A Short Introduction to Manga by Pretty Much Pop #60 with Professor Deborah Shamoon from the National University of Singapore

One of our goals on Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast has been to look into not just our favorite cre­ators and gen­res but into things that get a lot of buzz but which we real­ly don’t know any­thing about. Man­ga is a great exam­ple of a “look what these crazy kids are into today” kind of area for many (old­er) Amer­i­cans.

Deb­o­rah Shamoon, an Amer­i­can who teach­es Japan­ese stud­ies at the Nation­al Uni­ver­si­ty of Sin­ga­pore and  has loved man­ga since ado­les­cence, here schools man­ga noobs Mark Lin­sen­may­er and Bri­an Hirt–along with Eri­ca Spyres, who also does­n’t read man­ga but at least has a com­pli­cat­ed his­to­ry with ani­me. What are the bar­ri­ers for Amer­i­cans (whether comics read­ers or not) to appre­ci­ate man­ga? For some of us, man­ga is actu­al­ly eas­i­er to appre­ci­ate than ani­me giv­en the lat­ter’s sound and pac­ing.

We talk about man­ga’s pub­li­ca­tion his­to­ry, how fast to read man­ga, and its use of iconog­ra­phy to depict sound and move­ment. Deb­o­rah gives us the truth about the famed Osamu Tezuka’s place as “god of comics”; we dis­cuss his Metrop­o­lis, Astro Boy and Princess Knight, which is not as you may have been told the first “sho­jo” man­ga, mean­ing aimed at girls. Sho­jo man­ga is Deb­o­rah’s spe­cial­ty: She wrote a book called Pas­sion­ate Friend­ship: The Aes­thet­ics of Girls’ Cul­ture in Japan. We dis­cuss The Heart of Thomas, Sailor Moon, and how Tezu­ka actu­al­ly copied that big-eye style from Hideko Mizuno’s Sil­ver Petals. Do you need to get a han­dle on these old clas­sics to appre­ci­ate the new­er stuff that’s made such a dent in Amer­i­ca like Death Note? Prob­a­bly not, though some Aki­ra would­n’t hurt you.

A few of the arti­cles we looked at includ­ed:

We also looked at some “best of” lists to know what titles to try to look at:

Deb­o­rah rec­om­mends the Japan­ese Media and Pop­u­lar Cul­ture Site from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tokyo for aca­d­e­m­ic writ­ing on man­ga. She wrote an arti­cle on sho­jo man­ga for that site that sums up the his­to­ry con­veyed in her book. She’s also been inter­viewed for the Japan Sta­tion and Mei­ji at 150 pod­casts.

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus dis­cus­sion that you can only hear by sup­port­ing the pod­cast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts


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