June 14, 2007
WSJ Article Just Misses Mark on Manga Trends & Girls Comics
Posted by Devin
A few days ago the Wall Street Journal published the following video and article Pow! Romance! Comics Court Girls, a trend analysis of the recent popularity of manga for girls (Shoujo manga) and mostly about the reactions from Marvel and DC. According the ComicMix, the article “cannot resist using the usual balance superhero-reference exclamation-point-laden headline” and I tend to agree. In addition:
The new titles are inspired in part by the fast growth of translated Japanese comics called manga. While gory and violent themes aimed at boys are staples of manga, fantasy and romantic storylines meant to appeal to girls have helped manga capture the attention of female readers, an audience comic publishers have long struggled to attract.
One of the strengths of manga which most press and analysis don’t realize is that manga is a not just a genre of gore for guys or romance for women, but a medium for all: there’s comedy, adventure, fantasy, romance, sci-fi, non-fiction, etc. Japanese comics didn’t succeed in the US market because it was also geared for girls, but because of its diversity to find stories that were more in tune to what women are looking for.
Film Fodder referenced this “most telling part of the article”:
The artistic conventions and techniques of manga can differ markedly from U.S. comics. For example, female characters in manga tend to be less voluptuous than the superwomen in U.S. comics. Such curvaceous characters can be tough for young women to relate to, says Nicole Lewis, a 19-year-old manga reader who is going into her sophomore year at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “It’s a little off-putting,” Ms. Lewis says of some female superheroes in American comics. “Especially to young women who don’t look like that at all.”
Manga lines in bookstores in Japan are much more defined for girls and boys, with shelf space first per manga type, then narrowed down to individual publishers and their labels. This keeps girls separated from the boys giving them a different shopping experience, with little or few book covers and images to turn them off from the medium. The US market isn’t there yet with a smorgasbord of manga usually sorted on shelves by title name, but marketing is separated and buyers know what they’re looking for and why.
Also, I’d like to point out I applaud Marvel and DC (and CMX, DC’s line of Japanese licensed manga) for trying to emulate market-capturing manga a bit: DC’s new Minx series will mimic the general look and price point of manga, but its tailored with more of an American ‘feel’.