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MANGA: Sixty Years Of Japanese Comics

A Review By: Dazed & Confused

The following review appearred in Dazed & Confused, the magazine of fashion, arts, music and culture, in 2004

While manga has been stigmatised as illustrated sex and violence for perverts, it still generates a $5 billion turnover and accounts for an incredible 40 per cent of all published material in Japan. The thick, ink-smudged pages are a commuter staple on rush-hour trains and now form an official part of the Japanese school curriculum. And it’s not all young girls having their Bambi eyes snipped out with scissors - there’s “silver” manga for the elderly reader too. Some stories attract such an obsessive following that when one one popular character, Toru Rikiishi, died on paper in a prizefight against another, in Tomorrow’s Joe, people flocked to the publisher’s office in Tokyo, dressed in black to pay their respects.

In his new book, author Paul Gravett has traced the history of the manga phenomenon since 1945, beginning with “God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka, (creator of Astro Boy and Black Jack, the “two-fisted” surgeon for hire) who is credited as the inventor of story manga. From his lead, the genre splintered into blood-spattered ninja epics, sports manga, 70s girl comics, horror and sex manga, apocalyptic science fiction, underground “auteur” manga and hundreds more sub-categories.

Now proponents say Japanese manga and anime will form the backbone of 21st century popular culture. It has made the international crossover, in such classics as Otomo’s dystopian Akira, unsurprising, Gravett explains, since manga was always in a sense “East meets West”. The stunningly illustrated book is filled with the heroes and creators of manga from the last 60 years. And if that turns you “otaku” (obsessive), head for the ICA in September for signings and masterclasses with some of the most respected Japanese authors, including Hisaki “The Ring” Sakurai.

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