Despite what most people here might think, not everyone in Japan’s a manga fan. Or at least they’re not fans to the extent that somepeople are fans — it’s a little like the difference between a casual TV watcher and a die-hard Star Trek fan here in the U.S.. Manga (along with anime, and their associated interests) may be big business; but to the average Japanese, otaku have a built-in dorkiness that’s hard for them to shake.
This ostracism isn’t something that isn’t always conveyed in manga or anime itself. It’s fun when it’s done right, though. Genshiken nailed this kind of thing perfectly; for anyone who’s a fan or feels like they’ve been a fan for too long, it was hilarious and dead-on. But there’s been a slew of other stories in the same vein: Cosplay Koromo-chan, for instance, a series of four-panel gag comics about a girl who has managed to turn cosplay into a way of life; or Maniac Road, about three sisters who turn a failed electronics store into a thriving “otaku paradise.”Read more
So what’s the future really going to be like? If you ask me, it’s going to be exactly what we have right now — and, at the same time, nothing like what we have right now. When Roger Ebert reviewed Blade Runner, he pointed out that the 1980s were nothing like the 1980s as we’d imagined them: no flying cars and no world government, but there’s still rock ‘n roll on the radio. That’s one of the things I’ve liked about the Ghost in the Shell mythology: it’s set in the year 2030, but life goes on for many people as it always has: people still work at jobs, drive cars, save for their retirements, and commit crimes.
That was how it came across in the TV series, and that’s also how it comes across in a highly entertaining series of light novels written from the series mythology and now presented in English. The first of that batch, The Lost Memory, was a fun read (I used it to keep from dropping dead of boredom during a stint of jury duty last year), and ifMemory read like an extended episode of the TV series, that was no accident: Junichi Fujisaku’s novel was apparently derived from one of a set of stories that had originally been intended for the show but got left by the wayside, and Fujisaku himself was on the show’s production team. I haven’t yet read the second novel, Revenge of the Cold Machines, but if it’s anything like White Maze, the third release, it’s probably as self-contained as the other two and thus not crucial to understanding what goes on inMaze. And probably every bit as much fun as Maze, too. Read more
Shojo manga’s a growing market right now, and one of the nice side effects of that boom is how we’re starting to see comics that might otherwise never have shown up domestically. I’m still waiting for a domestic edition of one of the most influential shojo stories of them all, Shinji Wada’s Sukeban Deka manga (which spawned a live-action TV series, a slew of movies, and an animated OAV) — but in the meantime there’s Vertical’s publication of Keiko Takemiya’s To Terra…, a title I’d only known about in passing and glimpsed when it was out of translation. Based on what’s in the first volume, it deserves an audience above and beyond just the shojo market, the way Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha deserves an audience outside of existing manga readers.
Much of the story in the first volume is divided between two plotlines. The first is the story of Jomy, growing up on Ataraxia, one of Earth’s far-future colonies, where society is rigidly controlled by computers as a way to suppress problems before they begin. When children come of age, they’re tested via a process called the "Maturity Check" to ensure that they will not pose difficulties to society at large — for instance, by showing signs of having telepathic ability. (Those who pass the Maturity Check are welcomed into society; but those who fail run the risk of becoming social rejects — a plot element probably echoed directly from the fears of a great many young Japanese trying desperately to pass their entrance exams and not be seen as failures!)Read more