Letter to the Boston Globe

In the piece "Got plot? Complex thoughts? Imagination?" By Geoff Edgers, Globe Staff, 5/26/2002:

Mr. Edgers writes of manga (Japanese comics) that it is "where boringly drawn and supersexed Japanese heroes fight evil" -- thereby in one phrase condemning an entire cultural medium.

I will be the first to admit that _some_ manga fits the stereotype, but let me also be the first to insist that, like the paperback novel, manga comes in all sorts of genres and depths, from silly and shallow to incredibly profound and enlightening. I have seen many, many moral and ethical teachings given out in a non-patronizing way in the finest of manga.

It is sad to note that cultural blinders continue to allow this kind of easy dismissal of something poorly understood, simply because it is different and unexplored by some. As for the import Japanese anime that makes it to our shores, let me point out that, at least in part, it is the American taste the importers cater to, and does not necessarily reflect the range of what is available in Japan itself.

(I have a 1997 essay available on the anime/manga stereotype issue at: http://www.ex.org/2.8/45-essay_stereotypes.html)

Note: I sent this via the Boston Globe web form early 5/28/02. At first the one-line condemnation of manga didn't bother me much, but today I was remembering a very touching scene from the children's manga Doraemon, wherein our hero, a young boy who is bottom of the heap academically and socially, travels back in time and meets his loving grandmother (who had died some years before). It was a very moving story. Hence, the thought of all of manga, including this one, being so cheaply and easily dismissed as "boring" and characterized by "supersexed heroes" really "ticked me off," so to speak. And I note with irony that Plot, Complex Story, and Imagination are exactly what good manga (and anime) contain.

So, while I don't know if this letter will be posted, I do know that this kind of cultural blindness can do nothing but increase prejudice and intolerance. What we need in this world right now is more understanding and compassion.