Agence France-Presse reports that Japanese manga comic books are becoming more popular in America:
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man are confronting new rivals in the US comic book world, as young Americans are devouring Japan's "manga" comics depicting wandering samurais and cheeky Tokyo schoolchildren.Actually, U.S. comics don't either, Linda-chan.
Linda Pfeiffer, 15, never got hooked on her brother's comic books, which glorify muscular heroes complete with superpowers. Instead, she is absorbed by Japanese comic book characters to whom she can relate, "even if they live far away from here."
Unlike US comics, "mangas don't always have a happy ending," Pfeiffer added as she scoured a Washington area comic book store.
Now, perhaps it's unfair to expect a 15-year old girl to be familiar with a graphic novel from 1987 -- even though it's widely regarded as one of the greatest comics of all time, and almost certainly inspired Pixar's smash hit movie The Incredibles. Some people even credit it with previsioning the 9-11 attacks, fourteen years early.
What's more interesting here is the false dichotomy the article establishes between American and foreign cultures.
We Americans like "muscular heroes". Brawn over brains. And fittingly, as the world's lone superpower, we want our heroes to have, well, superpowers. We need action, you see, and pronto. We're not much for talking things through. If there's a problem, there should also be a nice, neat, satisfying solution.
In other countries, like Japan for example, they're more sophisticated. They like complex, dare I say it... nuanced characters. And hey, if you've got a problem, there just might not be anything you can do about it, so deal.
Of course, that view doesn't account for Japanese manga favorites like Kinnikuman ("Muscle Man"). I'm not a fan, but here's a synopsis, unedited by me, of a typical story line:
Brokkenman was killed by Ramenman in the ring. Brokken Jr., seeing this made him want revenge. For a year Jr. trained hard. Went undefeated for that year until finally he had his chance at Ramenman. Jr. Entered the 2nd Chojin Olympic tournament (The first one was where Brokkenman was killed). Hoping to get the chance to face him. He had his wish in the second round. Unfortunately he lost to Ramenman in what was a cement-ring death match. In the match itself, both men took a beating from one another. But it was Ramenman that, of course, won, to move on in the tournament. Ramenman told Jr. after the match, to forget about his father and train for himself, and he would become a much better wrestler. After that, Ramenman collapsed and was taken to the hospital with Jr., and put in the same room. Since Ramenman still had to fight another match, he kept training and not resting. That is where Brokken Jr. became concerned and ended up helping Ramenman for his next match in the tournament against Wars Man. Finishing Moves: The Claw, Karate Chop.If anyone's guilty of wanting simple, unchallenging stories here, it's the AFP reporter.