The Strength of Manga in Clearly Describing Deeper Concepts

Sometimes I’ll see people say that western comics beat out manga because when they actually are written to be sophisticated they do so in a much more mature and literary fashion. Granted, Miyazaki’s Nausicaa is richly dense in this respect but he’s the exception that sort of proves the rule as he’s greatly influenced by European comics.

However, I think that the greater strength of manga in general is that it manages to marry strong ideas and deeper philosophy with a very clear, conventional story-telling style often meant for young readers. While Naruto is indeed a children’s comic, no one should be ashamed of reading it while they’re above the age of 10 as it carries (and sometimes loses) interesting themes of redemption and friendship. You don’t have to dig deep to find out that Naruto is trying to fight 12 years of neglect and depression throughout his own series, or to know that Oscar from Rose of Versailles has to struggle with the conflict that arises from her trying to understand her own gender. This is not a bad thing.

I already have an exception, as I think this may be why Avatar: The Last Airbender is so appealing to its fans (which includes myself) as well. While it still feels very western, it is similar to manga in the sense that there are many themes running throughout the show but they are not obscured and require multiple viewings to get most of them.

Sure, they’re not Grant Morrison or Alan Moore, but they don’t need to be.

11 thoughts on “The Strength of Manga in Clearly Describing Deeper Concepts

  1. I don’t know. There’s no manga equivalent of Transmetropolitan or almost anything else Warren Ellis. Warren Ellis is a god among men and he cannot be forsaken.


  2. That’s pretty much my point though.

    Even though I’m sure if we dug deep enough in its history we could find something (probably in GARO), there doesn’t NEED to be a manga equivalent of Warren Ellis.


  3. Comparing East and West in order to find which is ‘better’ has always struck me as rather foolhardy and unnecessary anyhow, we like what we like so there!


  4. Yeah, I’m not trying to tout one over the other.

    This is more about how I see things in regards to how manga typically handles more complex themes (by making them not so complex).


  5. I think that the reason why manga can explain complex emotions and subjects so easily is that there is a love of the medium itself and, at the end of it all, a subtle and more mature view of how everything works in this world that is lacking in most western comics.

    And they do it with ninjas, mecha, gender-switching and other themes so ridiculous that it makes folks running around in tights and masks look almost mundane in comparison.

    Yeah, Ellis, Morrison and Moore and others of their ilk are great writers but there is also a adolescent, misanthropic cynical bent to their styles. When reading the aforementioned authors you get a feeling of self-loathing of the very medium they write for.

    That is what differentiates the popular comics of the East and West. I also think it reflects the views, mores and mindset of these cultures as well.


  6. @sdshamshel There was a movement during manga’s formative years that parallels the noir, angsty, gritty style of superhero comics that were introduced by Stan Lee — yes I blame Stan Lee for starting the whole thing. The latter day UK comic writers like Moore and Ellis just took it to the next level.

    This style arose about the same time Timely Comics became Marvel during the early 60’s called gekiga.


  7. Pingback: MangaBlog » Blog Archive » ACEN update, Spanish manga, and some literary criticism

  8. I just finished the Genshiken manga and am of course jazzed with the outcome — that was so good. WHY don’t they put that in the series?? Anyway, I realized that my first girlfrind was a total clone of Ogiue, a self-loathing girl obsessed with guy-on-guy imagery which complicated things for us. How fun to have dated Ogiue…


  9. Now that I’ve read more manga I really relate it to western comics in it’s early years in that the story lines (though wrapped in spandex, etc) were pretty deep. I think somewhere along the lines when western comics became more about flashy images and big boobs/guns and cross overs it really became more superficial and I stopped collecting them. There are some great lessons in both art forms.


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