Artifacts from Japan, part 2: Weekly Young Jump #27, 2016

Weekly Young Jump #27, 2016So this is the thing around which the whole manga industry revolves: the manga magazine.

Language: Japanese
Authors: various
Publisher: Shūeisha
Pages: 440
Price: ¥330 ($3.20 / €2.90)
Website: http://youngjump.jp/ (Japanese)

cover of Weekly Young Jump #27, 2016More precisely, this is a copy of the June 16 issue of 週刊ヤングジャンプ / Weekly Young Jump. Not quite as legendary as 週刊少年ジャンプ / Weekly Shōnen Jump by the same publisher, it is still a venerable manga anthology magazine that is sold at every convenience store.

Manga magazines are often said to be ‘phone book sized’, but that’s only true for the bigger monthly magazines. The smaller weekly ones like Young Jump are staple bound, measuring ‘only’ approximately 25,5 × 17 × 2 cm. This also means that the paper format is about 1.5 times larger than a tankobon.

The most obvious difference between Young Jump and Shōnen Jump is the ‘gravure idol’ on the cover of the former, advertising photo pages of young women in underwear at the beginning (in this issue: Anna Iriyama from AKB48, 8 pages) and end (Yūna Ego from SKE48, 6 pages) of the magazine. In other words, the cover is not representative of 97% of the content.

A page from Legend of the Galactic Heroes by Ryu Fujisaki. The poor printing shows particularly in panels with large black areas.

As for the manga pages, their printing quality really is abysmal – light grey ink on white paper, resembling printouts when the toner is about to run out, and guaranteed to come off on your hands. But most of the time it’s good enough to let you figure out what’s going on in the drawings.

An issue contains one chapter (usually 18 pages) from each of 20 different manga series, spanning various genres such as action, sports, and ecchi. The most noteworthy in this issue are:

  • キングダム / Kingdom by Yasuhisa Hara, a long-running samurai-era tale with somewhat sub-par artwork and over-the-top violence that seems to be quite popular at the moment;
  • ゴールデンカムイ / Golden Kamui by Satoru Noda, set in late Meiji-era Hokkaidō;
  • Terra Formars by Yu Sasuga and Kenichi Tachibana, a science-fiction story that has already been published in English and German;
  • 東京喰種:re / Tokyo Ghoul:re by Sui Ishida, a sequel to the popular supernatural horror manga;
  • 銀河英雄伝説 / Legend of the Galactic Heroes by Ryu Fujisaki (of Shiki fame), a new manga adaptation of an 80s science-fiction novel series;
  • 精密機械とてきと一人間 by NisiOisiN and Kei Takizawa, a 45 page one-shot about football;
  • 君と100回目の恋 / one hundred times I was fallin’ in love with you by Chocolate Records, Inabaseri and Kumichi Yoshizuki, a manga to promote an upcoming teenage pop music film of the same name.

In the past, Weekly Young Jump ran such famous series as Gantz, Elfen Lied, Liar Game, and All You Need Is Kill.

Thanks to manga magazines like Weekly Young Jump, manga readers in Japan (in contrast to most of those outside Japan) can decide whether to buy these and get their cheap ‘weekly (or monthly) fix’, or to ‘wait for the trade’ which is more expensive and of a smaller format but of a higher printing quality. Of course, the manga industry wants readers to first buy the magazines, then discard them and buy the tankobon too.

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German manga (?) magazines: Animania and Koneko

I have already lamented the demise of German manga anthology magazines on this weblog (Daisuki, the last monthly anthology, was cancelled in 2012). But what about journalistic periodicals that write about manga? As far as I know, there are two German-language magazines of potential interest for manga readers: Animania (or “AnimaniA”) and Koneko.

Cover of AnimaniA 06-07/2013Animania

Frequency: every other month
Publisher: Animagine, Hachenburg
Pages: 98
Price: €7.80 (DVD edition)
Website:
http://www.animania.de

The launch of Animania predates that of Koneko by 10 years: first published in 1994, Animania is probably the earliest German magazine on Japanese pop culture. As the name suggests, its focus is on anime rather than manga. However, on average more than 20 of its pages are exclusively devoted to manga (including artbooks). Additionally, a lot of manga articles refer to their anime adaptations and vice versa. Apart from manga news and reviews, the latest issue (06-07/2013) even contains short interviews with manga authors Tite Kubo, Kanan Minami and Mikiko Ponczeck. Animania covers other areas of Japanese pop culture as well, but not as extensively as Koneko (with the exception of video games, which are given slightly more coverage in the former).

Konekocover of Koneko #56

Frequency: every other month
Publisher: raptor, Frankfurt am Main
Pages: 98
Price: €4.95 (D)
Website:
http://www.raptor.de/koneko.php

Koneko covers a lot of different areas of Japanese pop culture, which reduces the space given to manga coverage. A typical issue contains only 13 pages on which manga are the sole subject (although there are many other pages on which manga is one of several subjects). This includes drawing guides, portraits of fan artists, and also 6 pages of a dōjinshi, an original comic submitted by a reader (arranged on 3 magazine pages).

Generally, Koneko seems to reach out more to its readers, the vast majority of which appear to be teenage girls. Animania on the other hand makes a somewhat more mature impression, and is more focused on the anime/manga scene. For this reason I find it more appealing than Koneko, which I would only recommend to someone who is also interested in J-pop. Still, it is a pity that, after the cancellation of MangasZene in 2007, there is no German magazine in which manga are the primary topic, and not just one small part of a purported all-encompassing fandom of Japanese pop culture.


Review: Triëdere #6

My review of the Triëdere magazine issue on comics was published on the ComFor weblog four days ago. If you’re interested in German-language comics research, here’s my English translation of the review:

Triëdere – Zeitschrift für Theorie und Kunst #6 (1/2012), „Art moyen & Yuma: Spezifische Potentiale des Comics“ [specific potentials of comics], Vienna: Verein Zeitschrift Triëdere, 133 pages, 11 €. (ISSN 2075-5031)

The wording “magazine for theory and art” suggests that Triëdere (the name refers to a term coined by Robert Musil) is a scholarly journal. However, Triëdere is not primarily about theoretical texts about art, but art (in the sense of visual arts and literature) and theory, i.e. primary and secondary literature, are on a par here. This premise explains the “anachronistic” materiality of the magazine as a “bibliophile’s limited edition on real paper” (http://www.triedere.com). An aspect of the bookbinding design which deserves a positive mention is the paper dust jacket, which is glued onto the outsides of the cardboard cover (“french brochure”), so that it can’t slip or even fall off, but its inner sides can still be used as bookmarks.

The short editorial (pp. 1-2) reviews the current state of comics scholarship, but says little about the place of this magazine within it. Therefore, the questions remain as to why comics were chosen as the topic (topics of previous issues were e.g. “memory” or “drawing”), how the authors were chosen, and how this magazine is different from other publications in the field. Furthermore the statement seems strange that it is “a central characteristic of comics […] to be free from the demand to be realistic”. You would have thought we would have overcome this old prejudice by now that comics are per se less realistic than other art forms.

The first article is Thomas Becker’s “Wer hat Angst vor der Neunten Kunst? Kurze Archäologie eines Legitimierungsdiskurses” [Who is afraid of the Ninth Art? A short archaeology of a legitimisation discourse] (pp. 5-13). In this article, Becker gives an account of the tentative development of the field of comics from an art moyen in Pierre Bourdieu’s sense towards a legitimate art, while listing the well-known key events: the Louvre exhibition in 1967, the Guardian literature award for the comic Jimmy Corrigan in 2001, etc. At the same time one gets the impression that Becker not only describes a discourse, but also takes a stance within it by regarding Art Spiegelman’s and Chris Ware’s comics as somehow superior to, for example, “trivial science fiction”. On the formal side of the essay, it is striking that it only contains six footnotes, so that many statements remain unreferenced; the four images are not explicitly referenced in the text and only have a vague connection to it; the captions are very short and don’t contain the dimensions of the original pictures (which would be appropriate if a Roy Lichtenstein painting is juxtaposed with its comic source, as in figure 1). Here what I said earlier becomes evident: even if the contents of the Triëdere articles seem scholarly, they are not scholarly articles in the strict sense of the word.

This also becomes clear in the second contribution, “A Sense of Yuma” by Ole Frahm (pp. 14-21), which primarily aims at a semiotic analysis of the humour in George Herriman’s Krazy Kat. In doing so, Frahm quickly expands the scope to comics in general, which doesn’t seem very convincing, e.g. when he says, comics “combine the sign repertoire of drawings and writing” (when it is well-known that many comics do away with written text), or when he cryptically phrases: “[comics] reject the question of hermeneutics, which determines a sense after the reading, and instead raise an epistemological question.” In common with Thomas Becker’s article, there are some inaccuracies in the captions (two out of the three pictured Krazy Kat strips are undated) and the limitation of a mere six references.

Barbara Eder’s text “Horror vacui & Outer Space. Das ‘gelobte Land’ der 8×6 Zentimeter” [the ‘promised land’ of the 8×6 centimetres] (pp. 23-33) makes loose connections between the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and various comics. This results in debatable, over-generalised hypotheses such as: “deterritorialised people […] have become preferred figures in comics.” In addition to the almost incomprehensible content, formal carelessness can be found here, too, for instance quotes that differ from the speech bubble texts in the images (e.g. Eder quotes, “Still the wisest is the man, who knows what he truely hungers for.”, but Jon Macy’s pictured comic reads, “Still, the wisest is the man who knows what he truly hungers for.”).

The most convincing article in the magazine is probably Doris Neumann-Rieser’s (pp. 35-46), above all because it has a clearly defined subject matter: the reception of comics in the communist magazine (Österreichisches) Tagebuch in the 1940s and 50s. The essay title “In der Uniform des Gegners. Der Comic im Österreich des Kalten Krieges” [in the uniform of the enemy. The comic in Cold War Austria] is somewhat inaccurate, though, because the “Cold War Austria” can hardly be represented by a single magazine. At any rate, on the one hand Neumann-Rieser points out the Tagebuch authors’ anti-comics stance, grounded in anti-Americanism and pacifism, and on the other hand she shows examples of “very peculiar usages of the medium of drawn picture sequences” which were printed in Tagebuch. However, it would have been preferable if the author would have taken the trouble of tracing the sources for the pictured comic panels of the Tagebuch article she references (including a panel from Jack Cole’s “Murder, Morphine and Me” that was also pictured in Frederic Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent, which suggests that the Tagebuch author presumably only knew Wertham’s book and not the original comic).

The following contribution is not an essay but an excerpt from a comic album titled Inmates (pp. 47-65), written by Thomas Ballhausen, drawn by Jörg Vogeltanz and published by his own publishing house edition preQuel. In contrast to the rest of the magazine, these comic pages were not printed in shades of grey, but with additional colour, which results in a kind of sepia look. It is a pity, though, that the comic pages have been fit too tightly into the magazine pages, so that towards the middle of the magazine, parts of the drawings and the speech bubble writing are unrecognisable. Not much can be said about the content of this excerpt, which is much too short and obscure for that. Ballhausen himself says in the introduction, “set in a dark, fantastical world at the edge of collapse, these highly charged, tragic figures perform their deadly endgame.” This prompts the fundamental questions as to why this specific comic was chosen to be printed in Triëdere and in what way it is supposed to be connected to the text contributions.

The next contribution also focuses on comics themselves. Elena Messner introduces four “Zeitgenössische Comics aus Serbien und Bosnien-Herzegowina” [contemporary comics from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina] (pp. 66-100), each of which are pictured on several pages (with German and English text respectively) and commented by Messner on one page. The commentaries on these authors, who are virtually unknown in the German-speaking world, are helpful and make this contribution seem less out of place in the context of this magazine than Inmates. For some reason, however, these commentaries are unfortunately printed in a smaller, lighter, and thus harder to read font than the rest of the magazine.

This is followed by another textual contribution. Under the title “Poetik des Naheliegenden im Comic” [poetics of the nearby in comics] (pp. 101-115), Walter Pamminger explores a thoroughly fascinating formal phenomenon: the “compositional concatenation”. This term refers to pictorial structures that connect over panel boundaries with structures in adjacent panels to larger compositions, which sometimes oppose the traditional reading sequence. It is striking, though, that Pamminger refrains from referencing any of the relevant formalist research literature, which surely exists (Scott McCloud, at least, could have been mentioned).

“Chantal Montellier, der Comic und der Fall der Frauen” [Chantal Montellier, comics, and the downfall/case of women] (pp. 117-123) is an extract from Mira Falardeaus book Femmes et humour, which is supposed to be published in 2013. In the bilingual text – French original and German translation – Falardeau introduces some texts (no comics) by comic author Chantal Montellier, in which she accuses the comic industry of sexism. In this short excerpt, Falardeau barely expresses her own opinions, but only reproduces Montellier’s views, and after reading this one is left with the feeling not to have learned much about Falardeau’s book.

The last contribution in the magazine is “Der Künstler mit der Maus. Oder: wie sich Claes Oldenburgs Kunst Comic-Elemente aneignet” [the artist with the mouse. Or: how Claes Oldenburg’s art appropriates elements from comics] (pp. 125-130) by Wolfgang Pichler. The subtitle clearly defines the object of research, and yet Pichler’s solution of this problem is not entirely satisfactory. For instance, there are several inaccuracies which weaken the power of the reasoning: is Mickey Mouse’s head really the corporate logo of Walt Disney, or isn’t it rather the fairytale castle? Does this mouse head really unequivocally refer to comics, or doesn’t it rather refer to animation? Then there are some examples (the picture “Ray Gun Poster Dog”, the reading of The Scarlet Pimpernel in a performance) of which the connection to comics is so vague that they could just as well not have been mentioned at all. Then again, if in this article really “only the most important and self-evident examples of comic influences in Oldenburg’s works […] could have been shown”, such examples raise the question whether these influences really were as important as Pichler claims. Furthermore, Pichler contradicts himself regarding the status of comics as art: on the one hand, Pichler sees comics as merely “a phenomenon of popular culture that is close to the fine arts”. He also claims a clear distinction between the “different cultural forms of expression” of popular culture (which includes comics) and art. On the other hand, in the last sentence of the article, comics are called an “art form” and one of the “areas of fine art” (without basing either position on art theory).

An aspect of this issue of Triëdere as a whole that needs to be praised is that apparently the authors were allowed to chose their own style of gender-neutral language. Thus, different solutions such as “NutzerInnen” (Neumann-Rieser, Pichler), “Leser_innen” (Eder) or only the male form like “Leser” (the majority of authors) can be found. This shows the respect of the editors towards the authors, instead of patronising them by a unified style. Another striking thing about this magazine is the clear predominance of Austrian authors – out of the 14 people listed in the back matter, 7 are from Austria. This is, of course, related to the location of the editorial office of the magazine. However, it also shows a certain bias in the selection of the contributors that would be out of place if this was a scholarly journal. All in all, Triëdere #6 is a sort of hybrid creature, neither fish nor fowl. According to the subject matter, the magazine seems to address a scholarly audience. And yet, hardly any of the articles would satisfy scholarly criteria, and therefore it would be misleading to call Triëdere an academic periodical. But it isn’t sophisticated comics criticism in the vein of The Comics Journal either. Most likely this issue of Triëdere may serve the German-language comics research audience as a source of inspiration and possibly entertainment. However, it can not be considered compellingly relevant secondary literature.


Review: Daisuki 11/2011-01/2012

Language: German (translated from Japanese)
Authors: various
Publisher: Carlsen (originally Hakusensha)
Pages: 256
Price: €5.95 (D)
Website: http://www.daisuki-online.de/

Despite the importance of the anthology magazine format for the Japanese manga industry, it failed to catch on in Germany. Banzai (published by Carlsen) was cancelled in 2005 (although it had carried both Naruto and One Piece), Manga Power (which was able to feature a considerable variety of manga genres, due to its “telephone book” size) and Manga Twister (both published by EMA) ran until 2004 and 2006, respectively. So Daisuki remains as the sole survivor (apart from Paper Theatre) in the German scene, even though it’s a shōjo magazine and thus caters to a niche market. Granted, that’s still quite a large niche, and apparently that market is sizeable enough to keep the title running since it was launched in 2003 as a sister title to Banzai. Due to a licensing deal between Carlsen and the Japanese publisher Hakusensha, almost all series in Daisuki were first published by this venerable company (which apparently belongs to the same publishing group as Shogakukan and Shueisha). Starting from its very first issue, I read Daisuki for a year or two, but for some reason (maybe the cancellation of Kare Kano?) I stopped reading it for years until I recently thought I’d give it another try.

Daisuki 11/2011-01/2012 still look very much like the issues from eight years ago. Each issue contains 1-2 episodes (of about 30 pages) from 6 series. The main difference is that one episode in each issue is printed in monochrome colour, e.g. magenta on white instead of black on white. Whatever. The series currently featured in Daisuki are, roughly from best to worst (in my opinion): Twinkle Stars (Hoshi wa Utau, by Natsuki Takaya, the author of Fruits Basket which also ran in Daisuki), in which the initial premise of a highschool stargazing club is all but neglected in favour of a straightforward tale of friendship and romance. Not the worst thing that can happen. Maid-Sama (Kaichō wa Maid-sama!, by Hiro Fujiwara) exploits the maid café phenomenon quite cleverly by having the tough and feisty protagonist lead a double life as a submissive waitress. But, again, by Act 46 (Daisuki 11/2011) this premise doesn’t play much of a role. Mishonen Produce (by Kaoru Ichinose) is the most accessible series, due to its overall shortness (4 volumes) and the fact that we’re starting at “Produce 4” (i.e. episode 4) here. There’s also a nice, almost metafictional element in the references to the fictitious shōjo manga series the heroine is inspired by. Skip Beat! (by Yoshiki Nakamura) seems to have been running since forever – we’re at Act 128 now. I still remember it from when I first read Daisuki, years ago. I didn’t like this superficial breaking-into-showbusiness tale then, and I don’t like it much now. The tankōbons of Vampire Knight (by Matsuri Hino) have been quite successful in Germany, but I guess reading only episodes 62-64 is not the best way to grasp an epic mystery tale. Alice Academy (Gakuen Alice, by Tachibana Higuchi) is another mystery series that I don’t really get, and the fact that it’s centered around pre-teens doesn’t make it more appealing to me.

So what to make of Daisuki? Do people read it to select the series they’re going to buy, or do they enjoy and collect it for its own sake? Does it have enough influence to twist the German-language market in favour of Hakusensha titles, or do similar publisher deals have this effect anyway? Is Daisuki a representative showcase of the Japanese shōjo scene, or even of all the titles that get translated into German? Is the German manga anthology magazine an endangered species that needs to be protected, or is it just a dinosaur, a relic from a bygone age that doesn’t really fit in today’s market? Anyway, I think I’m going to read the next issue too.

Rating: ● ● ● ○ ○