These few days I struggled to think how I would write a full length essay. The situation is getting out of hand since my writing skills have not awoken even with my exam approaching. So, as I tried to escape from my exam induced stress, I decided to take a short-term solution by watching Anime. I beg all of you not to follow my example.
Having no idea with what to watch, I settled for Library Wars since I wanted to catch up with the Love and War manga adaptation by Kiiro Yumi. Oh, just a note, the Library Wars Anime isn’t licensed and it should very well should be. It’s fantastic! But what really triggered me to write this post was initiated by the concept of Library Wars by Hiro Arikawa.
What may that be you ask?
The plot is derived from Japan’s statement of intellectual freedom for libraries – which basically means that libraries have the freedom to offer and collect any material, as well as disregarding censorship. The freedom of expression.
The conflict starts here; in the story, the government passes the Media Betterment Act which gives the committee the power to remove and censor any type of media that could pose a threat on Japanese Society. It’s almost like the Gestapo of Hitler Germany. Pretty deep stuff. Joining the side of free expression is no other than the Library Defence Agency, set up by local governments who oppose the Media Betterment Act.
Anyway, with the concept of Library Wars in my head, it led me to think about the medium it was adapted to. From a light novel to two ongoing manga adaptations and an anime adaptation. That’s quite a feat.
Library Wars’ political outline encouraged me to I try goo-gling for ‘serious’ topics concerning manga & anime but all I got were reviews and posts with Saints bashing the scanlation industry. Well, that is understandable, manga & anime has always been a niche market in the international industry. And besides, manga & anime is suppose to be fun; life’s hard enough – fun it up.
Even though people don’t explicitly talk about the more ‘serious’ matters – here, I start my case:
Manga is just like literature. Literature has Mills & Boon, Erotica and Sci-fi and you can name the rest. Different genres – different demographics. It has an astounding range of genres and categories and sub-categories and with the amount of coverage and material available out there, the possibilities are endless.
Are all of it’s influence positive?
Not all of it’s genres and topics are generally accepted in the ‘real’ world but they’re available in the form of manga & anime; such as Yaoi*, incest or like the Shota-con(little boy’s fetish) genre. Hentai? That’s not where I roll so I have no idea what to say about it but that’s considered pornographic material. Some people regard Shota-con & Loli-con as an encouragement to pedophiles.
Perhaps I should have entitled this post ‘The Art for the Freedom of Fetishes’ or maybe ‘The Morally Illegal’ instead(This would cause an uproar). But that wouldn’t quite match up with my stimulus(Library Wars) since it isn’t exactly a very fetish dominated story (Now that I think of it, if you like guys & gals in uniform I suppose that’s a kind of fetish). I don’t wish to question their relevance nor do I disparage them(explicitly). What I’m facinated by, is the amount of freedom and selection that the manga & anime archive has to offer.
I respect all forms of art. And while I may not have been as ecstatic when I view the Mona Lisa up-front as I might be with artwork by Tachibana Higuchi; I think art demands the freedom of respect and I believe that is the most important bench-mark.
If I ever think something is of poor taste, I always think of Rei Kawakubo’s manifesto – “bad taste is better than no taste.” (That in itself is the worst thing to say to someone who actually likes that particular work so you should probably keep that to yourself.) Alternatively, I also think of Superflat Movement artist, Aya Takano’s words – “I would be very sad if people were to be indifferent towards my art.” Therefore, I find it absolutely amazing how each one work made would add itself onto the increasing diverse portfolio – they will not be created if they did not have an audience.
Library Wars is one of the few manga/anime that I’ve come across with some sort of social/political/historical context. The only other that comes into my mind right now is Super Dimension Fortress(1st Macross). The echoes of Lynn MinMay’s “Do You Remember Love?” will forever linger in my head with that epic battle happening in the background. Macross is a very anti-war story, we watch humans fighting another galactic species but in the end – both eventually unite with the idea of culture in mind.
I’d like to share a quote by Roger Ebert from his review of Princess Mononoke by Hayao Miyazaki:
“I want to see wondrous sights not available in the real world, in stories where myth and dreams are set free to play. Animation opens that possibility, because it is freed from gravity and the chains of the possible. Realistic films show the physical world; animation shows its essence.”
Macross’ anti-war message represents that “essence” that Ebert talks about, of being able to convey a message which does not need the physicality of the real world. It’s not a very good idea to re-enact the Macross scene with some pretty lady singing a heart-felt song; with the Iraq War going on as her back-drop. But it shares the very same message. Similarly, Princess Mononoke can be seen very pro-environment.
While I celebrate with how manga & anime can have a political reference it should be reminded that being a medium of freedom does not need to be a ‘protest’ or a ‘demonstration’ (be it loud or discreet) towards anything. This would further my discussion to more mainstream material that would include most work in genres such as Shonen, Shojo, Seinen and Josei.
You might think that they’re just for entertainment(and yes, the whole medium is for entertainment), but their relevance in society can be seen as a freedom of exchange in terms of ideas and culture.
Slam Dunk introduced and popularise basket-ball to an entire nation.
If you read Emma: A Victorian Romance you might learn a thing or two about Victorian England. Some people have a fetish for maids in the french maid costume.
One Piece can be seen portraying the value of companionship even if they really are law-breakers.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – the boundless possibilities inspire me to think ahead and out of this world. The stories of Haruhi Suzumiya are really spontaneous, if Freud read this, he would probably be very proud.
There also some interesting titles such as Ouran High School Host Club which engages in a parody of Otaku culture.
Following this discussion, I guess it makes manga & anime, mediums with freedom. Freedom of content. Is it really just because they’re not real? They’re just ‘cartoons?’ It might not be real, but it exists be it on paper or on-screen. If you don’t have the “essence,” you just have an empty nut which would be quite useless.
But has the industry seen a threat to this freedom?
Definitely, but I believe it merely affects it in terms of availability but not artistically.
Looking at the international industry as a whole, availability would be limited since everything comes out of Japan and there are financial constraints and etc. This would lead us to the topic of scanlations and fan subtitling which I do not wish to address in this post.
If we specify the threat to our freedom in a similar context with Library Wars, the latest threat to this freedom would gear in onto the much publicised removal of Yaoi titles off the Amazon Kindle. There has also been instances where local Japan authorities regulate material but it also mainly concerns the adult genre which I find understandable.
Anyone up for forming a Manga & Anime Defence Agency? That would make a nice abbreviation – MADA.
However, availability is not the issue for me, there will always be material available; And when I mean available, I mean available to the general public which includes Japanese copies. With companies making their titles available through other forms of media or device, I doubt there is anything to worry about.
Restricting the artistic sphere is what worries me but at the same time, I don’t. There will always be the creative individuals in their studio, drawing or animating. It is the artistic freedom in which artists and story-tellers alike whom I so admire about this global niche. If there was a some bizarre group coming around and stopping everyone printing and drawing that would be the real un-ideal. I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon or ever. People are far too stubborn about their human rights.
In comparison to other forms of art, manga & anime can perhaps, be one of the most versatile. It’s versatility can be explored also with the doujinshi culture, where amateurs and artists alike distribute self-published works, mostly manga to the public. It has spawned the largest comic convention in the world – Comiket(Comic Market) which now attracts over half a million visitors annually. It is a prime example of a free artistic freedom and distribution.
Viewing manga & anime outside the boundary of its craft also proves it’s versatility. We can look at collaborations between fashion and manga/anime such as Uniqlo’s UT collection.
When we wear these T-shirts, it no longer limits the content of the medium onto the screen, paper or digitally as it becomes part of our lifestyle. It tells us that we are attached as it brings us one step closer to our favourite characters & stories. Cosplay is another example.
But by far, one of the great expressions I’ve recently discovered is the great national morale boost by the industry after the devastating March earthquake in Japan.
Some manga artists also contributed original & autographed art-work to charity auctions such as Stand Up Japan!It just illustrates how a difference can be made through manga & anime. It reveals to us about its influence but I think ultimately, it tells the freedom of the art in which it enables so much to be done.
We might not be the same, we might have different encounters, but we may very well obtain the same experience, such as love. We are all living the life that is affected and inspired by the same world from the past to the present. Manga & anime opens one type of gate-way, a gate-way I cherish. Whatever we may read, whatever we may watch; enjoy it well and appreciate the freedom of the choices made in front of us.
Let ourselves decide what to take on in this life of ours. Let the Victoria Secret girls bear their fancy underwear in public. Let’s eat that juicy burger even though we regret buying a few minutes ago. Let me enjoy my sappy manga while others say ‘pffft.’
But stay in school. 😉
To conclude this subject which can really go on for longer – whose side will I take? The Betterment Media Agency or the Library Defence Agency? Well, let’s just say I seek a balance of everything. As I now hoped that I’ve regained some writing skills by typing this post, I bid you adieu as I crawl back into the depths of my inner darkness.
Here’s a nice hopeful and free atmospheric song. It’s the ending theme for Library Wars :
If you ever require more information about categorising fetishes and such, I suggest that you book an appointment with Renge-chan from Ouran High School Host Club. Dependable, reliable and an expert on the subject.
P.S You do know that was a joke…right?
I prefer putting ‘manga’ first instead of ‘anime,’ it’s because we started out as a manga blog and anime made its way later. We just pride ourselves that way.
*I’m using the Western denotation of these terms.
*all images are from minitokyo.com unless specified in the caption