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Late Night Edition

February 10, 2009

I decided to post a rant today, one that I’ve held in the back of my mind for quite some time. Originally I was going to throw up some interesting news bits from the New York Comic Con, but after inundating myself with the news that’s actually come from the NYCC I realized that A) nothing there was really of interest to me and B) the only thing I wanted was to have attended the Fringe and Dollhouse question and answer panels. Especially the Fringe one. 

Instead you get a rant about Japanese manga. 

There are a lot of arguments that say that Japanese manga is better than American comics because the Japanese aren’t as wrapped around the mythology of super heroes in comics. True, American comics are dominated by super heroes, most American comics feature some kind of super-powered somebody versus another super-powered (or super rich) somebody. 

I would argue that manga is very similar in that while they may not always be about super heroes there are many manga involving characters with supernatural powers, abilities, demons, etc. 

True, there are quite a few manga that come across as more genre specific like American novels. There are romance manga (too many in my opinion and no it’s not a humble one), mystery manga, sports manga, almost anything you can imagine. Which is cool. I’m a fan of the theory just not the practice. 

My biggest issue with most Japanese manga, more specifically the ones that have made it too America (i.e. been translated), is that they’re not interesting. Perhaps the art is really good and pleasing to the eyes but the stories are generally boring, shallow, and full of more mary sues and general archetypes that it’s almost like reading poorly written stories from a high school creative writing class.

I’ve read a lot of bloggers, artists, writers, and fans who love Japanese anime and manga who continually wonder why it hasn’t broken into the mainstream of American society yet. I’d argue that it vaguely has but the reason that the media isn’t espousing the virtues of Japanese culture is because it’s not good. 

The reason that Akira became one of the most watched and bought animes in America had nothing to do with it’s Japanness. Akira is legitimately a good anime. The story is interesting, the characters are somewhat shallow but developed enough that you care about them, and the art is amazing. The dubbing is eh but that comes with the territory. The reason shows like Sailor Moon should have died is because they’re terrible. The art is okay, the story is shallow and boring and the characters are all just high-pitched girls who squeal at everything and then change costumes but continue to squeal and whine. It’s like stabbing pigs but they never die and they still feel every sting. 

Here’s an example of why Japanese anime and manga don’t connect with the general American audience. Trigun. Trigun is an anime that features a compelling story line, decent main characters (tons of shallow side characters), and flowing art. Three components that should make it a viewing investment for viewers. It fails because the Japanese have this annoying habit of breaking flow by adding it these stupid faces where the jaw becomes cartoonishly long and perhaps a bubble with a tear drop in it appears floating by their head in a moment of *comic relief. 

Good writing would absolve the need to do that but time and again one sees this tactic used and it completely destroys the credibility of what would otherwise be a good anime. An example of an anime with good writing that didn’t need that effect is Cowboy Bebop. The music amazing, the art is amazing, the writing is great, the characters well developed. It’s a good anime. Now, if more products like that came out of Japan then I would wonder why Americans aren’t jumping on the Anime bandwagon. Instead though we get Trigun, Sailormoon, and GODDAMN Naruto. 


It is the worst anime/manga that I have ever come across for all of the reasons that I talked about above and yet, it is singularly one of the most (if not the most) popular animes/mangas in America today. People write entire blogs about it. Stores at Anime cons are devoted to selling only Naruto merchandise and that shit flies off the shelf. Tweens, Teens, and even some “adults” dress up as various characters from the show or manga. 

Why? Why? 

It is one of the most vacuous, boring, and shallow creations to come of Japan that I have ever seen and I had one of those tomagotchi things back in the 90s. 

Companies produce PS2 videogames for Naruto and it makes a profit, they make direct to dvd movies of Naruto and it makes a profit. Some girl in Kansas sells handmade plushies of Naruto characters and somehow makes a profit. 

I don’t understand. 

As an anime fan I’ve been forgiving of some series that I probably shouldn’t have (Trigun) and loved series that I definitely shouldn’t have (Dragonball Z, yeah, I know I’m embarrassed for myself) but the phenomenon that is Naruto confounds me. 

I’ve showed Cowboy Bebop to non-anime enjoying friends and they’ve loved it but I tried sitting down with a friend once for an episode of Naruto one time and we ended up having to drink ourselves into a black-out just to forget it. 

Some days I wish I could go back in time and find the guy or gal who created Naruto and brutally, brutally murder them before they have a chance to create the monstrosity that is Naruto. 

If it wasn’t for Naruto and there were more Cowboy Bebops out there Anime would actually be a worthwhile venture and the same goes for manga. Instead you get 90x more bullshit than you do diamonds which is why manga can’t gain a stronger foothold in the states and why American comics, in my opinion, come across as marginally more interesting (though this isn’t to say that there aren’t b.s. American comics). 

And cut.


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