The authenticity of non-Japanese manga, by Sixten

October 7th, 2013 by Sixten

[Reader’s mail delivered an op-ed by none other than Sixten himself — Author]

This is a response to your post where you quote someone who doesn’t think the term “manga” should be used to refer to comics that don’t come from Japan.

Who made that decision anyway?

Not the Japanese, I can tell you that.

To Pixiv and the Japanese people who populate it, the comics of House of Sixten may be American, but they are also manga. (Try uploading a comic to Pixiv – not only do you go through the “submit manga” dialog, but your submission automatically gets the “manga” tag.)

How does Japanese Magic the Gathering player Rattie refer to “Lotus Cobra is Evil”? As “manga”.  What did Enix comic fan site operator Takahiro (@kenkyukan on twitter, unfortunately I didn’t preserve the tweet) call “Fairy Ring”? “Manga”.  What tag did Japanese illustrator Waribashi-P use when bookmarking “Autumn Children”? Why, “manga”.

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives out an International Manga Award to outstanding Japanese-style comics from outside Japan. One of the award winners is Canadian Dan Kim, who calls his work “manga” with few people questioning his terminology. Such an award would not exist unless the Japanese thought manga could be created by people outside Japan.

My background as a former religious person, an immigrant, a card gamer, and an American conspires to create comics with a different flavor than anything made in Japan. But that doesn’t stop anyone (even yourself) from referring to my work as manga. I’m not even half as good of an artist as the winners of the International Manga Award. If I can achieve a level of authenticity and the approval of Establish Nechoes, what more can be achieved by artists that aren’t no-talent hacks like me?

People who want the term “manga” to be used only for comics from Japan are like the French who use the term “champagne” only for sparkling wine that comes from a specific region of France. They want the term to be a trademark, a guarantee of a certain level of quality. But unlike the French, the Japanese didn’t make an effort to restrict the use of the term. So why then would people outside Japan want such restrictions?

It is unfortunate that there are bad manga from outside Japan that hurt the reputation of the good manga that come directly from Japan. It is also unfortunate that sleazy creators label their work “manga” to trick buyers who expect the level of quality that they know from Japanese manga.

But saying that artists from outside Japan cannot create manga shows a lack of faith in those artists and a lack of faith in manga as a global art form.