For the first time, I was able to attend an international Manga conference — and I’m ecstatic about this. For that reason, I’ll write a journal of what I have done there.
Last January 23, 2014, I was at the Leong Hall of the Ateneo de Manila University to take part in the second day of the 15th International Manga Conference, with the title “Manga and the Manga-esque: New Perspectives to a Global Culture.” This also includes the 6th Women’s Manga Conference, so most of the content is not only focused on the ‘Manga-esque’ (to be discussed later); but also on the women who are either the focus of it or doing it.
Based on the schedule I was given, the First Day is filled mostly with Filipino speakers talking about the situation of the Manga industry in the country. I wish I could’ve attended that if not for my schedule.
Before anything else, what does “Manga-esque” mean? These are the works that are similar to Manga but in a global perspective — most artists prefer to call themselves as comic artists; but for those who prefer to call themselves as Manga artists even if they are not from Japan, they have found their own creation styles derived from Japanese comics (Manga) that they use in different ways. It’s not Manga, but it feels like one — that is how I can deduce the definition of “Manga-esque,” but I will have to talk to the head of the conference in any case that I might be wrong about that [and I will update this post as necessary].
Moving on to the second day, what I have written on my agenda is this: (1) Make a video report of this [To be processed in the next two weeks or as early as possible], (2) Talk to most of the speakers and panelists, (3) Focus on [I actually wrote “Talk about”] Indonesia’s Creative Industry panels [and hopefully I can talk more about this with my friends to Indonesia’s KAORI Nusantara], (4) Meet with some of the attendees, (5) Get a steno pad to write on, among other things. Comrade Alex was supposed to attend if not for her day job, though I did not felt alone because I have Robert from AniZone with me.
Plenary Session 2: Women’s Manga in Japan
We start the first day with the second plenary session with Ogi Fusami of Chikushi Jogakuen University, Associate Professor Kotaro Nagasaki of Daito Bunka University and Yukari Yoshihara of University of Tsukuba. I find each of their topics interesting, but I love the last presentation from Yoshihara-san on the Shakespeare plot device being used in Manga.
Shakespeare as a plot device
Yoshihara-san points out three things, two of them are (1) Overview of Manga with Shakespearean icons [elements], and the (2) Adaptation of Shakespearean works. What makes this interesting to me is the thought that this makes sense — in an Anime fan’s perspective, I’ve seen a lot of Romeo and Juliet scenes being referenced in Anime series like K-On! and Akuma no Riddle, notwithstanding Romeo x Juliet [which I still haven’t finished watching after the Animax Asia reruns back at the time I had cable TV].
Even though Shakespeare is influential among Japanese, its popularity is going down. Shakespearean works don’t tend to succeed these days because it is the same story over and over, and it’s natural that you get bored being told the same story over and over again, even with some major or minor derivations. Still, why authors use Shakespeare as a plot device? Plain and simple, it has no copyright fee, she said.
Take note that William Shakespeare passed away more than an hundred years ago, and if we are going to base it on copyright law, a creation is set to public domain. [See “Expiration of Copyright” on Wikipedia’s article on Public Domain for more information.]
“How influential is Romeo and Juliet in Japan?”
This is the question I’ve asked during the Q&A session. Before answering that, Yoshihara-san said that the three most popular Shakespeare works are (1) Romeo and Juliet, (2) Hamlet, and (3) Richard III. Romeo and Juliet is influential because of its similarities to Japan’s societal history, dating back to the time of the feudal lords and yakuza families. Ninja clans also have some sort of a story similar to it. As with additional references, she noted a series called “Mirai Shakespeare” wherein one feature of it deals with issues with immigration. Long story short, its vibe is strong among Japanese, making it a popular story to retell over and over again in school plays during cultural festivals, as depicted in Anime.
Ogi-san mentioned the rise of Female Manga artists and how Manga-esque creations are born [or made if you prefer], with mentions of Feminization and Europeanization of Shoujo Manga, in which I remember Glass Mask for some reason.
She also mentioned this thing called Comics-Prose, which was coined by Queenie Chen. “Japanese Manga require more images than any other medium,” but Chan changed the Manga into Comics-Prose by only drawing the most crucial scenes into a story with her creation “Small Shen” published in 2012. Come to think of it, isn’t this similar to Japan’s Light Novels?
Other mentions in this panel [with the title “Manga-esque Hybridity Coming Out of Women’s Manga”] include the local rom-com comic “Love is in the Bag,” Priya Shakti’s anti-violence against women advocacy and the absorption of Manga into arts, thus creating Manga-esque works.
One thing I remember the most in this panel is “A woman can only produce good women’s comics,” something that makes sense in the domination of Female artists in the industry. [For some reason, I remember Nozaki-kun as Sakiko Yumeno, but that’s just me.]
Nakagaki-san’s presentation is about Shungicu Uchida‘s works and how it deals with the issues of ageing women. Uchida, who is also an actress, depicts an illustration of a woman’s life in her works — some of them receiving film adaptations that she herself have directed.
Her works, such as “We are reproducing,” “Ladies in their Thirties are still beautiful (2007),” “Pleasure Time: Wants to be Woman Eternally,” “Visiting with Pekorosu’s Mother (2012)” and “Rail Joint: Can’t stay faithful to my husband” are some of her works that are mentioned.
He pointed out three takeaways from Uchida’s works: (1) Her generation grew up with a developing Manga industry, from Shoujo Manga to Ladies’ Comics, (2) Women’s life paths are diversified, and (3) Uchida’s works could also cover life in retirement.
Discussions with the Panellists
A task completed in my list is to have a discussion with most of the panellists while everyone’s taking their breaks. I’ve talked to Kobe University’s JSPS Research Fellow Dr. Marco Pellitteri, Kanagawa University’s James Welker, Ateneo de Manila’s Hansley Juliano and Febriani Shihonbing.
Pellitteri and Welker are also members of the Anime Manga Research Circle’s Mailing List, in which I am subscribed to. These two people are the most active in the mailing list, which is spearheaded by Lawrence Eng on Yahoo! Groups in 2002.
On Europe’s Anime Fix
Pellitteri had his presentation on Day 1 featuring his research in Manga and Anime studies in Europe. In my encounter with him, I learned that narrowcasting is changing how Europe have its Anime fix.
In Europe, Anime is known thanks to national television, but the times have changed as the cost of importing programs from Japan have increased, and the advent of narrowcasting and the internet have made Anime much more available to viewers either through satellite broadcasting or video-on-demand. I’ve felt a sense of dé javu here, especially with the mention of satellite broadcasting.
The Philippines is set to switch over from Analog to Digital broadcasting by 2020, and I am excited over its developments. He also added this: “South East Asia has a diverse audience.” In short, what’s happening in Europe may have happened in other countries.
During lunch break, I met another panelist by the name of Prof. Hansley Juliano. Hans, as he is preferred to be addressed, is a lecturer at the AdMU’s Department of Political Science. He has his presentation on Female Imagery in Shounen Manga, of which he is scheduled to address later on. Apparently, I think I introduced myself to him more than me being introduced to him, as we talk about the community these days, if that’s how I can put it.
The most memorable thing that we have talked about is how Naruto’s fanbase is: “A very big fanbase can evolve to a very entitled fanbase,” citing the conflict between who will be the one true pairing Naruto shall stick to.
On the “Crossing Continents” segment on Lolicon
During the last coffee break, I introduced myself to Dr. James Welker. At first I thought he was a fan, but he clarified that he is researching on fan culture. Hey, that’s what I am partly doing as well!
We then talked about that BBC Crossing Continents segment on Lolicon [MP3], and as with the reactions that it has brought, he was also disappointed on the outcome. We both agree that James Fletcher’s interview with the anti-Lolicon advocate had the loudest voice in that segment, and that’s where it starts to feel biased. Dr. Welker will have his dissertation on Yuri — which is his first time delving with the said subculture, he mentioned — later on.
On Indonesia’s Creative Industry
Most of the reasons why I attended the conference is due to the Indonesian panels. If you can remember, I have written about the similarities between the Filipino and Indonesian communities, and this is a good chance to know more about them.
The Indonesian Comics industry is what I did not assume at all, with all those hype over Japanese Manga. That’s what I’ve learned in two of the panels that I have observed — both of them have Tohoku University’s Febriani Sihombing in it, as moderator and panel speaker respectively.
In the one Sihombing moderated, “Women in Comics in Indonesia,” I’ve understand that Indonesian comics are considered as graphic ‘novels,’ placed next to the much-favored Japanese Manga in book stores or sold in convenience stores as with some of our local publishers’ method of distribution. The said panel include artists Jhosephine Tanuwidjaya and Stephani Soejono as panelists.
This is followed by her presentation on “Komik Indonesia,” where she showed a discussion case study on three Indonesian Comics Exhibitions after the year 2000. During the 1980’s there is no comics activity in the said country — it only went active in the 1990’s, when Japanese Manga gained popularity.
The variety of Komik Indonesia is diversified, and there was a hard time sorting each aspect out. The good thing about Komik Indonesia is that you can actually see reviews of it in newspapers. I tend to neglect book reviews on a newspaper’s Lifestyle section, so this comes as a surprising thing to me, for a lack of word.
Criticism in Indonesia’s comics industry differs from time to time — First, “Foreign comics are aggressively attacking Indonesia,” then there’s “Foreign comics styles are to enrich comics artists’ visual aggression so they can create unique works […],” and finally, “Foreign comics, especially Japanese comics is a hegemony that needs to be opposed.” These thoughts obtained respectively from three different comics exhibitions in Indonesia show that they may have that love-hate relationship with foreign comics, or Japanese Manga in that matter.
During the Q&A session, one of attendees asked, “Did the entrance of Japanese comics made Indonesian comics more Japanese?” This is an interesting question, in which she answered yes — in terms of style and format of release. She then digressed that Indonesian comics are run by Indonesians, and are not Japanese Manga — it’s Komik Indonesia.
I was able to have a chance to ask Ms. Sihombing her thoughts on Re:ON! Comics, something I mentioned in my article last year; and I learned that Re:ON!’s predecessors drop out after three to four releases, whereas they are on their 11th release.
The thing about Re:ON!, she answers, is that they have a good funding source (its artists are well-paid); and that it is headed by a Manga artist who is taught by a Japanese artist in the pioneer Manga school in Indonesia.
I’ve glanced at some of Re:ON’s works, and they do have the elements of Japanese Manga on their works.
Manga-esque as an advocacy
The content of the conference is so diverse, that some of them talk about not only self-expression but also expressing advocacy.
Let’s backtrack a bit to the panel that Ms. Shihonbing moderated — it should be noted that in the recent Indonesian elections, comics is used to spread the word about then candidate Joko Widodo.
Moving on to other panels, we have China’s Luo Rongrong and Malaysia’s Shieko Reto. Rongrong’s artist panel is about her works that uses rabbits as a symbolism to voice out her reactions, while Reto’s case is about transgender rights.
Reto has advocated transgender rights through her works, hitting on media entities that “kill”transgenders by showing news that are against them, and getting the hate out of the system.
We can also consider Shungicu Uchida’s works pertaining to ageing women as an advocacy as well.
On Women and Manga
This segment will now discuss the following panels: Wollongong University’s Kristine Michelle Santos on “Girls’ Dojinshi in the Philippines,” Rissho University’s Giancarla Unser-Schutz “On the Role of Characterization and Engagement in Shojo-Manga as a Genre,” Dr. Welker on “Defining Yuri Fandom in Japan,” Prof. Juliano on “Female Imagery in Shonen Manga and Japan’s Masculinist Cultural Nationalism,” and The Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures’ Dr. Ryan Holmberg on “Sex Tourism, Filipina Brides and Japanese Comics.”
“Girls’ Dojinshi in the Philippines”
I found Ms. Santos’ presentation quite interesting — I’ve learned that the dojinshi culture in the country had Filipino-Chinese traces of it. Also, it should be noted that she used the 1987 Newtex commercial “Pagka’t Dalaga ka na” (Because you’re a teen [girl] now) as a reference.
“Defining Yuri Fandom in Japan”
Dr. Welker’s presentation on Yuri (Girl-on-Girl relationships) talks about its roots, and how it went from a strictly female audience to open up to both male and female genders. As of the moment I’m trying to understand his dissertation, but we do expect that it will be available online through Erica Friedman‘s Yuri-themed blog blog Okazu.
“On the Role of Characterization and Engagement in Shojo-Manga as a Genre”
I’m still under the Nozaki-kun hype, and if not for my lapse in observing Prof. Unser-Schutz’s presentation, I may have found this interesting presentation more valuable than other panels.
I remember three things from her presentation: (1) Shoujo Manga uses more names compared to Shounen Manga, especially in dialogue, (2) In Shoujo Manga, characters change in different situations, and (3) Shounen Manga is a space of fantasy, while Shoujo Manga is a space of intimacy.
“Female Imagery in Shonen Manga and Japan’s Masculinist Cultural Nationalism”
Prof. Juliano’s presentation talks about female characters in Shounen Manga, with Fullmetal Alchemist’s Winry Rockbell, Naruto’s Hinata Hyuga and Shingeki no Kyojin’s Mikasa Ackerman as subjects.
He noted that “Shounen Manga is in itself subject to fluxes that can be exploited for the reframing of representation of women towards less-traditional means.”
While some did not agree in regards to some of his points, it should be noted that a suggestion to include Sword Art Online in the study has been raised.
“Sex Tourism, Filipina Brides and Japanese Comics”
Dr. Holmberg’s presentation took a wild turn afterwards — I happen to be in the front seat and I just heard comments ranging from mentioning how insensitive the presentation was to racism, in which I asked, “…, do I see boxing here?” Why so?
His panel features scenes from various Manga he had referenced, in which I can summarize each scene like this: A Japanese man gets a Filipina as his wife and they had sex. The topic is about sex tourism, which could be dealt with one term that we know: “Japayuki.” [For further reading on this, I found this podcast that is a part of The Filipina Writing Project interesting.]
The ‘insensitivity’ hurled at Dr. Holmberg is caused by the exposure of genitalia, something that is deemed inappropriate in a conservative location like the Ateneo de Manila. That’s what I am thinking. I was thinking that he found these reactions surprising, knowing that he had his presentation reviewed beforehand.
One thing that I learned from his presentation, amid all those reactions, is that a Japanese version of a Filipino comic similar to the ones being shown on local tabloids found its way to Yahoo! Auctions, and is something that has value to him as a Manga historian.
To wrap up my journal on the 15th International Manga Conference, I would like to explain why we need to go to events like these. I would like to refer to the other mentioned definitions of the term “Otaku” — we know it as a derogatory term brought by Japan’s media coverage of a serial killer during the 1980’s, but as referenced by features such as “Otaku no Video,” these people are addicted to information. [I suggest you to read Volker Grassmuck’s 1990 article “‘I am alone, but not lonely’: Japanese Otaku-Kids colonize the Realm of Information and MediaA Tale of Sex and Crime from a faraway Place” posted on Lawrence Eng’s website — this is the earliest study on Otaku as far as I know.]
Most of you who have read my posts here on this website know that I have observed not just the Philippine Anime and Cosplay fanbases; I’ve also observed voice actresses based in Japan [1, 2], and are following fellow seiota (as I would like to call them) online. I know that coming to a conference like this is not just a form of bragging rights, but a “knowledge therapy” that I am happy to take a lot of times. Personal reasons aside, I believe that increasing my knowledge can increase my chances of remembering things that I should not even forget.
Moving back, why we need to go to such events? Aside from personal interaction and the feeling of camaraderie that you can also found in going to fan conventions, going to conferences helps you gain knowledge of the industries or topics you want to talk about or place yourself into.
With these things said, I hope you enjoyed my two-part journal on the 15th International Manga Conference and the 6th Women’s Manga Conference. I am looking forward to visit the next conference soon.
I would like to thank the panelists that have shared their research, and the Director of AdMU’s Japanese Studies Program Dr. Karl Ian Uy Cheng Chua for holding the conference. I would like to give mentions to Robert Lim of AniZone for accompanying me during that day, to Dr. Marco Pellitteri and Dr. James Welker, Prof. Hansley Juliano and Ms. Febriani Sihombing for the short but worthwhile encounters that I’ve had.