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Frederik L. Schodt’s “Dreamland Japan” – Twenty Years On

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Frederik L. Schodt is a household name in the English-speaking manga world. A close friend of the late Osamu Tezuka, Schodt translated several of Tezuka’s major works into English, including Astro Boy and Phoenix. He’s also the author of The Astro Boy Essays and the translator of the upcoming manga biography The Osamu Tezuka Story.

For all his important work in the Tezuka department, Schodt is perhaps most notable for pioneering the study of manga in English. In 1983, he published Manga! Manga!which remains something of a cult classic among hardcore manga aficionados today. It was more journalistic than academic in its treatment of the subject, but it had a level of prescience that so many subsequent manga-themed publications would lack. For one thing, it predated the manga boom in the West for years, and for another, Schodt never limited to his focus to the mainstream and popular. His writing has aged well because he was able to observe things that people less immersed in the medium would have overlooked.

Schodt’s interest in the off-beat and obscure manga would carry over to Dreamland Japan, which was first published in 1996 as a spiritual sequel of sorts to Manga! Manga! It was written during the height of the manga boom in Japan, which was also the same time the fledgling market was starting to take off in the United States. As a result, Dreamland Japan has some interesting historical value twenty years later. As Schodt noted himself in the preface of the 2011 collector’s edition, Dreamland Japan is “a snapshot of a cultural and artistic phenomenon that is unlikely to be repeated again anywhere, in the same way.”

Even Schodt’s 2011 afterword was produced during an historical moment in the manga world. The manga bubble had recently burst in the States, leading to a very uncertain and turbulent period for the English manga industry. The industry has since recovered from the fallout, but Schodt’s observations remain very pertinent today.

In this post, I’ll examine the manga magazines, artists and works Schodt highlighted in the original Dreamland Japan. How easily can they be accessed in English? We might have thousands of titles available in English now (whether through legal or illegal means), but how much access into the world of manga do English speakers really have?

Manga magazines

With a few exceptions here and there, simul-publishing isn’t really a thing in the English manga world today. This means that English speakers will have to wait at least a few months (perhaps even years) to read chapters that are published in the latest manga magazines, unless of course they read scanlations. Nevertheless, some manga magazines are pretty well-known in the English fandom, which just goes to show how successfully some magazines have been able to brand themselves.

CoroCoro Comic

corocoro

July 2016 issue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher: Shogakukan

Founded: 1977

Frequency: Monthly

Demographic: Kodomo/shonen

Est. circulation in 1996: 750,000

Est. circulation in 2015: 970,000

Website: Japanese

Froggy’s commentary: This magazine published one of the biggest cash cows of manga ever – Doraemon. The fate of CoroCoro was uncertain after Doraemon finally ended in 1996, but the magazine managed to recover, mostly through a combination of clever marketing and toy and card game tie-in products. Today, CoroCoro publishes big hits like Pokemon X and Y and Yokai Watch. Most of these titles are published in English under the Viz Kids imprint.

Weekly Shonen Jump

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Issue 31, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher: Shueisha

Founded: 1968

Frequency: Weekly

Demographic: Shonen

Est. circulation in 1996: between 5-6 million

Est. circulation in 2015: 2.4 million

Website: Japanese, English.

Froggy’s commentary: The print circulation might have declined over the years, but WSJ remains the biggest heavyweight in the manga world. WSJ has been quick to jump onto the digital publishing bandwagon, so the steep loss in print circulation does not represent an equivalent loss in readership or cultural influence (although the magazine will probably never reach the peak it had in the 90s ever again). Select titles from the magazine are simul-published in English by Viz Media in digital magazine format, but that’s only for US readers.

Nakayoshi

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August 2016 Issue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher: Kodansha

Founded: 1954

Frequency: Monthly

Demographic: Shojo

Est. circulation in 1996: 1,800,000

Est. circulation in 2007: 400,000

Website: Japanese

Froggy’s commentary: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Nakayoshi is in its last gasps now, which is a saddening end for the former shojo manga powerhouse. The decline of Nakayoshi has mirrored the general decline of shojo manga over the last two decades. Maybe the recent serialisation of the Cardcaptor Sakura sequel will save the magazine, or at least slow its impending demise.

Big Comic

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Issue 13, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher: Shogakukan

Founded: 1968

Frequency: Semimonthly on the 10th and 25th of each month

Demographic: Seinen

Est. circulation in 1996: 1,450,000

Est. circulation in 2015: 315,000

Website: Japanese

Froggy’s commentary: Big Comic publishes the oldest manga still in serialisation – Golgo 13. Despite its legendary status in the manga world, Golgo 13 never really caught on with English readers for some reason. This wasn’t for lack of trying. LEED Publishing and Viz Media have published dozens of stories from the manga over the years (the first collection was published in 1986), but because of the sheer length of the manga, the publishers have only ever translated highlights from the manga instead of tackling the series in chronological order. Plus, when the scanlators have barely touched the series, you know that English readers don’t give a damn about it.

Weekly Morning

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Issue 31, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher: Kodansha

Founded: 1982

Frequency: Weekly

Demographic: Seinen

Est. circulation in 1996: 1,100,000

Est. circulation in 2015: 257,125

Website: Japanese

Froggy’s commentary: Despite its small print circulation these days, Morning is currently serialising a number of award-winning manga, including Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond and Yoshihiro Yamada’s Hyouge Mono. But the magazine’s biggest mainstay, Cooking Papa, remains unlicensed and totally obscure to the English fanbase.

Kindai Mahjong 

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August 2016 Issue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher: Take Shobo

Founded: 1977

Frequency: Monthly

Demographic: Seinen

Est. circulation in 1996: 180,000-200,000

Est. circulation today: Unknown

Website: Japanese

Froggy’s commentary: This magazine is so obscure it doesn’t even have an English Wikipedia page. Nevertheless, English speakers may know it as the magazine that publishes Akagi, AKA the only mahjong manga most English manga fans can name, including myself.

Mahjong manga is (or at least was) big business in Japan. In the mid-eighties, there were over ten separate mahjong manga magazines, but by the end of 1995, Take Shobo had a monopoly over the market. In the 90s, there were three Take Shobo magazines: Kindai Mahjong Original, Kindai Mahjong Bessatsu and Kindai Mahjong Gold, but they ran into problems in the 00s. In 2006, Kindai Mahjong Gold changed its name to Kindai Mahjong Gamble Com, and then proceeded to cease publication altogether that same year. As for Kindai Mahjong Original, it released its final issue in December 2013. Since then, it appears that the publications have converged into a single Kindai Mahjong magazine.

Manga Pachinker

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August 2016 Issue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher: Guide Works

Founded: 1991

Frequency: Monthly

Demographic: Seinen

Est. circulation in 1996: 160,000

Est. circulation today: Unknown

Website: Japanese

Froggy’s commentary: There’s obviously no way for a Pachinko magazine to catch on outside Japan, but Manga Pachinker isn’t terribly popular even within Japan. It doesn’t even have its own website (the link above directs you to the publisher’s website). Manga Pachinker used to have a sister magazine called Pachinker World, but this ceased publication in 2001. By the way, Manga Pachinker doesn’t just serialise manga – it also includes information about pachinko machines and strategies to win the game. It’s very much aimed at hardcore pachinko enthusiasts over manga fans.

Combat Comic

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Issue 9, 1999

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher: Nippon Shuppansha

Founded: 1984

Ceased publication: 2001

Frequency: Monthly

Demographic: Seinen

Est. circulation in 1996: 100,000

Froggy’s commentary: A magazine for hardcore military otaku, Combat Comic produced interesting war simulation stories, but I don’t believe any of them have been published in English. Combat Comic manga never really bought into the military moe trend, instead prizing realism and accurate depictions of weaponry and combat, which might explain why it never adapted to the modern manga market.

June

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Issue 8, 1979

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher: Magazine Magazine

Founded: 1978

Ceased publication: 1996

Frequency: Monthly

Demographic: Josei

Est. circulation in 1996: 80,000-100,000

Froggy’s commentary: June was really influential in shaping the yaoi market in the 80s and 90s. There was a time when yaoi was synonymous with June. Nowadays, it seems that fujoshi tastes have changed, though. Sensing a shift in the tide, the publisher turned towards novels instead. However, even the novel magazine version petered out in the early 00s.

Not to be confused with Digital Manga Publishing’s June imprint, which also publishes BL and yaoi manga in English but is unrelated to the content published in the Japanese June magazine.

Comic Amour

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July 2016 Issue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher: Magazine Magazine

Founded: 1990

Frequency: Monthly

Demographic: Josei

Est. circulation in 1996: 430,000

Est. circulation today: Unknown

Froggy’s commentary: This magazine was mostly known for publishing erotica aimed at women. Although the print version still seems to be available on Amazon, the publisher seems to be pushing hard for digital sales. Little wonder – Comic Amour was almost certainly one of the victims of Japan’s periodic crackdowns on pornographic manga.

Yan Mama Comic

Publisher: Kasakura Shuppan

Founded: 1993

Ceased publication: 1997 (?)

Frequency: Monthly

Demographic: Josei

Est. circulation in 1996: 130,000

Froggy’s commentary: A short-lived magazine that probably interested Schodt because it was targeted primarily at yankee mothers, a niche demographic to be sure. According to him, many of the themes of the stories centered around family life and finding acceptance in a society where yankee are ostracised.

Garo

GaroJune1974Cover

June 1974 Issue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publisher: Seirindo

Founded: 1964

Ceased publication: 2002

Frequency: Monthly

Demographic: Hipsters

Est. circulation in 1996: 20,000

Froggy’s commentary: Garo is an avant-garde magazine that managed to survive for so long on such a low circulation rate by never paying its contributors a yen. Although it was never that popular in Japan, Garo seems to be attracting more attention among English-speaking art scholars in recent years. (See this post on Comics Forum for the lowdown.) While most English manga readers might not know the name of the magazine, they may know of some of the artists involved, such as Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Tatsumi never got much attention from general manga fans, but he did get published quite frequently by the Canadian publisher Drawn and Quarterly. In fact, he was influential enough among art critics to get an obituary in the New York Times. If you’re looking for something different in your manga palette, try looking up a Garo artist or two.

Notable Artists

This section will be brief. Here, I’ll list the artists mentioned in Dreamland Japan and note whether their work has been published in English. The names are linked to their Mangaupdates page (if one exists). When listing licensed works, I’m only listing publications that are still accessible via Amazon.

Hinako Sugiura (1958-2005)

Manga artist and researcher of Edo Japan. She drew the manga Sarusuberi, which the animated film Miss Hokusai was based on.

Licensed works: None

Teruhiko Yumura (1942-)

Also known as King Terry. Famous for his “bad-good” (heta-uma) art style.

Licensed works: None

Shingo Iguchi (1957-)

Most famous for his Z-chan series, which ran in the Garo magazine.

Licensed works: None

Yoshikazu Ebisu (1947-)

Drew for Garo magazine for many years, and then became an actor. He’s starring in an anime airing this season.

Licensed works: Comics Underground Japan (features “Hell’s Angel” and “It’s All Right if You Don’t Understand”)

Kazuichi Hanawa (1947-)

Drew for Garo magazine for many years. Went to prison once because for possessing working firearms.

Licensed works: Doing Time, AX Volume 1 (features “Six Paths of Wealth”), Comics Underground Japan (features “Mercy Flesh (Jiniku)”), Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators (features “In the Deep Forest”)

Murasaki Yamada (1948-2009)

Feminist essayist and manga artist. She once ran for a seat in Japan’s House of Councillors.

Licensed works: None

Suehiro Maruo (1956-)

Self-taught artist who drew for Garo magazine. His work is described as “ero-guro” (erotic-grotesque).

Licensed works: Mr. Arashi’s Amazing Freak Show, Ultra-Gash InfernoComics Underground Japan (features “Planet of the Jap”)

Akira Narita (1944-)

Most famous for drawing about his experiences with the red light industry (particularly telephone clubs).

Licensed works: None

Shungicu Uchida (1959-)

Manga artist, novelist, essayist, actress and singer. Wrote a semi-autobiographical novel called “Fatherfucker” about her abusive stepfather.

Licensed works: None

Shigeru Mizuki (1922-2015)

Japanese manga author and historian, best known for GeGeGe no Kitaro, which popularised yokai and other creatures of Japanese folklore.

Licensed works: Kitaro, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, Hitler, Showa: A History of Japan, NonNonBa

Yoshiharu Tsuge (1937-)

Drew for Garo for much of his career. Suffers from health and psychological problems that unfortunately drove him to early retirement.

Licensed works: None

Milk Morizono (1957-)

Mainly draws erotic manga for women. Although smutty, her work is praised for its psychological accuracy.

Licensed works: An Angel’s Temptation

Notable Works

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Highly controversial military-themed manga. The “Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There” series of the 90s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silent Service by Kaiji Kawaguchi

Emperor of the Land of the Rising Sun by Ryoko Yamagishi

Fancy Dance by Reiko Okano

Tomoi by Wakuni Akisato

Naniwa Financiers by Yuji Aoki

Banana Fish by Akimi Yoshida (Published in English by Viz Media)

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Bakuman, as depicted by the Doraemon creators

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Way of Manga by Fujiko Fujio.

Doraemon by Fujiko F. Fujio (Available in English on Amazon Kindle)

King of Editors by Seiki Tsuchida

A Declaration of Arrogant-ism by Yoshinori Kobayashi. Kobayashi is quite infamous for his right-wing political views, which he incorporates into his manga.

Some Closing Thoughts

As you can see, many of the works Schodt discussed in detail in Dreamland Japan are still not available in English. The majority aren’t even available illegally, as a matter of fact. With a few notable exceptions, there’s no fandom for these works, even though the English manga market has grown exponentially over the past twenty years.

So what does that mean? It means that we’ll probably never run out of potentially interesting manga to bring over, although few of them seem commercially viable in the English market at this point in time. In that sense, the English manga fandom is still guided by the same fickle market forces that were present since the early days, when manga licenses were few and far between. Even massively popular manga like Golgo 13 has never really made much of an impact in the English-language market. And after so many years of being revered as a cult classic, The Rose of Versailles is only getting an English translation this year!

rose

It’s really interesting to think about the differences between the English and Japanese markets. Why do some things catch on in translation and others don’t? The question is far too complicated to answer in a single blog post, but I’ll leave that thought for you readers to chew on.

At any rate, please do read Dreamland Japan if you’re interested in reading more about these works. I hope at the very least that this post serves as a useful catalogue. If you’re a scanlator, maybe you’d like to consider picking up some of the works mentioned here, or perhaps investigating some of the artists who haven’t been published in English? I think this is one of those cases where a scanlation would help more than it would hurt.

Oh, and as always with these things, it’s easy to get a bunch of little details wrong, so if you spot anything that needs correcting, please let me know. As always, thanks for reading.

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Posted on July 5, 2016, in Editorials and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Great post! The Astro Boy Essays, The Osamu Tezuka Story, Manga! Manga!, & Dreamland Japan sound like some really interesting reads. I’ll have to see i can order them of Amazon some time.

    Interesting magazines to highlight. There’s alot out there I see. Hmm, I wonder if any of them faced moments where some of manga published in them changed over to another publishing magazine?

    • Yeah, Dreamland Japan is definitely worth a read. I have a copy of The Astro Boy Essays lying around but I haven’t found the time to read it yet. Manga! Manga! is hard to come by (although apparently still in print, which is nice!)

      It’s not uncommon for a manga series to switch magazines. Doraemon was apparently published in six different magazines when it was starting out, which could have helped it become such a huge phenomenon.

      More recently, we have cases like To Love Ru and D.Gray-Man switching from WSJ to Jump Square. A lot of things must affect decisions like that, such as the brand image of a magazine, their publishing schedules and pay rates. Manga is a complicated market, to be sure.

  2. This is certainly something I’ve noticed when seeing manga at bookstores in Japan — just how much there is of it all! Loads of series that the general manga-reading public outside of Japan will never be aware of. Which might not be quite as big of a shame as that sounds, since the vast majority of them just wouldn’t interest most of us? If there is a niche that can be filled though, Japan is more than happy to fill it with manga — and tons of it. Manga for salarymen, housewives, the elderly… Lots of stuff that will seem banal in comparison to the manga we’re used to. Even huge monthly manga magazines full of nothing but cats being cats, and that’s it. Perhaps some of this stuff can be compared to something like… a Ziggy funnies collection. Now I’m wondering what “Sunday funnies” newspaper comics Australia might have, in case that example doesn’t click. =P

    • Mmm. While I wouldn’t describe manga as niche over here, the Australian manga audience at least is skewed towards a particular demographic (young people in their teens and twenties, mostly), so the kind of variety in Japan wouldn’t appeal to our market. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that commentators from overseas have to be careful when making observations about manga and what they may say about Japanese society. Not only does manga change in translation, we typically become exposed to manga culture in a completely different way because of how distribution channels and filtering works.

  3. Martin Wisse

    My impression of the scanlation scene is that it’s largely following the tastes of manga/anime fandom in general and very much orientated towards the present, even apart from the obvious problems of getting the originals of older series to translate in the first place.

    Incidently, Roses of Versailles has been (partially) translated into English before (as I have the first two volumes), but only as aid in learning to read English for Japanese people.

    • Yeah. iirc bits of Rose of Versailles were also translated in Manga! Manga!, which came out in 1983. So technically, it’s been released in English twice beforehand… Will we get a proper, entire release, though? One can only hope!

  4. Really interesting post. I need to read this book sometime. Also, one of Morizono’s work is available at Emanga. It’s An Angel’s Temptation, looks like an adaptation of a book.

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