Introduction: Manga Beyond Critique?
This introduction to the special issue “Manga Culture and Critique” takes as its point of departure a stark contrast to English-language comics discourse, namely that in contemporary Japan manga is only rarely expected to serve as a means of social critique, at least insofar as the by now predominant notion is concerned, i.e. manga as entertaining graphic narratives first serialized in magazines, inviting readers’ affective investment and fans’ participation in more ways than reading. The special-issue articles, however, consider more notions of manga: single-image satirical cartoons on the one pole, “AMO (anime-manga-otaku) culture” on the other. And even if focusing on serialized fiction, they illuminate the vital difference between gendered genres as well as between mainstream and alternative productions. In its general pursuit of socio-critical impacts of manga culture, this special issue concentrates not only on “manga as critique” as tied to a political, and as such societal, stance, but also on manga “criticism,” that is, the reviewing of specific primary and secondary texts, including the already existing body of theoretical accounts. As outlined in the introduction, through the individual discussions of cartoons, graphic narratives, and related criticism, this special issue demonstrates the potential of textual analyses shaped by media-studies concerns, and it suggests to conceptualize manga not as something beyond critique, but as a challenge to widen the very notion of critique, to go beyond traditional biases between text and context, aesthetics and society, affect and reason.