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?