AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 479

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Session 479: Uniting Different Cultures and Identities: Women’s Comics and Manga

Organizer: Fusami Ogi, Chikushi Jogakuen University, Japan

Comics and manga have acquired new cultural status in the beginning of the 21st century, both in terms of markets and academic interest. There are many reasons why comics and manga have generated such massive international interest. One is that in Japan, manga is not just for kids and it has developed distinct genres of its own for adults, analogous to literary forms (novel, autobiography, semi-autobiography, sf, history). Manga also has differentiated markets for girls and women as well as for boys and men. Interestingly, when manga went outside Japan to the US and Europe, more women readers began to join manga culture. Today, manga are not just for Japanese. The form is adopted by non-Japanese artists and manga are read by non-Japanese readers. Regarding such popularity among non-Japanese people, gaining more attention both within and outside Japan, manga for girls and women seems to occupy a particular and interesting position, which is connected to a larger international phenomenon in which women writers and readers are becoming increasingly important in the European and North American comics scenes. Thus our international and transcultural panel focuses on women as authors, consumers and subjects of sequential art -- uniting our different cultures and identities through this unique medium.

Inspiring Women: Comics/Manga as Literature in Japan and the US
Fusami Ogi, Chikushi Jogakuen University, Japan

In North America, the field of comics was a typical male-dominated genre. However, after the so-called manga tsunami arrived in the beginning of the 21st century, more female readers and authors began to take part in the world of comics, which eventually proved beyond a doubt that American women also read comics. Regarding the increased participation of women in comics, we should also note that the genre of the graphic novel has played an important role since MAUS gained attention. Important autobiographical graphic novels by women such as PERCEPOLIS and FUN HOME later effectively presented the theme of identity. Interestingly, more reading lists of English Literature classes began to put these graphic novels on their syllabi. Manga has often been categorized as a graphic novel in the US market. Impressively, serious depictions of identities and human flaws make manga something very close to what was traditionally called “literature” rather than just an entertainment. More interestingly, in the 1970s in Japan, when the number of women artists increased and comics for girls finally became a genre created by women for women, many readers found the comics for girls very close in its aims to “literature.” My presentation will explore these two different cultural forms, manga and American comics, examining their similarities and differences based on the key notion of "literature," which forms a key consideration for both.

Crossing Double Borders: Korean Female Amateur Artists in the Globalization of Japanese Doujin Culture
Hyojin Kim, , South Korea

Doujin, which literally means ‘same person’ in Japanese, refers to people who create or self-publish their work (original or parody) mainly in the fields of manga, novel, anime, or game. As Kinsella (1998) articulates, one of the characteristics of this doujin culture is that more than two-thirds of the population consists of women, in both artists and readers. Among them, fujoshi, literally ‘rotten girls’ for their liking of male-male sexual fantasies, are mainstream, which makes doujin culture highly gendered. Last is that doujin culture has involved various complicated problems concerning copyright, pirate translation, obscenity and censorship, because the vast majority of fanzines deal with sexual relationships between protagonists in original texts without permission. Owing to these reasons, doujin culture has been one of the highly esoteric and segregated spheres in Japanese popular culture. Recent advances in internet technology and transportation, however, allow non-Japanese native speakers to participate in Japanese-based doujin market and internet actively, which I would call “the globalization of doujin culture”. Among them, this paper will focus on the trajectory of Korean amateur, mainly women in their teens and twenties and actively participating in the doujin market and internet. What are their motivations? What kind of troubles have they experienced? What meaning do they ascribe to their activities? Is there any possibility to create “the community of interpretation,” (Kaneda 2007) even beyond national borders? Ultimately, I aim at offering a fresh look at doujin culture from outsiders’ viewpoints.

Enlarging Women Manga Markets: Family Issues and the Autobiographical Tradition/Innovation of Japanese Women Manga Artists
Kotaro Nakagaki, Daito Bunka University, Japan

Within these two decades, autobiographical works by women manga artists have been prominent. Approaching the subject from the viewpoints of family issues (marriage, giving birth, and child care), travel, and semi-autobiography, this presentation will examine the styles, methods and contexts of Japanese women manga artist works and compare them to autobiographical works in other media, or American women graphic novel works, including The Impostor's Daughter (2009). Japanese comic artist, Ishizaka Kei, the creator of My Baby Came (1993), did her breakthrough in this genre. In more conservative times until the 1980s, the direct depiction of giving birth was regarded as sacredness and taboo. Though Ishizaka is a comic artist, My Baby Came is a literal text with some cartoons. That half-comic and half-literal essay style was effective for breaking through that taboo. Behind this way, both manga and text media has own characteristics. Following a similar attitude and manga style are other artists, Shungiku Uchida, creator of We Are Breeding (1994 – ). Uchida also write both manga and text (essay, novel) ways based on her materials. Their works were not published in women’s magazines; their works were significant for men, revealing the once-secret act of giving birth. This shows they are exploring their “once-secret” world beyond women’s sphere. Even reportage and semi-autobiographical manga forms have their own style, grammar, and traditions, and those works necessarily differ from other media, such as films or literary texts. This presentation will analyze the current methods and context of Japanese women.

Skim: Negotiating Asian-Canadian Identity in Comic Art
Jane Marianna Tolmie, Queen's University, Canada

In 2008, Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki’s collaborative graphic novel, Skim, was nominated for one of Canada’s highest literary awards. Oddly enough, however, only the text was nominated, not the illustrations, sending out very dubious signals about the perceived value of the illustrator to collaborative alternative art/comics projects [see Brown et al 2008: online]. The subsequent controversy drew public attention to the ways in which a growing corpus of women’s autobiographical and semi-autobiographical sequential art is challenging some comfortable perceptions about high and low culture. Skim’s challenges to some so-called normative Canadian perceptions and institutions are not limited to issues of form; set largely in a middle-class private school in Toronto (modeled on Mariko Tamaki’s ‘real life’ high school, Havergal College), Skim positions a powerful queer and anti-racist critique alongside a more traditional coming-of-age story, once again destabilizing comfortable perceptions about culture – both formally and thematically. Brown, Chester and Seth. “Open Letter to Governor General’s Literary Awards.” November 12, 2008. http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=18800

Shōjo in Outer Space: The Intersection of Japanese Girls' Comics and Sf
Shigeru Suzuki, City University of New York, Baruch College, USA

Unlike the history of US comics where female artists and readers have been marginalized and invisible --- if not non-existent, the Japanese manga tradition has a relatively long history of female artists and the readership of their works. Today, a wide variety of differently-targeted comics from shōjo manga, ladies' comics, 4-frame and "essay" manga pieces in regular women's magazines to diverse genres such as romance, drama, horror, fantasy, sports, and BL/yaoi exemplify the flourish of female creativity and growing readership. Historically, the nascent period of shōjo manga in the 1950s were formed by male writers and editors, but we soon witnessed the burst of female creativity in the subsequent period. This generation of female artists drastically innovated manga forms and styles, fitting them to their needs. Among them, popular female manga artists such as Hagio Moto, Takemiya Keiko, Ōshima Yumiko successfully incorporated the genres of science fiction (sf) which was (and is) conventionally placed under the "boys' genres." Examining a couple of their sf manga works, my paper argues that the sf manga by them provide the sites in which patriarchal socio-cultural codes and structures are (re-)examined, contested, and even negotiated against the popular claim that their use of sf settings is for imaginary escapism. Consulting utopian and sf genre theories (Tom Moylan and Darko Suvin), my paper aims to articulate the nexus of socio-historical inscriptions of gender/sexuality and the potential of the sf genre which destabilize the normative structure of the postwar Japanese society from which these works emerged.