga expert, who speaks Japanese fluently and has a profound knowledge of the Japanese culture. In the 1970s, whilst studying at the International Christian University in Japan he became attracted to manga and still is continuing research as part of his profession. He already published his best known book “Manga! Manga! World of Japanese Comics” in 1983, and won a prize at the “Manga Oscar Awards” in the same year. “Dreamland Japan – Writings On Modern Manga” tends to be its sequel.

As it is mostly known, “manga” is the Japanese translation for “comics”. This book also deals primarily with manga in the printed media of course, not with Japanese “anime2”. Schodt copes well in explaining general manga which have structured story lines (“story manga”), and his writings can be divided into four major sequences.

First, the chapters “Enter the Id” and “Modern Manga at the End of the Milennium” contain statements which help to understand the world of manga as a whole. What are manga, exactly, and where did they come from? The author states (Schodt, 1996, p. 21) that, in a nutshell, the modern Japanese manga is a synthesis: “a long Japanese tradition of art that entertains has taken on a physical form imported from the West”.

Schodt also gives an answer to interesting curiosities like why Japanese romantic manga's characters always have saucer-shaped eyes, thin long legs, and thick blond hair cascaded over the shoulders, which are showing an adoption of Western ideals of beauty.

According to the author, prior to the Meiji period3, Japanese artists usually drew themselves with small eyes and mouths and variable proportions (Schodt, 1996, p. 60). However, the defeat in World War II would have caused a national loss of confidence that extended to Japan's self-image. After that, Western ideals of beauty would not only have been accepted but pursued, often to ludicrous degrees (Schodt, 1996, p. 61). Additionally, early comics of the post-war period would have been heavily influenced by Osamu Tezuka's4 style of cartooning, which was in turn derived from American animation. And the other artists who had followed him found that a Caucasian look was extremely popular among readers and that the bigger the eyes, the easier it was to depict emotions. Eventually, depicting Japanese people with Caucasian features would have become an established convention; “readers internalized the images and demanded them” (Schodt, 1996, p. 61). Besides, he quotes the girl's manga author Satonaka Machiko that “Japan has always been attracted to what it perceives as a more advanced culture than its own” (Schodt, 1996, p. 61) and “that in the Heian period5 it was the Korean face that was regarded as ideal, particularly by the imperial court6” (Schodt, 1996, p. 61). In this sense modern Japanese female manga characters display the change that occurred in the Japanese consciousness.

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The next chapter “The Manga Magazine Scene” deals with the catalyst of the Japanese manga market, depicting why it is obvious that Japanese manga just had to become so popular and expand.

Furthermore, Schodt introduces diverse manga magazines, which sparked off the Japanese manga market and displayed its potential, presenting their unique feature for each as well, and furthermore, talking about the future of manga-related industries. In addition, the author illustrates the eccentric and distinctive magazine market of Japan, which covers general magazines categorised by age and gender, up to manga magazines for “Mahjong7”, and even comics for infant ...

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