(Continuing from part 1)
The Rise of Manga
Despite the rapid growth and prosperity displayed in today’s manga world, in truth, manga didn’t see significant growth until World War II. Back then Japan was still struggling under the strains of the war and was undergoing a period of economic upheaval. Disillusioned hungry masses looked to distractions. Cinema began to flourish as the talkies became an easy escape from the harshness of life. Under the influence of the great manga artist Tezuka Osamu (1928–1989), manga too began to gain not only national but also international recognition with works such as Astro Boy, Black Jack, Buddha, and many more. In the midst of a post-war economic struggle, Tezuka’s manga adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island sold 400,000 copies to become the nation’s top-seller.
During the 1960s, the generation that enjoyed reading manga as children grew up to take their place in society. They took their love for manga along. People no longer viewed manga as something to be enjoyed only by children — slowly yet surely manga was gaining a steadily growing adult fanbase. American comics at the time primarily had a huge audience of young boys idolizing superheroes who zipped out with incredible powers and saved the earth over and over again, but the Japanese community was developing its own audience. And like most things Japanese they were not about to make it simple.
Groups spawned out, social in nature yet reminiscent of the glory days of American street gangs. The fans would dress up, they would gather en masse to support their favorite shows, tickets for any movie adaptions of popular manga would go sold out thanks to these dedicated fans. And they werent all instantly accepted. How much would you have to love Nagraj to dress up in a green snakeman costume and go out to face the world tomorrow? I’m guessing unless you are a rabid Nagraj fan it wont be easy. Neither was it easy for any of these earlier cosplay pioneers. Manga fans were considered to be worthy of occupying only the fringes of society. Not implicitly illegal in nature, yet not something that was embraced and accepted. To say there was a fear of this growing culture would be an understatement, early cosplayers were treated with a mixture of horror and apprehension. But then that is the way society is, and it is the fear of the unknown that keeps society functional as a whole.
They were the shadow folk of their era. And like all Shadow folk in all generations, they moved on to be a force to be reckoned. Times changed and the various styles of manga changed with them. To accomodate the ever growing fanbase artists/writers started coming out with varied and diverse manga. Encompassing every strand of life, death and society they could think of. From 1980 to 2000, manga saw not only an evolution of genre and style, but also the introduction of sophisticated techniques specifically geared toward enhancing its looks and effects. Techniques like screen tones (a series of adhesive, stylized, design patterns used to suggest color) gave new sleek looks to the finished pages. Story lines became more complex and widespread to include more audience interests, such as science fiction (mostly for males), sports, politics, religion, sex, and romance (pulling in more female readers and artists). With the rise of the Gundam era Manga’s commercial cousin the Anime was born. Movies based of popular series became instant hits and animated movies became big business. The five major production houses in Japan got into a veritable arms race. And animation studios such as Sunrise and Ghibli made gold. The eighties heralded the big boom for Japanese animation and manga. A boom that continues even today.
In the new millennium, along with the growing market appeal, scores of new artists are coming up with original ideas of their own in hopes of making it big in Japan and worldwide. At the same time, the number of talented female artists has skyrocketed; many of these artists are housewives who saw the opportunity of launching their manga career in drawing manga catering to female readers. And so the wheel turns and the circle is completed. Manga grows and grows, spiraling outwards in its scope and diversity.
This in fact brings us to many genres, sub genres that are manga. No discussion on manga can be complete without at least an attempt at classification. And indeed, nor will this one be.
But that as they say is a tale for another day.
To be continued…