New Treasure Island Revolutionise Framing in Manga?
Boy - Dreams and Technologies of Postwar Japan
- An Artist Who Confronted His Era
and the Origin of Story Manga
Viewed through Proto-Characteristics
Gekiga - Behind the Mask of Manga
Edited by Philip Brophy and published by the National Gallery of Victoria,
Melbourne (2006), this 156 page hardback catalogue contains:
1. A set of 6 critical essays written by English and Japanese writers,
dealing with various aspects of Osamu Tezuka’s manga (with
some reference to his anime)
A complete checklist of all 234 works exhibited in the exhibition
A summary bibliography
66 reproductions from the exhibition
ordering information on this publication go direct to the NGV)
Any Western misreading of Japan is often presumed to be a matter solely of cultural difference, but difference in Japan is so obvious, one is unlikely to misread its marked presence. The revered rituals of tea-making, flower arranging, garden raking are so clearly not of European lineage that they defy misinterpretation with their instantly recognisable oriental character.
Japan is mostly misread when it doesn't proclaim its difference so overtly. Japan's postwar popular culture and its accelerated fusion with American consumer influences is the true locus of Western misreadings. The mere absence of the traditional gives rise to journalistic assertions of Japan being weird because it mixes tradition with technology - as if somehow Japan should portray its ancient customs alone.
there is a prime symptom of how postwar Japan embodies this mutation
between classical sediment and postmodern fissure, it would have
to be manga (comics). In no other culture is the form and medium
as rampant as it is in Japan (accounting for 37 per cent of all publications
sold in 2004). Cutting across class, audience, gender, genre and
purpose, manga is ubiquitous: the most popular of weekly collections - each usually containing about twenty serialised manga by different artists - can sell up to 3 million copies.
many outside of Japan would be familiar with the pervasiveness of
manga, there has been scant proper account of the form's origins, development, reception and status over the last eighty years. Internationally manga is recognised ostensibly as an Eastern counterpart to Western comics. Similarities exist, though each is weighted and oriented by vastly differing histories and determining social factors.
Manga and comics do not mirror each other culturally. (Blunt symmetrical
pairing of the two would be like qualifying sushi as uncooked mini-hamburgers
but with fish.) Rather, manga and comics are portals to parallel
plateaux of mass-communication and personal expression. While comics
remain tethered to gag strips, situational comedy, political cartooning
and satirical illustration, manga extends well beyond those parodic
bases to incorporate novelistic, literate, poetic and cinematic modes
of narrative engagement.
salient difference between the two is a matter of range, scale and
appreciation: despite its irrevocable mass media image, manga is
perceived in Japan as capable of a far wider communicative scope
by both artists and their audiences than is either imagined or allowed
in the West. Consequently, the finer appreciation of manga outside
of Japan requires overt recontextualisation.
better way to address this than presenting a major retrospective
in a Western art gallery on TEZUKA Osamu (1928-1989), Japan's most important manga artist. The exhibition Tezuka:
The Marvel of Manga, developed by and for the National Gallery of Victoria, is at once an introductory celebration of this artist's unique vision in manga and a critical marker for how we in the West can further our understanding of the power of manga through the Tezuka's talents.
career parallels the growth of the manga industry to such
an extent that his life is inextricably entwined with the postwar
formation of manga. Early works like New Treasure Island (Shin
takarashima), 1947, helped channel the explosion of the Osaka-based
akabon red-book manga rental system of the late 1940s.
This in turn led to an incorporation of novelistic and cinematic
structures into manga serialisations like Astro
Boy (Tetsuwan Atomu)
for the Tokyo-based competitive weekly and monthly magazines. Concurrently,
works like Princess Knight (Ribon no
kishi) amplified the hitherto
mute market of shojo
manga (girls' comics) in the mid 1950s, while works like Jungle
Emperor (Jungeru taitei) (referred to in the West as Kimba
the White Lion) articulated humanist themes in the guise of
cute animal manga for young children.
the 1960s Tezuka had attained mainstream success through the manifold
manga commissions he had received from a wide range of publishers.
He also responded to changes in Japan's post-occupation social climate
by developing gekiga (adult pictures) manga of deepening and sometimes
disturbing political and philosophical content. Titles as varied
as Black Jack (Burakku Jakku), Eulogy
to Kirihito (Kirihito sanka) and MW (Mu) were topical enough to be embraced
equally by general audiences and university students. All these strands
of Tezuka's notable work - most of them successful, some unabashedly
experimental - culminate in his meta-works instigated toward the
end of the sixties and serialised for years beyond: Buddha and Phoenix (Hi
no tori). Their densely
patterned meld of cosmology, folklore, history, politics and psychology
capitalised on Tezuka's drive for concentrated dramatic energy and
the explosive thematic consequences of his open-ended arrangement
of plot, character and setting.
was an internationalist by strategy yet wholly Japanese by practice.
His outward declaration of preference for the emotional impact of
American movies allowed into Japan during the postwar occupation
by the Allied Powers is only slightly based on desiring to emulate
American conventions. More to the point, his fascination with America's
cinematic sensationalism can be equated to the high impact American
pop culture had on Japan after being banned from its shores during
the repressive war years. Tezuka's appreciation of Hollywood was
always less about an alignment with US-styled universalism and more
about discerning effective mechanics in storytelling which he employed
to stretch manga form into unimagined shapes.
exhibition Tezuka: The Marvel of Manga is equally moulded by these
aims to contextualise manga for a Western audience and the intention
to critically posit Tezuka as an artist clearly aware of manga's
greater potential as a trans-cultural form of communication. The exhibition is presented in three sections to allow audiences space to consider manga along these lines.
first section is a simple introduction to manga form. Making no assumptions
of an audience's exposure to manga, excerpts of Tezuka's work are
presented to demonstrate the power and complexity by which manga in his hands generates heightened effects. From solitary frames posterised
within a single full page to pages with scintillating framing and
sequencing, followed by three-page selections which create more complex
movement and action.
second section covers the titles by which Tezuka would be best known
in the West and presents works from which he produced anime (animation)
TV series and films. Many of these titles a Western audience might
presume to be American productions due to their voice dubbing. In
Japan, Tezuka's anime has always been viewed in relation to his manga,
and this section of the exhibition will give audiences a chance to
see the origins of what became anime programs.
third section covers a selection of Tezuka's gekiga work produced
between the late 1960s and late 1980s. Gekiga (literally, dramatic
pictures) is a more seriously toned, adult-oriented narrative form
of manga that stresses realistic effect and emotional impact, as
opposed to the visual symbolism and high-keyed archetypes displayed
in early postwar manga. While manga (comic pictures) is the umbrella
term for all Japanese comics, gekiga (drama pictures) is often viewed
as a branch within manga. This section of the exhibition is designed
to acquaint audiences with the deeper power of manga.
150,000 drawn pages (collected in the 400 volumes of Tezuka's works
by Kodansha Publishing), Tezuka's manga has evolved a peculiar post-atomic
fusion of Eastern calligraphic sensibility and Western narrative
iconography. Like the multitude of metamorphosing beings which populate
his stories, his manga is emblematic of Japanese postwar identity and symbolic of Tezuka's own transformation of image/text narration. Rewiring occidental cinematic machinery with oriental philosophical energy, his manga constitutes an active and vital demonstration of a non-Eurocentric postmodernism, marking Tezuka as an artist well due acknowledgement in the Western art world.