Archive for April, 2010

Without Technology, Life would be _______.

Just last week my laptop conked out on me and refused to budge no matter how hard I tried to tickle it awake. So for two whole days, I panicked. It was a lot like trying to function without a limb – or a very necessary extremity, like my right thumb.  It was a complete nightmare.  I was thrust into this analogue life where I was forced to do things like go to the library to use the computer (at half-hour intervals), hand write tweets in my notebook (that i’ve since misplaced and now, that no one will ever see), I cooked (more on that later), and I even learned to crochet.

Now that my computer is done playing dead, I feel like I’m being reunited with a much needed appendage – like my right thumb (how I’ve missed you!). A couple of things I learned from my couple of days without my laptop:

1. Living life is an impossible task without technology

2. I love staring at my screen

3. Crocheting is stupid

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to write an entry about the iPad and manga and scanlations, but I haven’t yet found a way to pull them all together into one cohesive argument. Thankfully, Roland Kelts has pretty much covered all of these topics over at the Comics Journal.  Technology – and it’s failures – are once again, my gain.

In its first iteration the iPad is a performance enhanced e-reader.  But what Kelts presents is the potential that the iPad introduces for manga to go digital and legitimate.  Fredrik Schodt was telling me when I interviewed him earlier this year, that all it’s going to take is the right e-reader for manga, and books, hand-held books, will be wiped out.  And then manga will take on a new form, incorporating audio and motion.

Well, the iPad won’t read Flash, so technology’s still got some growth and developing to do – but so do publishers and distributors in this game.  As Brigid Alverson points out on Robot 6, there are a ton of apps for reading manga out there, and from the looks of it, the legit manga is too clunky, while the illegal stuff is too hard to say “no” to.

The interesting thing about all this, is that manga scanlation has grown and developed alongside the localized manga publishing markets (in the U.S., France, Italy, Mexico, etc.) for years now.  (Has it been a decade?  My gut tells me “yes,”  my journalistic instinct tells me “look it up.”)  At this point, we can yell and scream about how it’s illegal and how the creators lose out in this free and wide distribution model (and practice) or we can acknowledge that no matter what we do, manga scans, possibly even more than manga itself, isn’t going anywhere.  And the most publishers can do, possible in place of cease and desist letters, is to start developing new ways to get the legitimate work distributed.

At this point, the brand is known and proven.  (The “brand” being Chica Umino/Honey+Clover, Matsuri Hino/Vampire Knight, Tite Kubo/Bleach, etc.) so publishers would do better to expand upon the strength of that brand and offer an easier, more updated, added incentive approach to consuming – or even better, participating – in that brand and product.  (See Viz Media’s SigIkki website for ideas on developing a plan A).

Fredrik Schodt says that manga’s golden age in Japan is over, and Milton Griep’s whitepaper on iCv2 may be a clue that it’s on its way out here in the U.S., too.  But that’s measuring manga in *book* form.  Manga is more than books and I hope and encourage publishers to find out everything that it can be and is already.  Cuz I gotta say, any manga out there (even Rosario+Vampire which I hate)  sure as hell beats the pathetic writing and storytelling in Twilight, and it’s a helluva lot more fun than crocheting.

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Manga+Anime in America @American Museum of Natural History

If you’re bored with the rain, The American Museum of Natural History is hosting an exhibition of both Japanese and Indian popular culture this Saturday and Sunday, 4/17-18.    That translates as a Bollywood/anime movie marathon Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
Eureka 7 will be screening on Sunday, and to add even more stimuli to the mix, Roland Kelts (Japanamerica) and Taeko Baba (New York-Tokyo) will be present to give a talk on Japan’s influence on American pop culture.

Screening on Sunday starting at noon, the talk starts at 2:30.  I can’t think of two more qualified and informed speakers to cover this subject, so don’t be late.

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Manga Beginnings: Utagawa Kuniyoshi @Japan Society

Most of the local comickers spent last weekend at MoCCA Fest, the Festival of Comics and Cartoon Art that usually hits in June in NYC. But lately, Japan Society has been holding a few events that all comickers and art afficianados can appreciate.

Last weekend Japan Society held a jcation at their sleek, stylin’ facilities where Choux Factory sold creme puffs (or choux cremu), Asahi beer flowed, Brooklyn band Asobi Seksu jammed, and the 150 year old screen prints of Utagawa Kuniyoshi brought it all together – in the funky, contemporary, days-of-yore/living dangerously/being wild way that he does.

Don’t know much about Kuniyoshi? Lucky for you the exhibit is at Japan Society through mid-June. Even luckier for you, there’s a symposium on Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s work this Saturday, April 17, starting at 1pm.

Of course, the New York Times releases their critique/coverage of the exhibit (as well as a slideshow) the same day my post goes up.  Can’t argue good timing – or good taste.

Kuniyoshi is said to have influenced contemporary manga and anime and it doesn’t take long to see how or why. His meticulous, detailed, and highly imaginative screenprints are narrative illustrations, compelling and incredibly creative. Arrows fly during battle and will bring to mind Maggie Cheung’s red scene where she fights off an onslaught of arrows.  In another print, the warrior Jiraiya sits atop the giant toad and will bring to mind, er, Jiraiya and his giant toad in Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto.
If it inspired today’s most popular mangaka, it’ll inspire you, too. So check it out. Kuniyoshi’s stuff is so good, it’ll make your teeth hurt and your heart ache.

(Above photos taken from the Japan Society website.  The artwork is far better experienced in person.  Really.)

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