Accessibility and Relatability

I might not understand the subtleties of a performance of “Swan Lake,” and I’m not even sure what arabesques and pas are, but as I read the manga Swan I find myself being excited by ballet in a way that I never have been before. Through effective narration and energetic artwork and storytelling, I can experience ballet on another level, despite my lack of experience.

Like so many manga titles, Swan takes what is unfamiliar and makes it less so. It is one of manga’s strengths, whether it’s glamorizing the world of ballet, adding excitement and tension to the art of breadmaking (Yakitate!! Japan), or outright teaching people new ideas (The Manga Guide Series). Essentially, manga often acts as a cultural ambassador of ideas.

But bridging the gap between those who know and those who do not is not solely the domain of fiction, let alone Japanese comics. Figures such as Carl Sagan and Bill Nye used their infectious personalities and honest passion to transform yesterday’s children into today’s scientists. In Starcraft, Lim “SlayerS_`BoxeR`” Yo-Hwan took an underdog race and through his creativity and dedication created an environment where even grandmothers know what “Zerg” are. Casters such as John Madden and Marv Albert have been able to express the excitement of athletic competition to people, from long-time fans to newbies, from those watching on TV to those listening on their car radios. Bruce Lee and Hulk Hogan combined fictitious roles with non-fictitious personalities to champion hard work, discipline, and respect.

Whether it comes naturally or is the product of concerned effort, these ambassadors make ideas accessible, and as anyone who’s tried to explain their hobbies to others probably knows, this is not a simple task. Even then, I think it is very important people try to give others a chance. Rather than standing atop your mountain while waiting for someone to reach your level, you could extend a hand and help someone up. After all, waiting is easy.

One thought on “Accessibility and Relatability

  1. I feel a lot of this has to do with money. Manga is a fiercely competitive business, after all, and you need to do something to stand out above your fellow mangaka. I don’t think anyone would doubt that “Yakitate! Ja-Pan” is quite different from the rest.

    But you’re right, a really good manga is like a good teacher: Fully knowledgeable in their field, but able to break it down and make it accessible (and interesting!) to others.


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