English-language scholarship on Japanese comics/manga goes back almost 40 years – at least to Mary Sanches’ Contemporary Japanese youth: Mass media communication, published in 1977 in Youth & Society (8:4, 389-416) – an analysis of “the information presented to young readers in one issue of each of two typical Japanese publications [manga magazines]”, with an emphasis on “the differences in the kinds of information aimed at female and male readers.” And in the years since that essay’s publication, the majority of such writing has focused on manga as literature or as a form of Japanese visual culture. Fred Schodt takes this approach in both Manga! Manga: The World of Japanese Comics and Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga, as do the editors of the essay collections Manga and Philosophy: Fullmetal Metaphysician and Manga and the Representation of Japanese History, and the authors of articles such as Layers of the ethereal: A cultural investigation of beauty, girlhood, and ballet in Japanese shojo manga. (Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, 18:3, 251-296), Transgression of taboos: Eroticising the master-servant relationship in Blue Morning. (Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, 6:4, 382-397), and Visualizing the self in comedic pathos: Japanese autobiographical manga at the limit of multiculturalism (East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, 1:2, 239-253). But, stories and themes do not simply appear. They are created by authors, developed by editors, published and distributed by for-profit companies, sold by retailers. And, manga scholars need to also be aware of all of those steps and processes, recognize their importance and pay attention to them.
A great example of this kind of approach can be seen in Jennifer Prough’s 2011 Straight from the heart: Gender, Intimacy, and the Cultural Production of Shojo Manga (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press). But, at least so far – and almost 30 years into the history of manga publication in the U.S. – there have been relatively few attempts to take this same “production of culture” approach and apply it to how manga is translated, presented, and sold outside Japan; among the few that come to mind right away are Misaka, Kaoru (2004), The first Japanese Manga magazine in the United States (Publishing Research Quarterly, 19(4), 23-30, and especially, Goldberg, Wendy (2010), “The manga phenomenon in America” (in the essay collection Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives). One more scholar who has specifically emphasized this approach throughout her work is Casey Brienza (currently, lecturer, publishing and digital media, City University London). And, with her latest publication, Dr. Brienza presents what is easily a major milestone in manga scholarship.
Manga in America: Transnational Book Publishing and the Domestication of Japanese Comics is, as its author notes, formally “a specialized case study of transnational cultural production situated within the academic discipline of sociology”. More specifically, it examines the entire process of the publication of Japanese comics in English – its history, the roles that different participants played, the challenges they encountered and how these challenges were resolved, and, most importantly, how this process has changed over the last 30 years – and how it is likely to continue changing. Throughout it, the author summarizes the extent of English-language scholarship on manga that has appeared to date, but expands on it significantly with both a solid theoretical grounding and extensive fieldwork (plus, more than a decade of personal experience).
I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that at this point, Manga in America is a one-of-a-kind book. As someone who has been following manga in the U.S. (and the U.S. manga industry) going back to Viz’s mid-1990’s editions of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Sanctuary, and Mixx‘s single monthly issues of Card Captor Sakura, I am plain-out excited to know that it exists – and pleased to know that it is high-quality work, and one that gives its subject a treatment that is elegant and comprehensive, without mistakes, omissions, or needless sensationalism. And, I look forward to following the impact that Manga in America will have on how scholars write about the production of Japanese comics – and their reception around the world.
Manga in America is currently available in hardcover, print, and e-book formats from Amazon and other online booksellers. In addition, you can order it directly from the publisher with the below flyer or online at their website. Enter the code MANGA16 for a 35% discount, for a total price of $24.97 (including shipping and handling).
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