furyofvissarion: (Default)
[personal profile] furyofvissarion
Straight from the Heart: Gender, Intimacy, and the Cultural Production of Shojo Manga - Jennifer S. Prough. I enjoyed this book a lot -- I am too lazy (as ever!) to write a comprehensive review, which I feel like is a disservice to this book, but here are some quick thoughts:

Prough based this book on interviews with shojo manga editors & artists (she notes, unsurprisingly, that it was much harder to gain access to artists & the interviews with them were heavily circumscribed). Human relationships are explored not only as the focus of the plots in shojo manga, but also in how it's produced. I was fascinated to read in detail about the exchange of ideas between young girl readers of shojo & the publishers -- I think it's naive to consider that this same examination of what's popular among fans doesn't affect, say, cartoons & comics in the US, but I liked reading about just how orchestrated this is for shojo manga readers: detailed surveys (with a chance to win prizes, natch) to find out what's popular, which affects storylines.

But then there's also many other ways readers are encouraged to engage further with the comics aside from just reading them: the surveys, but also mailing away to get character goods & other items (& of course, buying one's own copy of things in order to get furoku...), & -- most interesting to me -- the way new artists are groomed from the existing pool of readers through contests like the manga school ones, where publishers will print winning entries & sometimes even assign an editor to the most promising entries, with the intent of encouraging them to debut as a mangaka themselves. The readers grow up w/the manga, provide feedback, get messages themselves (on what girls want/what they should [as decided by the publishers w/input from the readers]), & then some of them become mangaka & continue the cycle.

Another astonishing thing right now is that most artists working in shojo manga are new ones; the percentage of established artists has gone way down. This seems to be partly because it's thought that young women are most able to write the types of storylines that girls want in shojo manga, having most recently been girls themselves. & yes, what I saw in Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi does seem to be based in truth: shojo manga artists are overwhelmingly women, & most of the editors are men -- & the few women editors are often shunted off into a lower-pressure less-prestigious career track (based on assumptions about family & children, of course).

The last chapter of the book focuses on the Gals! manga (which Fujii Mihona apparently wrote while she was still in high school, & her mom was her main assistant!!) as an examination of how sexuality is represented in shojo manga, here mostly the panic about enjo kosai in the '90s, which Gals! addresses by suggesting that hanging out with your friends in Shibuya is better than engaging in romantic/sexual relationships with older men for money, while at the same time, as anyone who's read Gals! or seen the Super Gals! anime knows, consumerism (mostly fast fashion) is still held up as something fun & worthy (& a way to participate in social relationships). Which... kind of expresses something about shojo manga as a whole, too, I think: lots of readers love the human relationships (in the stories, that they are able to share with their friends by being fans of the same manga, etc.) but there's also the consumerist aspect.

A Sociology of Japanese Ladies' Comics: Images of the Life, Loves, and Sexual Fantasies of Adult Japanese Women - Ito Kinko. This is an overview of "ladies' comics" in Japan, as a genre that emerged in the '80s distinct from shojo comics (in that it tended to feature more realistic, ordinary protagonists, etc.). There were things I found interesting about it -- like tracing the themes of ladies' comics back to women's literature in the Heian period, & some of the more extended interviews/profiles she did of notable women (an interview with Watanabe Masako, apparently the oldest working female mangaka in Japan; & the profile of Ito Noe, a feminist anarchist killed by police after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923). And in general I appreciated the look at the themes of ladies' comics, & how & why they appeal so much to mainstream Japanese women as a form of escapism & sometimes advice & a safe place to explore new ideas, particularly around sexuality.

I was troubled by a propensity for blanket statements in the book, though. Mainstream cultural institutions certainly have essentializing principles that they operate around. But I felt like Ito could've emphasized the assumptions under which ladies' comics work instead of also implicitly agreeing with them herself as the author. Here's one example: "The sensation that she is totally desirable and the confidence that comes with being loved by a man are very important for any woman's emotional and psychological well-being" (184). Porn is also defined as being plotless harmful stuff for men, by men, about women, & the pornographic aspects of ladies' comics are therefore described as being something else (yes, the erotica vs. porn thing is mentioned). Queer women are mentioned briefly, but in general the book seemed to operate under the assumption that women seek sexual and romantic relationships with men: which is quite a different thing from noting that ladies' comics, the subject of the book, work under this assumption.

Date: 2012-01-07 03:28 pm (UTC)
owlectomy: A panda in a barrel, reading a book (panda)
From: [personal profile] owlectomy
Ooh, I really want to read the shojo manga book! I subscribed to Ribon for a year in high school and I always loved reading the section in the back where they talked about the manga contest submissions, and I thought the editors were always very constructive in their criticism and very kind about what worked and what didn't, so that's something that I'd love to learn more about.

Date: 2012-01-08 03:16 am (UTC)
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
From: [personal profile] oyceter
OOoo a book on ladies' comics! Sad that it has the blanket statements I feel like get tossed around in a lot of pop culture studies, but glad there's something dedicated to the genre.

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