The following is a transcript (with a bit of revision and cleaning up of all my ‘uuhhh....."-s) of the lecture I gave introducing manga, anime, and Miyazaki to Dr. Pam Gossin’s Arts and Humanities 3300 "Natural Wonders" courses on March 24th and 25th, 1999.

The class started with a discussion led by Pam where she asked the class to imagine that they were archeologists of the future who were trying to find out about this mysterious past civilization and one of the few artifacts they had found was a copy of this book: Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, Perfect Collection Vol. 1. What would they make of it? Someday I will put down as much as I can decipher from my tape recordings, but that may be a while yet.....

Pam: Dr. Hairston is going to take over the discussion now and give you some background on where these kinds of graphical text come from and what they tell you about the culture the originate in. How the drawings relate in different ways to the text. So tell them about yourself and I’m going to go see what happened to the VCR we were supposed to get here...

Marc: I won’t hijack the class too badly while you’re gone. Well, my name is Marc Hairston and I’m a research physicist over here in the Center for Space Sciences in the physics department here. Being a scientific type, I feel naked up here without a wad of viewgraphs to show. It’s probably the first time you’ve had viewgraphs in this class....

Pam: I use words and you use pictures...

Marc: Right. My undergraduate degree was in English literature so I started out in this field but then fell by the wayside and went into science....

Pam:(to class) Let that be a lesson to you all.....

Marc: (laughs) So anyway this is a hobby for me. I’ve been fascinated by Japanese manga and anime and been studying it for several years here.....


Well, this is a course about the critical reading and writing of text. But text is more than just the simple written words on paper. These are also text. These are graphical text. This figure is taken from a wonderful book called Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud and I’ll be talking more about it later. Remember, all writing in all cultures started out as picture writing; hieroglyphics. So written text, what you think of when we say writing, is only a subset of all text, As each of these graphics or iconspoint out they are not what they seem. "These are not religions. These are not people." All of these images are playing off of a famous painting by Rene Margritte which shows a smoking pipe with the written inscription underneath it saying "Ceci n’est pas une pipe" ("This is not a pipe"). Of course it is not a real pipe. It is paint and canvas forming an image of an object which is a pipe. It is not a pipe, but an image which represents a real object called a pipe, These are drawings and symbols that represent something more than just the simple drawings. They are graphical images which convey information and ideas. All graphical images convey information and words on paper are just a subset of this. And to understand what they mean, you have to be able to "read" graphical text just as youread written text.


So at this point you’re thinking "so what? Why is this important? Graphical text and simple images are always obvious, right? I can tell the difference between the international symbols for a man and a woman. I’m not going embarrass myself by walking into the wrong restroom in a foreign country." Well, as you’ll see in a bit, graphical text is far from "obvious". As for why it isimportant, images are how we see and perceive the world around us. Most of our brain’s sensory nerves are devoted to interpreting the visual world around us, much more than is devoted to the auditory interpretation of the world. Understanding how to read graphical images is important because images have a great power over us, more so than we generally realize. Think of all that has been written about the history and the background of the events at Tianamen Square in China in 1989, but what does anyone think of when they when they hear the words "Tianamen Square"? That one picture of a single student standing and blocking the line of tanks. That one image in our collective consciousness outweighs everything else that has been written about the events there.


The fact is that a significant fraction of the information you get in modern culture is visual, information in the form of graphical images. While you already know the importance of reading and generally read more than the average individual in the US, you are getting much of the information about the world outside of your immediate surroundings from TV (and now from web sites). And in TV, image is everything. You may have heard the saying from TV news "if it bleeds, it leads" meaning if a story is something you can show easily with images (particularly violent or startling images) then those are the stories TV will go with first. That’s why there are more stories on local TV news about car wrecks and spectacular fires than there are about something less visible, say a change in laws on health insurance. The stuff that is likely more important and significant to your life is not necessarily the things that are easily filmed, so those are the things that don’t show up often on TV. On TV news they have to have to have an image for you to focus your attention while they tell you about the story. That’s why they run these little graphic images next to the newscasters, to hold your attention.


Just to give you an example of the power of image, there is a classic story told by Lesley Stahl about what she learned while covering the Reagan White House. During the 1984 presidential campaign she did a long story about how the Reagan campaign was using television images to hide the effects of their policies. She explained how they while Reagan had worked to cut programs for education, the elderly, and the handicapped, his campaign stops and photo opportunities showed him talking to inner city black school kids, presiding at an opening ceremony for a nursing home and at a Special Olympics. The report showed all these images while Stahl did a voiceover explaining the contradictions between the image and the reality. It was very critical of the Reagan Administration and their cynical use of these images in the campaigns. She expected to take some heat from the White House the next day, but what she didn’t expect was for Dick Darman, the deputy White House Chief of Staff to call her right after the news ended and thank her for running the story. He told her that Jim Baker (Chief of Staff), Margaret Tutwiler (from the State Department, Michael Deever (Reagan’sMedia Advisor) and he had all watched it and thought it was a "great story". "Excuse me? Were they joking?" Stahl said. "No, no, we really loved it," said Darman."Five minutes of free media. We owe you big time." "Didn’t you hear what I said?" asked Stahl. "Nobody heard what you said," Darman told her. "You guys in Televisionland haven’t figured it out yet, have you? When the pictures are powerful and emotional, they override the sound. Lesley, I mean it, nobody heard you." Later they checked this with a sample audience. First they showed the piece without any sound. The story showed only the camera shots allowed by the White House: Reagan shaking hands with the elderly, Reagan standing and waving against a blue background (he always looked so Presidential when against a blue background), Reagan cutting the ribbon for the opening. When asked what they thought it was, the entire test audience said it must be a campaign ad for Reagan. Then they reshowed the piece with the sound on so the audience heard Lesley’s report over the images. After that most of the audience still thought it was either an ad or a positive news report about the Reagan Administration. Only a handful of the audience actually heard and understood what she was talking about. So Stahl learned what the Reagan PR people already knew: that if the pictures contradicted the words, then people ignore the words. That’s how powerful images are to us. So to understand how to interpret text, you must know how to understand and analyze graphical text and the images as well. [Stahl’s story is taken from Reporting Live by Lesley Stahl, 1999, pp. 209-211]


So today, we’re taking you to a culture where the graphical image is unquestionably the dominant form of text: Japan. (And as the film critic Roger Ebert once said, "Contemporary Japanese culture is the beta test version of 21st century US culture." So it behooves you to take a look at what’s coming...) One of the first things that a foreigner notices when visiting in Japan is that everyone there is reading comic books or manga. Here in the US you would see business people riding the shuttle buses into downtown all reading the Wall Street Journal (which is itself just another form of fantasy literature disconnected from reality, particularly its editorial page and the stock market reports, but that’s a different lecture for a different time ^_^ ). In Japan all the business people on the subways and buses are all reading manga on the way into work. In Japan, manga account for almost half of all the books andmagazines sold each year, and given that each manga magazine goes through the hands of three or more readers on average before it is thrown away, this makes manga the largest single medium of communication in Japan.

Now here in the US you’re used to comic books which come out roughly once a month or every other month, are generally about 24-48 pages long and cost about $2 to $4 (or sometimes more). [show sample UScomic] But in Japan, most of the comic magazines (manga) come out weekly or monthly, are the size of small phone books, and cost about $3.50 in US terms. [takecopy of Ribon out of the box and let it slam onto the desk for emphasis]


Why the difference? Why did comics take off there and become the mainstream culture, but it didn’t happen here?


In both the US and Japan, manga and comic books began as popular culture among young people in the postwar years if the late 40s early 50s. In the US however, as part of the conservative crackdown in the early to mid50s, comic books were demonized as "corrupters of youth" and blamed as a cause of juvenile delinquency. (This crusade was spearheaded by a best-selling book by a psychiatrist called Seduction of the Innocent that blamed a host of social ills on comic books. Later it turned out that most of the analysis presented in the book was flawed; the rise of juvenile delinquency was caused by many things, but mostly just the increase in the numbers of kids and teenagers from the baby boom.) As a result the publishing industry backed away from comic books. Most dropped the comics they were publishing and those that survived were highly sanitized in their content. Just to give you an idea of how far comics fell in the US, in the early 50s there were about 5 comic book copies printed per year for each person in the US. By 1980 it was only one copy printed per year for every 10 people here in the US. That’s a factor of a fifty-fold drop in their circulation. [Schodt, Dreamland Japan p. 52] Comic books never recovered the circulation they once had in the US and have become ghettoized in our culture as an "adolescent male thing", something no adult would be caught being interested in. Just out of curiosity, have many of you have ever been in a comic book store? They are definitely a bastion of adolescent maledom, although that is changing lately as the demographics of the US comic readers are changing and the fraction of female readers and fans is increasing. (Comic strips, on the other hand, survived as a more mainstream medium because they had newspapers as an outlet and thus had a broader appeal and readership than comic books did. No one would take seriously any argument claiming that Pogo and Li’l Orphan Annie were "corrupting our youth".)


In Japan this never happened. So as the young readership began to grow up, they still wanted to read manga, so the publishing industry created new magazines with new manga series geared towards older readers. (This is, I think, what they call vertical marketing.) Here in the US a kid may be interested in a given comic book title for a few years and then"outgrows" it and moves onto something other than comics. So the comics publisher is faced with having to build an entirely new audience every three to four years. But in Japan, the kid simply moves onto the next manga magazine in that publisher’s series, thus the publisher has a built in audience that stays loyal for decades. So today,there are hundreds of different manga magazines for sale in Japan, each one of which caters to a specific niche market based on age and gender and interests. Furthermore, most other magazines which are mostly written articles, will include a couple of manga serials in them as well, which is how Nausicaa got started, but I’ll get to that later.


I brought with me several different manga here to show off the different styles and stories and how each one appeals to it target audience. The first one here is Ribon, a manga magazine aimed at elementary and junior high school aged girls. Look at the cover and what do you see? First off are the colors. They’re pastels, colors that appeal to girls more than to boys. Now inside here you see that the pages themselves are colored instead of white. So instead of black line art on white pages they have purple line art on pink pages. And you’ll notice that there are several different colors of pages in each issue. That’s to distinguish the different stories in each issue.

Each issue contains an installmentof about 10 to 20 different continuing stories. Most readers don’t read all of them, but they do read several, maybe half of them. Another difference between Japanese and US comics is the lifetime of the story. While most US comics have open ended storylines that can go on forever with different writers and artists (Superman has been going for over 60 years now), Japanese manga stories are almost always limited in length. While they may go on for several years, all Japanese manga eventually end and most have definite story arc with a beginning, middle and end. The only exception are the few that are just gag comics or else some where the main character has a complete adventure, the story ends, then comes back with a completely new adventure sometime later. The trick with the manga magazine is that the stories don’t all end at the same time. So the reader may start with a particular magazine to read one story, over time they become involved with several of the others in the magazine, so that when the story they originally started with has ended, they’ll continue reading the magazine to follow the other stories.


Here are two more terms you need to know: shojo meaning"young girl" and shonen meaning "young boy". So manga like Ribon which are aimed at young girls are called shojo manga. And here is an example of a shonen manga called Weekly Shonen Sunday. This is aimed at teenagers, junior high and high school boys.The first thing you notice is that, like Ribon, it’s big, about the size of a small phone book. It uses colored paper to distinguish between the different stories in each issue. But look at the art and thestories and you’ll see some significant differences. Most of theRibon stories are romances and domestic dramas while WeeklyShonen’s stories are more adventure or action oriented. There are sports stories, historical adventure stories, some supernatural, all stories that appeal to teen-aged male readers. The other thing you’ll notice, even if you can’t read a single Japanese character,and that’s the difference in the art style. In the shojomanga like Ribon, while each of the stories is each done by different artists, you notice that the styles are very much alike, you almost cannot distinguish between the artists. But with the shonenmanga like Weekly Shonen you begin to see more variety in the styles. They all still have the manga/anime look to them, but you can now begin to tell the difference between the different artists.


Typically each issue of these will get passed around among friends andother family members, so the Japanese publishing industry estimates that each copy is read by three to four people on average before it is thrownaway. And they do throw these away. First you could never save all of these weekly phone books in a typically cramped Japanese apartment. And second, you notice they are printed on cheap recycled newsprint, somewhere in quality between newsprint and the paper used for US phone books. So what if you want to save a particular series? Well the popular ones are reprinted in a series of smaller books called tankoban (Show examples ofFushigi Yuugi and Video Girl Ai). These have only the episodes from the single series and are printed on higher quality paper. It’s a great marketing ploy for the publishers. First they sell you the story in weekly installments in their magazines, then they resell you the same story all over again in book form.


The next manga I have here is Hana to Yume (Flowers and Dreams). This is a shojo manga aimed at high school and college aged girls. Again, the style is "willowy" looking just like in Ribon. You’ll notice something else here in the shojo manga, that the male characters look as pretty or even prettier than the female characters. That’s so common it has its own name: bishonen meaning "beautiful boy". Like Ribon there are giveaways inthe manga: calendars, postcards, stickers, etc. all featuring images of the characters from the various stories here in this manga. Since this is aimed at a slightly older audience, the stories are more involved, but they’re still mostly romances and relationship stories.


This is Young Magazine, a shonen manga aimed at high schooland college aged boys. You can tell that just by the cover photo of the cute girl in a bikini and the photo spread of her inside (still in her bikini, it doesn’t get any racier than that). Again, since this is aimed at male readers, the stories feature action and adventure, and you again see there is more variety in the drawing style compared to theshojo manga. One thing here that might surprise you is that there are anumber of romance stories. Here in the US we tend to associate romance stories mostly with female readers and viewers, but in Japan these storiesare equally popular with both genders. So what’s the differencebetween a shojo and a shonen romance story? The gender of the main protagonist. For shonen manga, the romance is always told more or less through the eyes of the male and focuses more on his feelings and experiences (e.g. Maison Ikkoku ), and for shojo manga, the story focus on the female character’s point of view (e.g. MarmaladeBoy)..


Next we have Lady’s Comic You, a manga aimed at adult women,young single working women and housewives in their 20s and 30s. These are the ones which come closest to being what we would call soap operas. Most of the stories still focus on romances and relationships. Since the audience is adult, we now have a bit of sex thrown in. In the first story here there is a couple in a shower scene, but it’s rather demure and, besides, they’re a recently married couple, so it’s okay. Since this is also a more mature manga, you are only now starting to see the variety of styles that we saw in the male manga earlier, but there’s still a lot of the willowy-look style in here.


Last we have an adult male manga Action Weekly. That characterhere on the cover is "Lupin III" . He is a gentleman thief andhas been a major manga character since the late 60s. Lupin is an example of the recurring character in a whole series of adventures that I mentioned earlier. In the 70s the series was made into an anime TV show that Miyazaki worked on, and there have been several Lupin movie (sort of like there have been several Star Trek movies) and Miyazaki was first seriously noticed by the Japanese public when he directed one of those. (More about that later.) Even though you can’t read the Japanese writing,you still can understand a lot about what is going on in these storiesjust from the images. Here’s a sports story about golf with verysquare-jawed characters drawn in a realistic style. Compare that with a comic look at the life and tribulations of a convience store clerk. You can tell that it’s comic both from the situations and from the more cartoony look of the drawing style. As you go through you have supernatural dramas, a wry story about a Japanese yazuka (gangster) who is a tough guy, but is completely helpless against his bratty elementary school-aged daughter. And since this is an adult manga you now find a few stories with some sex scenes in them (about PG-13 or R level).


{One thing I didn’t mention in class was that I had one more manga that I could have brought. I asked my Japanese friend Nobutoshi to get me one of the hentai-manga for women, Lady ComicManon. I was curious to see what this was like. I had assumed that since these were aimed at women readers, they would be more like an illustrated version of the Harlequin Romance books here in the US; steamy but not too raunchy. I was wrong, another example of how I’m still learning new things about the cultural differences between the US and Japan. It turnedout to be every bit as raunchy and explicit as any male H-manga, so I decided it was way too much to bring up in class.}


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