Friday, December 4, 2009

The History of Manga, Intro

(Ryoko's Strange Case Files)

It's interesting how things work. I started out a little over one year ago just wanting to find places I could visit for free because they were on the route for my rail pass (between Shinjuku and Noborito). But, I was limited to how far around the stations I could reach on foot, and to only stations on my route. Plus, I wanted to get in more exercise, so I put in a special order for a cross bike in my size. Once that arrived last December, I started looking for even more places to visit, now in a wider radius that included much of the area west of Tokyo, from Oume to Takao and down around to Kawasaki. But, the overlap between what I visited and the manga I wanted to read wasn't very great. That is, I was visiting art galleries, anime museums and so on, but reading manga titles that were more recent, like Ryoko's Strange Case Files, Geobreeders, Wilderness and Soul Eater.

(Tezuka exhibit poster)

Last Spring, I was given some old copies of Tezuka's collected manga, containing various chapters from Black Jack, Tetsuwan Atomu, Dororo and Don Dracula, but even then, when I visited the Tezuka exhibit at the Edo-Tokyo Museum, I didn't feel much pull to look at older manga. It wasn't until the Kawasaki Museum ran the "Shonen Sunday and Shonen Magazine DNA" exhibit during the summer, along with the descriptions of the 100 influential titles that ran during the first 50 years of both magazines, that I started to realize that I didn't really understand the history of manga all that well. Wanting to find more anime and manga-related places to visit, I re-started working on my list of manga and anime museums and galleries, and then visiting them on my bike in order to take photos and write up descriptions. At this point, I started actually wanting to find and read some of the older manga series being described in these galleries.

(DNA exhibit poster)

The "DNA" exhibit had a model of Tokiwa Manor, and that model spurred me to do a net search on just what "Tokiwa" was. That's when I became interested in getting copies of the manga from each of the Tokiwa Manor artists (Ishinomori, Fujio Fujiko, Akatsuka Fujio), in part because there was so little information on some of these artists in Japanese, much less in English. And, as I hit more galleries and related exhibits and events, the more the same names started popping up. But, with the "Manga Shonen" and "Shojo no Tomo" exhibits, new sets of names also started recurring, and the depth of manga history kept getting greater as well. Tezuka got his start running in shojo magazines, so when did shojo magazines start and what exactly are "shojo magazines"? Along with Tezuka there was Machiko Hasegawa, but who came before her? Some of the pieces came together when I visited the Katsudi Matsumoto gallery, and I decided to buy the gallery book.

(Katsudi book)

Up to the Katsudi gallery, I refrained from buying the souvenir books from the museums because I considered them overpriced and they just contained all of the exact same materials displayed in the exhibits. But the Katsudi book had a lot of additional materials, and after spending so much time talking to Katsudi's son I felt like I should buy something before I left and the gallery book seemed like a reasonable choice. However, when I got home and started paging through it, I found the names of artists and magazines that had popped up in the other exhibits. This got me to thinking that I was making a mistake in not getting these exhibit books for future reference, so I returned to the Hongo Bunkyo museum for the "Authentic Account: Manga Shonen" book, and the Worker's Welfare Hall in Ikebukuro for the "Heroes of Tokiwa-Sou". Going through those books made me realize further that I'd screwed up in not getting them at the time, especially the now-unavailable Tezuka book at the Edo-Tokyo museum. The only other exhibit still running that had a book I could pick up was "Shojo no Tomo" in the Yayoi gallery.

(Yayoi Gallery)

I wanted to hit four galleries in the same day (GoFA, Origami Kaikan, Yayoi-Yumeji and GAoh!) each for different reasons. But it was a cold, miserable rainy day and my schedule got thrown off. I spent way too much time on foot between galleries, getting soaked, and ran out of time to get to the "Ah! Megami-sama" artwork sale at GoFA. So, I wasn't feeling that happy when I got to Yayoi-Yumeji only to discover that the Shojo no Tomo exhibit book was 4000 yen ($46 USD) and I only had 3000 yen on me. So, I went through every book on Yayoi's shelves, trying to find something that I did want to buy, only to settle on a copy of the museum's 200-page monthly magazine, Gekkan Bijutsu (Monthly Artwork) for 1900 yen. Disappointed, I made the trek back home (after 5 hours in and out of the rain; mostly in) and didn't look at the magazine until the following day. I just wanted to find out how little material in it was related to "Shojo no Tomo", when I discovered that the September issue had a massive section on Junichi Nakahara, one of the chief Shojo no Tomo cover artists, plus overviews of 10 other illustrators that did work for Shojo no Tomo and some of the other shojo magazines from 1910 to 1950. On top of which, I learned that the publisher of the 4000 yen book at Yayoi was actually the Junichi Nakahara press. And that I now held in my hands information missing from the various English online sources, including a partial time line of when various shojo magazines started up and folded. Score!

So, I went from just wanting places to sight see a year ago to having the history of manga consume my reading time. I'm also noticing that even with all of the information on manga history currently available in English from wikipedia, that there are a lot of holes, some inconsistencies or contradictions, and no "single narrative". Naturally, books from people like Fred Schodt are more comprehensive and useful than the hodgepodge known as "the internet", but paper-based books are hard to search quickly, and rapidly become obsolete. I'd like to be able to assemble a better online resource myself, but it's not something I'm going to do for free.

In the meantime, I'm going to start up a new thread of blog posts that contains bits and snippets of what I'm able to put together from the exhibit books that I have now. This will alternate with my other, regular mish-mash of posts.

And, I'm going to make damn sure that the next time I go to a museum exhibit covering anime or manga history that I buy the book at the same time.

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