Sunday, August 23, 2015

Anime and Manga 101: Introduction

In the long while I've been off the blog, I seem to have been spending all my time working practicing crying over the misery that is making reeds watching a lot of anime.  I've mentioned my love of anime/manga on the blog before, but my recent descent into almost exclusively watching anime and a brief conversation on Twitter with someone who mentioned they wished they had a guide to anime and manga got me thinking.  In short, I have a new feature (do I have other features? Is this a thing I do?), and without further ado let's begin our first class!

First, a little background on your teacher.  (You may call me Sensei.) I didn't grow up reading manga or watching anime, and although I'd say it's definitely growing in popularity (well, at least the latter) it's definitely not a part of mainstream American culture.  In fact, the only reason I started watching anime at all was because I was horribly, horribly ill my sophomore year.  I was vomiting every 10 minutes for a full 24 hours (Literally. I timed it.) and when you're that sick it's pretty much impossible to focus on anything at all.  It just so happens that it was during one of those short breaks on tv where all the shows are on hiatus for a couple weeks and I was desperate for ANYTHING to take my mind off being that sick.  As I was browsing through Hulu, I stumbled across a show that I remember a middle school friend of mine being totally obsessed with - Inuyasha.

Let's just say it's a miracle that I ever watched anime again.*
*Don't watch Inuyasha. Just don't do it. Seriously.

Luckily, I am a plucky heroine and started Fruits Basket after like 23904812021342334 of Inuyasha NOT GETTING THE FREAKING SHARDS. SERIOUSLY HOW LONG DOES THAT TAKE???? and a new love was born!  While I hadn't actively avoided anime growing up - a combination of having no time and not being allowed to watch tv for most of my childhood did that - I did actively avoid manga.  I thought it was something only really nerdy people did (and be honest, I'm not sure that's entirely wrong. I know people who only watch anime, but the people who really love anime are the ones who read manga. And I don't know anyone who only reads manga).  Well, not long after my love for anime was solidified, a friend HORRIBLY DECEIVED me (but that's a story for another day) and I got drawn into manga.  In his defense, it's still my favourite ongoing manga, so I suppose I should be thanking him.

But Sensei, you might be thinking, why are you wasting our precious class time with this story?  I use it to show you that I didn't find anime until I was well into adulthood.  (Ok, technically I guess I'd only been an adult for a year or two. WHATEVER. DETAILS.) And while I didn't grow up with anime, I have definitely spent the past six years making up for lost time.  So what does that all mean?  I guarantee you there is an anime out there for you.  That's right - I used the words GUARANTEE.  So, put your trust and faith in me, and I will lead you to the anime for you!

Teach me the way of the horse sensei!. . Hill Wm MIN? BEEN’ THINGS. MY SWEET Mill SHAH HUN FEM}!. Colt sure has grown up.

Before we get started on specific anime, we've got some basics we need to get covered.  Most people have many misconceptions about anime.  Point in case - my father's reaction upon hearing that I was watching anime:  "WHAT?? You mean that animated PORN???"  (Despite my many attempts at explaining that anime does not equal porn, that would be like saying all literature is literotica I'm pretty sure he still believes that anime is animated porn.)  The other main stigma is that it's only for children, but as most of my students here are young adult bloggers, I'm guessing that won't be a hard stigma to overcome.  Anime is just as diverse as our literature - there's anime out there for any age and any interest, and you'll pretty quickly learn what you like and what you don't like in your anime.

When you start watching anime, or particularly when reading manga, you'll probably notice some terms while searching for new stories (and occasionally in the manga itself) that you won't recognize.  We're going to start today's class by touching on what some of those terms are.  Today we're only going to focus on the terms the Japanese use for which audience the manga or anime is being marketed to as it's a good place to start when looking for manga.

Audience type is decided by which magazine publishes the manga.  In Japan, where the mangas are first released, they're released chapter by chapter rather than entire volumes.  (I'm not well-versed enough in comics to know if that's how we do it here too).  Each chapter is usually around 30 pages, and they're released anywhere from a weekly to bi-monthly basis. (Don't be concerned that you can only get a chapter at a time - if the manga does well enough they're published as volumes like we do with graphic novels).  The magazine each manga is published in has a specific audience they market to - Shojo Beat, for example, publishes chapters from manga that is  marketed for girls.  As we know from our giant blend that is young adult, audience level often has little to do with what type of story you are going to find, so while I give you generalizations for each audience level below, just keep that in mind.  In fact, in researching which mangas were what I was surprised to find that many of the ones I had thought were for men were for boys and that quite a few I had thought were for girls were actually marketed for men.  So while I give these terms for you as a good place to choose your first story from, I definitely recommend using the manga or anime you choose as a springboard for choosing your next one rather than sticking exclusively in one audience level.

This image (courtesy of Ningen) is from El Cazador de la Bruja, a fun anime with some kickass ladies.

This is manga typically geared towards boys (below 18).  It usually has a low emphasis on romance, a male lead,  and usually encompasses more sci-fi/fantasy/action genres.  That being said, don't think because this is a younger genre that you won't encounter mature themes - any of you who recognize Death Note or Attack on Titan wouldn't consider those light fare.  It's just like Young Adult fiction - you get a wide range of subject matter.

You might know: Pokemon, Attack on Titan
My favourites: Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Darker Than Black

This image comes from Koi dano Ai dano (but is redrawn by Yabuki-you) which is tied with Skip Beat! for favourite ongoing manga.

This is manga geared towards girls (below 18).  The artwork tends to be much more delicate than shounen or seinen (and it usually has a lot of flowers and stars thrown in for good measure haha!)  It is almost entirely comprised of either magical girls (think Sailor Moon) or more contemporary/slice of life plots.  They almost always have a school setting and have a much heavier focus on romantic relationships than shounen or seinen.  The latter stories (which are the bulk of the genre)  are directly comparable to our contemporary YA novels, and as with our contemporary YA the stories can range from fluffy and cute to more serious slice-of-life stories.

You might know: Boys Over Flowers, Fruits Basket
My favourites: Skip Beat!, Cat Street

This is another all time favourite (and incidentally has one of my favourite opening songs).  This is a good one for newbies - it doesn't have some of the tropes/quirks you come to expect in anime and manga!

This is manga geared towards women (18+).  It takes on a much more realistic view on relationships (and may delve into more mature subject material where that is concerned, although it's rarely extensive or graphic), whereas shoujo is more idealized relationships.  It also focuses more on careers and familial and platonic relationships as well.

You might know: Honey and Clover, Nodame Cantabile
My favourites: Princess Jellyfish, Nana

xxxHolic has by far my favourite art out of all the anime and mangas I've seen.  I want to frame like every cover and inner color pictures because they're all so gorgeous.  Seriously - google image xxxHolic. The entire search pages is freaking beautiful.

 This is manga geared towards men (18+).  It's pretty much all-encompassing when it comes to genres, and to be quite honest I usually mistake mangas in this audience for other audiences.

You might know: Berserk, Battle Royale
My favourites: xxxHolic, Angel Beats!

You might be thinking, well this information sure is interesting and all, but I still don't know where to start! Should I read the manga or watch the anime? Where do I even get all these things? And wait...hold on...isn't everything in Japanese????  Well don't panic, I've got you covered -


Unfortunately due to this unexpected fire alarm (aka blogger deleting a full week's worth of work so I had to start the whole bloody lesson plan over from scratch), this week's class has been cut short.  But no worries, I promise next class we'll talk about where to start and how to get there!  Your homework is to think about what anime you think you'd like to start!  While this is a level 101 class, so it is geared towards anime newbies (especially these first few lessons), all levels of otaku are welcome and accepted and as always class discussions and recommendations are always welcome below!  (And remember, class discussions help to keep your participation grades up!)

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