Dreamland Japan” is both an accurate and exciting comic theory about Japanese manga and the Japanese manga market. Despite the worries about the openness of Japanese culture, one of the most widely-spread genre concerning Japan is be Japanese manga and anime. The fact that most of the comics or TV animations we enjoyed watching in our childhood were Japanese, we are able to recognise how early Japanese manga and anime already penetrated our lives . What is the substance of Japanese manga which puts down deep roots into our popular culture, and what fascinates fans so much about manga that they have even been given a neologism, “Otaku”?
Frederik L. Schodt is an American translator, interpreter and writer. At the same time, he is a manga expert, who speaks Japanese fluently and has a profound knowledge of the Japanese culture. In the 1970s, whilst studying at the International Christian University in Japan he became attracted to manga and still is continuing research as part of his profession. He already published his best known book “Manga! Manga! World of Japanese Comics” in 1983, and won a prize at the “Manga Oscar Awards” in the same year. “Dreamland Japan – Writings On Modern Manga” tends to be its sequel.
As it is mostly known, “manga” is the Japanese translation for “comics”. This book also deals primarily with manga in the printed media of course, not with Japanese “anime2”. Schodt copes well in explaining general manga which have structured story lines (“story manga”), and his writings can be divided into four major sequences.
First, the chapters “Enter the Id” and “Modern Manga at the End of the Milennium” contain statements which help to understand the world of manga as a whole. What are manga, exactly, and where did they come from? The author states (Schodt, 1996, p. 21) that, in a nutshell, the modern Japanese manga is a synthesis: “a long Japanese tradition of art that entertains has taken on a physical form imported from the West”.
Schodt also gives an answer to interesting curiosities like why Japanese romantic manga’s characters always have saucer-shaped eyes, thin long legs, and thick blond hair cascaded over the shoulders, which are showing an adoption of Western ideals of beauty.
According to the author, prior to the Meiji period3, Japanese artists usually drew themselves with small eyes and mouths and variable proportions (Schodt, 1996, p. 60). However, the defeat in World War II would have caused a national loss of confidence that extended to Japan’s self-image. After that, Western ideals of beauty would not only have been accepted but pursued, often to ludicrous degrees (Schodt, 1996, p. 61). Additionally, early comics of the post-war period would have been heavily influenced by Osamu Tezuka’s4 style of cartooning, which was in turn derived from American animation.
And the other artists who had followed him found that a Caucasian look was extremely popular among readers and that the bigger the eyes, the easier it was to depict emotions. Eventually, depicting Japanese people with Caucasian features would have become an established convention; “readers internalized the images and demanded them” (Schodt, 1996, p. 61). Besides, he quotes the girl’s manga author Satonaka Machiko that “Japan has always been attracted to what it perceives as a more advanced culture than its own” (Schodt, 1996, p. 61) and “that in the Heian period5 it was the Korean face that was regarded as ideal, particularly by the imperial court6” (Schodt, 1996, p. 61). In this sense modern Japanese female manga characters display the change that occurred in the Japanese consciousness.
The next chapter “The Manga Magazine Scene” deals with the catalyst of the Japanese manga market, depicting why it is obvious that Japanese manga just had to become so popular and expand. Furthermore, Schodt introduces diverse manga magazines, which sparked off the Japanese manga market and displayed its potential, presenting their unique feature for each as well, and furthermore, talking about the future of manga-related industries. In addition, the author illustrates the eccentric and distinctive magazine market of Japan, which covers general magazines categorised by age and gender, up to manga magazines for “Mahjong7”, and even comics for infant care called “Yan Mama” (=”Young Mothers”). We not only get to know that these kinds of manga magazines are exclusively published in Japan, but also that all of these play an important sustaining role in the Japanese manga market.
Thirdly, in “Artists and Their Work” Schodt portrays some peculiar Japanese manga-writers, who work in diverse fields and write on miscellaneous topics, and he also presents and explicate their paintings. The author argues that “Not all become full-time professionals, and of those that do even fewer become commercial or artistic successes. Ultimately the most important quality required is originality and a unique personal vision” (Schodt, 1996, p. 136).
Often, we linked Japanese manga with pornography and violence. This chapter breaks down such misunderstandings by presenting lots of manga artists and editors, who made the best of manga’s artistry and features, produced art of high standard, and made Japan rank as one of the biggest global centres of comics. Likewise, Schodt gives an interesting account of how the Japanese society is resolving the problem of manga’s pornographic and violent scenes, which have incrementally become a social problem in Japan.
In “Silent Services” and “The Way of Manga”, the author talks about the quite well-known Kaiji Kawaguchi, including Fujiko F. Fujio of “Doraemon”, and Kobayashi Yoshinori, who is facing some difficulties that have come along with the recent conservative swing in Japan. In addition, Schodt also mentions Aum Schinrikyo8 comics, which was object to public concern in Japan in 1995.
Fourthly, the author is writing about Osamu Tezuka, praised as “The God of Comics”. Schodt had a personal relationship with him and unravels his tribute to Osamu Tezuka, who died in 1989. In this regard, in the background of reporting about Osamu Tezuka there seems to be the personal relationship between the two, but apparently, Schodt might rather have intended to talk about the next chapter “Beyond Manga”, which mostly deals with the future of manga and manga artists.
In “Beyond Manga”, it seems as if Schodt wants to support Kojin Karatani’s9 critical outlook on literature from a down-to-earth view. The author states “What has had a larger impact on Japanese society as a whole is the increasing degree of crossover today between manga and what is normally thought of as “literature” ” (Schodt, 1996, p. 287). In spite of the fact that established writers, who created manga in their youth but never became particularly famous or successful, treat that period with embarrassment, Schodt chases them by making their names known to the public. Sakyo Komatsu, best known for his famous 1973 science fiction novel “Nihon Chinbotsu” (“Japan Sinks”); Hiroshi Aramata, one of Japan’s most prolific writers and the author of over hundred fiction and non-fiction books; and the award-winning writer Amy Yamada; they all were manga writers in their past.