Rocket Bomber - Manga Moveable Feast

Thank YOU, everyone, for participating in the November 2012 Thankful Manga Feast

filed under , 26 November 2012, 12:58 by

Before my closing remarks, I get to share one two Three final submissions:

Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts, and for sharing, and for making this a small but successful event! I look forward to December’s MMF, Hikaru no Go/Game Manga, to be hosted by Animemiz’s Scribblings.

Let me also thank, once again, all the original creators and publishers who bring manga into the world, and all the hard working folks who bring manga to our shores. My life is certainly richer for it, and I now know that feeling is shared by many fans.

I might have just one more submission myself for the MMF, but in researching the early American licensees and some of the very first books, I discovered a topic much larger than I anticipated. Since the essay veered off track, I chose not to post it. (I’ll be saving the research and the links, though, so I might have an MMF-unrelated manga history post at some future date.) If I can clean it up and simplify it a bit, I’ll certainly add another short link to the November 2012 MMF permanent archive.

If you were running late and also wanted your article added to the MMF hub page, just let me know: I’ll be glad to do so and will also be happy to blurb it on my homepage.

Thanks again to everyone, especially our readers, and we’ll see you next month for another MMF!



Rest, and Reflection

filed under , 24 November 2012, 22:40 by

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One important part of the holiday is the opportunity to take time off from the usual weekly grind.

Tonight, we’re taking a little time off from the Feast as we recognize that fact. In my call for participation I had set aside Sunday for “quiet and reflection” but it would seem we are just a skosh ahead of schedule on this front.

For those who have submitted links to tonight’s roundup: please bear with us for just a bit longer – There will be a link round-up post tomorrow. And thank you.

For those of you who are wondering if you missed the Thankful Manga Feast: Quite happily, the answer to your question is No! Plenty of time left to contribute: not only will there be a link round-up tomorrow, I also plan a post for “leftovers” on Monday.

After all: it’s not Thanksgiving without leftovers.



A Thankful Manga Feast: Friday Roundup

filed under , 23 November 2012, 22:48 by

Do not mistake the brevity of this recap as some sort of slight on our contributors: the fault is mine. I don’t have quite the time to embelish or embroider this post [or contribute my own essay today] but these submissions should be given full consideration despite my cursory links:

Tomorrow’s seed topic, should you need one, is recycled from today: “I can’t believe they licensed this but am I ever thankful they did”

Once again: send your links to matt[at]rocketbomber.com or tweet them to me @ProfessorBlind



A Thankful Manga Feast: Thursday Roundup

filed under , 22 November 2012, 23:51 by

For our ‘main course’ today , we had a few more submissions, for which I am most thankful:

And before I leave you, two special posts:

Tomorrow’s seed topic, should you need one, is the ‘side dish’ of our feast: “I can’t believe they licensed this but am I ever thankful they did”

Once again: send your links to matt[at]rocketbomber.com or tweet them to me @ProfessorBlind



A Thankful MMF Daily Diary: Seldom Has So Much Been Owed by So Many to So Few

filed under , 22 November 2012, 21:18 by

[Assuming, of course, that my appropriation of the quote “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” does NOT start a flame war in the comments…]

Seldom has so much been owed by so many to so few. Manga is a niche market within a niche market; a very small part of the much larger funny-book business and one that not only doesn’t translate well to TV and cinema box office success – sometimes the manga doesn’t even translate well into English.

Even though I speak of the ‘few’ – I know, right now, that I’m going to miss someone you know, just as surely, is worthy of praise for exactly the same reasons I cite any of the academics, scholars, publishers, editors, and booksellers below. Please add them to the comments! Hell, the first one I’d add to any list is Simon Jones — Simon, we miss you, man. I know the past couple of years have been rough; I can only hope you are in fact still with us. — I respect his privacy, though, and I won’t dig. Here, I’m also specifically asking everyone else not to dig, either. [wishing you the best, though, Simon.]

Let me get several fundamental, essential, and entirely justified first thank yous out of the way, well, first:

To the thousands of original writers, artists, and creators: Thank you. To the millions of fans in many countries, but mostly in Japan: Thank you. To the dozens of publishers just trying to keep the whole business going in the respective countries of origin (but mostly in Japan): Thank you.

Arigatou Gozaimasu – ありがとうございます

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We can complain (Americans are always complaining about something) about only getting a few headliners and then the barest of table scraps when it comes to officially licensed and translated manga in English. Our ‘scraps’ consist of dozens of series and roughly 1,000 new manga volumes every year – an annual output that puts to shame most American graphic novel publishers, especially when we consider original graphic novels over the mere collections of previously published floppy comic monthlies recycling 30 and 40 and 80 year old characters.

I’m not knocking Marvel [Disney] and DC [Time Warner] — they have their business, the überniche segment of a niche market is ours — what I’m trying to say is I could spend $10,000 on manga this year and still not be able to buy every book that came out in 2012.

I think we can all agree that Manga, Our Chosen Hobby, isn’t where it was in 2006 and isn’t coming all-the-way-back any time soon — but there are still great books coming out every year.

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As noted, my list is incomplete, but here’s a few call-outs I feel are necessary:

Jim Killen is the best friend I have whom I’ve never met, never even spoken to – hell, I don’t even ‘know’ him online. He’s the graphic novel buyer in New York for my large bookstore chain, and that means he’s fed me new manga titles for over 11 years now. I’ve never even thanked him for it. Jim isn’t as well known as some others, but he still crops up now and then; for ICv2’s pre-NYCC industry panels, for example, or as a source of recommendations at Tor.com

Jim is fighting the good fight: we all know manga sales are not at historic highs, but he’s still working to get the best titles onto normal, mainstream displays in our stores, and at least every other year is championing some initiative to raise manga’s profile in store, where new customers can discover it. – Thanks, Jim.

Kurt Hassler, at one point, was Jim’s opposite number in the Borders chain, and I think we all can agree that Borders did manga Better. Borders gambled on substantially increased sales to teens and manga was certainly part of that initiative. Kurt, personally, drove much of that business while he was at Borders – and it was no surprise when Kurt partnered with Rich Johnson in 2006 to form Yen Press under Hachette. In my most recent Manga Bestseller Chart, Yen was responsible for 23% of the Top 500 manga volumes, not bad at all considering the market leader, VIZ, has nine different imprints and a backlist that goes back 20 years.

Thanks, Kurt. You’re aces in my book.

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Even before these two men were able to break manga into a stolid, moribund bookselling industry, someone had to introduce us to manga. I think an argument can be made that there were several someones (and that anime and video games also had a substantial role to play) but there are some names that immediately spring to mind:

Fred Schodt, among other accomplishments, wrote Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics in 1983 – a book so significant it gets its own wikipedia entry [“this article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it” — really, guys? we can fix that, at least]

Fred, I don’t know if there would be any manga at all — at least as we currently know it — if you hadn’t written this book and staked out an academic homestead for manga. Adaptations would have been even less sensitive to cultural differences and abusive of the original material; we need look no further than Tokyopop’s treatment of the Battle Royale manga for a cautionary tale of what the whole industry might have become. Fred: Thank You.

Carl Horn is the mysterious Kaiser Soze of manga, as near as I can tell: he leaves no concrete traces I can link to but his fingerprints are on everything: He is an editor at Dark Horse but also listed as staff on Viz’s Banana Fish – his name is spoken reverently in manga circles (his sense of humor, and skill in writing translation notes, is particularly cited) but the man is a specter; leaving no wikipedia page, no CV on linkedin, no personal blog. Past the occasional editorial that posts to Dark Horse’s web site (or convention appearance) we might be forgiven if we thought Carl a collective figment of manga fandom. No matter who or what you are Carl: Thank You.

Way back in the darkest of dark ages, like, the 1970s, Seiji Horibuchi was doing the reverse-otaku thing: he moved from Japan to California – and after a couple of years, started exporting American culture back to Japan. After six or seven years of that, however, Seiji noticed that there was no lack of hucksters trying to sell Americana to the Japanese, but there was a significant dearth of culture going the other way. By 1986 he had made some connections with Japanese Manga publishers that eventually became Viz Media.

I don’t know if it was because of deep backing from Japanese sponsors, sheer will, a little luck, or just the combination of all three with a grim determination to publish manga: but now Viz is the clear leader in American Manga publishing, and their efforts have and continue to open up the market: finding new fans every year. Even in the absence of their magazines (Shonen Jump, Shojo Beat, and Pulp) they have built on a few key brands and are currently also attempting to leverage those titles into a full-on-digital-Viz future.

I personally hate the Shonen-Jump-Manga-Industrial-Complex for how it warps the market: but I can see the obvious benefits – and hell, some of the stories are really good. Seiji: Thank You.

Helen McCarthy is a author, publisher, academic, crafter, and fan. She’s on Twitter, too. Thank you, Helen: you are a role model for the rest of us.

Hideki ‘Henry’ Goto is the former American head of Pioneer/Geneon [now, sadly defunct] but also currently president of Aniplex of American – doing the same job for a new company. I don’t know how long you have been buying anime, but Henry Goto was once a constant – his name was on every damn good anime release for years: from Trigun to Read or Die, and on some amazing US Rondo Robe releases besides. THANK YOU HENRY.

I hate Stu Levy. But here, in this context, considering all he did: I also have to thank Stu Levy.

I’m sort of ambivilent to Carl Macek. I’m pretty sure we would never have seen Robotech without him, though, so also – in this context: I have to thank Carl Macek.

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There are three RELENTLESS MARKETERS of MANGA that I know, that I would also like to thank:

First is Dallas Middaugh, who in 2010 had the most difficult job in Manga – when Kodansha took over Del Rey’s Manga imprint by fiat – He’s still on the job, though, working hard no matter which company is listed on the spine of the books. Thank you, Dallas.

Jason Thompson wrote the book on Manga; at least, the only book to date that isn’t just an overview but an honest-to-goodness catalog at least up through 2007. This is an excercise that I feel should be ongoing, continually updated, possibly a wiki: but I’m glad it saw print at least once. For this, and your writing since, Thank You, Jason.

Last but by no means least is Ed. When I think RELENTLESS MARKETER of MANGA no one else comes to mind as readily as Ed Chavez, who tweets both personally and professionally about manga, and is the marketing director and public face of Vertical Inc besides.

I want to be you when I grow up. Thank you, Ed.

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There are so many others I need to thank, but time and space is limited. [Please add them to the comments! with appropriate links, if you can provide them.] Since the opportunities are so rare to stop and reflect: let’s all take a moment to think of who has shaped our hobby, and thank them.



A Thankful Manga Feast: Wednesday Roundup

filed under , 21 November 2012, 23:14 by

Since we’ve only five days, and since a large chunk this go-around is going to be taken up by travel and activities related to the [US] holiday, I expect this Manga Moveable Feast to be a smaller, more collegial affair.

Friends and Family, I guess we could say: welcome, internet manga family, to A Thankful Manga Feast.

The introductory post that announced the MMF last week has some details you might want to review — I included some idea-starters and topic suggestions should you feel stumped about what to write and needed (or wanted) one. This week we’re writing about manga we’re thankful for [and creators, and publishers, and professionals, and others to whom we are thankful]. I’ll be accepting submissions through Sunday: if you have links please send them to me either at matt[at]rocketbomber.com or via my twitter, @ProfessorBlind.

If you would like to write something, but don’t have webspace or a blog: please contact me as well: I can easily post your essays or reveiws here on RocketBomber.

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For our Appetizer course we have a few select delicacies:

From Aaron at Manga Energy, the first of his submissions to the feast: Manga Thanks

“After 12 volumes this series is a revelation from the moral ambiguity, the attention to little details it it’s own self-contained world. … a series that shows Manga’s potential not only as a story telling medium but also as a visual medium from the tense two page fight sequences questions about the ethics of espionage.”

From Izandra at Reading is Delicious — how very apt. :) — we have MMF Thanksgiving Edition: Appetizers Wednesday which actually covers my seed-topic for today: The Manga My Best Friend Lent Me That Got Me Into Manga

“She introduced me to Fushigi Yuugi and it was amazing–ok, it’s not so amazing now, but back then it was a revelation. Who knew that animated men could be so dreamy?” [editor’s note: pull quote not representative of the whole essay ;) ]

There is also my Daily Diary post for today, which outlines my own Voyage of Manga Discovery — I’m glad I wrote mine before I read Izandra’s (ours are similar).

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Tomorrow’s seed topic is the rather generic “Manga I’m Thankful For” –- but as is appropriate, this is also the meat of the feast: our main course. I’ll be glad to link to any and all Thankful posts, though: covering any suggested topic or even going off the rails a bit. [You might notice in the course of this MMF that I am the first and most egregious offender in that regard.]



A Thankful MMF Daily Diary: Voyage of Discovery

filed under , 21 November 2012, 22:43 by

In a way, my current hobby is very closely tied to my current employment, as a bookseller.

I’ve always liked anime, even before I knew where it came from or could put into words why I liked anime better than other cartoons on television. I watched Star Blazers, Voltron, G-Force, and Robotech as a kid; I remember Speed Racer’s run on late-night MTV, as a college student I watched anime on the Scifi Channel – because I watched a lot of Scifi Channel back then.

I was primed; not a fan in a sense we would recognize today (i.e. otaku) and certainly not rabid, but familiar enough. I had seen what dribs and drabs were getting localized for the American market, if not during its first run then in re-runs.

Two things changed in 2001. First, I got a regular job. I had worked more-or-less full time while in school (especially if you count my job as an RA with campus housing) and had managed to piece together work as a freelancer and ‘consultant’ after leaving college, but in 2001 I took a part-time job at the bookstore just to have some steady income I could count on. Within three months the bookstore offered me a full-time job with benefits, and even though it was retail I jumped on it. (I was tired of irregular checks and having to pay my own social security taxes out of my own meagre pocket, among other things)

The second thing that happened in 2001 was Adult Swim on Cartoon Network. Specifically Cowboy Bebop on Adult Swim on Cartoon Network. With that as a new catalyst, my inner fanboy started to grow again, and grow up. Suddenly I knew there was this thing called anime and I wanted more of it.

I discovered websites like Anime on DVD. I remember scouring every local Blockbuster just to find the few anime DVDs available to rent. Then I discovered Netflix. (Actually, Netflix started years before, and it would be 2002 before I signed up, but a friend of mine who noticed I rented anime from Blockbuster mentioned there was a website that rented movies that had foreign films and “your Japanamation cartoon stuff, too”.)

Before I bought my first manga, I was renting dozens of discs a month and watching everything — yes, I’m sure we all remember what kind of crap was coming out — but also remember that I was working at a bookstore. Bookstores in the early aughts were just beginning to ramp up their manga offerings. The first manga I remember seeing actually was Dragon Ball, since even before we added Manga as a shelving category, some of the books were coming in piecemeal — and having seen Dragon Ball Z I recognized the name.

I know the exact date when I bought my First Manga, though: It was Friday, October 3rd in 2003. It was the first volume of Planetes. At the time I was quite content to watch anime and would have described myself as an ‘anime fan’ — This book was compelling, though. The cover said: buy me.

I know the exact date because I was working in our back room at the time and I literally took this out of the box and decided to buy it before it even hit the shelf. I know it was a Friday because I got paid on Fridays and nearly always bought books; I know it was October 3rd because (as I would later discover) we always got manga early at my bookstore, before the ‘official’ release date on Tuesdays.

The discovery of manga also led me back to a discovery of comics as a visual medium. I eventually made my way to Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and started thinking a bit more deeply about art and storytelling, and not just boobs and action scenes. Eventually this led to a semi-regular writing gig at a friend’s site [the now-defunct ComicSnob] and that led to my current part-time career as a blogger and data-analyst.

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Wednesday is the Appetizers course for this Manga Moveable Feast, and the seed-topic I offered was “The Manga My Best Friend Lent Me That Got Me Into Manga” –

For me, it was more of a process than a single event: a lot of ground work and familiarity with stuff like old-school anime, Pokemon, Super Mario, and Toonami, juiced by the sudden appearance of anime that followed on DVD, and set to incubate in a big-box bookstore where we were just beginning to stock up for the Manga Boom of the aughts. A perfect storm setup for turning a scifi-geek, math-dork, and general-purpose-nerd into an full blown manga otaku.

My ‘friend’ that got me into manga was my bookstore. I would like to offer my most sincere thanks, especially as that ‘friend’ still provides me with an income, a privileged spot atop our massive distribution chain, access to an amazing book database maintained for me by a corporate office in New York, and a very decent employee discount aside.

If I weren’t a bookseller, I would still be a fan – but I would be watching anime on DVD. I don’t know if I would have made the jump sideways into manga, or if I would be quite so obsessive about owning each-and-every-version of a property I love (like the Crest of the Stars novels, or Mori’s Emma, or as much Aqua/Aria as has been made available in English, or the 27-volume box set of Fullmetal Alchemist manga)

If I weren’t a bookseller, I might still be posting bar reviews and bad fiction to my own small blog on an out-of-the-way corner of the internet, rather than the grand experiments I keep attempting now. I wouldn’t be compiling my own manga bestseller lists and scheming how to make a living at book-sales-data analysis. I wouldn’t know all of the TRULY AMAZING PEOPLE I have met who are also manga fans and bloggers. I wouldn’t be a participant in the Manga Moveable Feast.

There are a lot of people in the industry I need to thank, not just the sci-fi and graphic novel buyer who decided to place manga in our stores — in fact, that long-list of “thank yous” is going to be my next post.

But today, as we get this Thankful Manga Feast started I’d like to thank all of you: my friends, if I can claim you all. I am particularly grateful to the community for sticking with me even as my own participation ebbed and waned (mostly waned) and my focus and engagement with manga, shifted, and started taking me to weird places.

I wish I could remember everyone and thank you all. David, thank you for hosting the first MMF. Melinda, thanks for giving some of my projects a new home. Erica, Brigid, Johanna: thank you for being my role models – I wish I could blog (and write, and think and analyze) more like you do. Ed, thanks for having me on the podcast. ALL YOU FABULOUS TWITTER FOLKS, thank you for putting up with me talking about everything and anything but manga (it’s almost comical how little I mention my favorite hobby).

If I didn’t namecheck you, please please don’t feel slighted – I have limited time and space :)
But I value all the interactions I have with every fellow fan on the internet, as it can be kind of lonely being the only fan at work, or in your peer group. I love that we have the MMF, and that you are now my peer group, and [hopefully] my friends.



Call For Participation, The November 2012 MMF: A Thankful Manga Feast

filed under , 15 November 2012, 22:30 by

Many of our readers (and most potential participants in November’s Manga Moveable Feast) will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday on November 22nd. In years past, we’ve come to a consensus to either schedule around the holiday or skip the month altogether; however, following a suggestion by Justin on the email list/discussion forum a topic was presented that was a natural fit for the holiday:

“Well, it technically is around Thanksgiving, so… maybe manga that we are thankful we can read? Thankfully exists in print or something? Of course, that’s pretty vague, and I believe the topic is limited to artist, manga, or genre, but just throwing it out there.”

Thank you, Justin.

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A Thankful Manga Feast
Wednesday 21 November to Sunday 25 November

The usual modus operandi for the MMF is to consider a single work, single creator, or (less frequently) a genre or imprint worthy of note; at any rate there is either a single topic or a very strong theme upon which our small-but-mighty community focuses. This month is, different.

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Stop. Breathe. Think.

Let’s take some time to reflect: to ask what brought us into the hobby, and what keeps us here.

Let’s take a moment to thank everyone, from creators to publishers, licensors and licensees, the friends who loaned us our first manga and the brave souls who trawl the Japanese internets to inform us of our next one. Let’s be thankful that we were able to read some really excellent manga, and give credit where due.

Our topic is effectively open-ended. I look forward to reading all your submissions.

Once again, our hub is http://www.rocketbomber.com/mmf — the Emma stuff is still there; if you’d like to link to the two separately than please cut-and-paste or bookmark http://www.rocketbomber.com/mmf#emma and http://www.rocketbomber.com/mmf#Thankful2012.

Over the course of the week [or is it just a super-long holiday weekend?] I’ll revive my MMF Daily Diary; if you like, you can also use these as seeds for your own reviews, essays, and thought-pieces

Appetizers Wednesday – “The Manga My Best Friend Lent Me That Got Me Into Manga” – be sure to thank them!
The Feast – “Manga I’m Thankful For” – Thursday
A Side Dish – “I can’t believe they licensed this but am I ever thankful they did” – Friday
Desserts – “Guilty Pleasures Manga” – Saturday
Quiet and Reflection – Sunday – also a chance to catch up with late posts, or an opportunity to write a longer piece about manga generally and not manga, title, specific.

I’ll post a final wrap-up on Monday the 26th. Because there are always last minute submissions. ;)

My actual topic for Wednesday will be more about my own discovery process – I suppose the ‘friend’ who got me into manga is a corporate buyer for the bookstore in New York – but I know so many of you who were converted to the cause by a friend, and I’d love to hear more testimonials.

If you have any additional suggestions for the Thanksgiving MMF, or any questions, comments, concerns, random insults, or other feedback: please drop them in the comments here, or track me down on twitter [at ProfessorBlind – I’m on twitter more than is healthy]. And starting on Wednesday, please send me the links to your submissions! Twitter is perfectly fine, but if you don’t tweet or want to be doubly-sure, email me at matt@rocketbomber.com so I can add you & your essay to the MMF archive.

And once again: special thanks to Justin for the idea.



Yotsuba & Charlie, Yotsuba & Calvin, Yotsuba & Bugs, Yotsuba & South Park, Yotsuba & Harry, Yotsuba & Parents.

filed under , 4 September 2010, 17:22 by

I’m going to recycle a point I made in a previous column; I only bring up the fact that I posted this previously as I’m about to quote myself verbatim:

Let’s pull a western reference just for kicks: Peanuts. Schultz. As much a part of the Western Canon as anything else I might choose to cite. These ‘kids’ all talk like adults — not in a South Park way, that’s not what I’m saying…
Look, compare Peanuts to Calvin & Hobbes: Calvin is a kid, acts like a kid, thinks and reasons like a kid, daydreams and imagines things fantastically like a kid, and Waterson is a Genius. I simultaneously salute him for abandoning Calvin as a complete conceptual work that couldn’t go further, while lamenting that I can’t read daily new adventures in Calvin’s universe. Waterson drew kids.
— Schultz drew Schultz: good ol’ Charlie Brown is a stand-in, an everyman who comments on the human condition. Peanuts may have been as revolutionary and as on point as Calvin & Hobbes during it’s first decade too (that’s what makes the Fantagraphics collections such a joy and treasure) but Shultz didn’t stop. He should be admired for putting out daily strips over a lifetime, but a lifetime of reflection means it’s about much more than just the adventures of a gang of likeable kids.
but I’ve drifted off point. Charlie Brown is drawn like a kid, but is he?
Unless one counts wah-wah trombone voice-over as meaningful to any degree, they operate in their own sealed universe, talking and reacting like little adults — and when they do act like kids, they tend to be ridiculed by the other characters. (Linus, blanket, et. al.)
No one looks at Peanuts and says, “Hey, these kids are unrealistic!” Hell, can anyone tell me how old Charlie Brown and the gang are supposed to be? No age is ever given, to my recollection. It’s an amorphous age between 8 and what? 18, 16, 13? 80?.

Good Ol’ Charlie Schultz Brown could say and do things, even controversial things, no adult could get away with because the Peanuts gang was ‘just kids’. Peanuts, as a syndicated comic strip that ran in most newspapers for 50 years not only had to appeal to diverse audiences, it had to watch some of those audiences grow up, and perhaps grow out of reading comics – perhaps this is why Peanuts went from slightly-subversive commentary to an increasing focus on the dog (and marketing the dog: t-shirts, lunchboxes, school supplies, plush) until the whole just became a series of running gags punctuated by whatever the dog was doing, which also consisted of a series of running gags.

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Calvin & Hobbes had a much shorter time to impact readers, but if you were of age during it’s run (1985-95) you likely not only harbor fond memories of the strips, I do not doubt that Waterson has coloured your personal philosophy.

Quite a bit of the humor in Calvin & Hobbes is over the heads of the ‘intended’ audience; I remember Calvin’s Dad getting some of the best punchlines (particularly when he flat-out lies to Calvin) and Hobbes, if he is in fact not just a figment, seems much more worldly than his constant companion. (IF Hobbes is just a aspect of Calvin’s imagination, we have a much longer essay/analysis on our hands)

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Bugs Bunny et al., the whole cast of Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies are now (after decades of sanitizing and editing) considered beloved children’s characters and as innocent a thing to give to even the youngest child as any Disney DVD. I, and many others, remember a different Bugs Bunny, the one that cross-dresses, among other things. I remember Warner Bros. characters who drank and smoked, a Daffy Duck who drank gasoline and nitroglycerin before swallowing a lit match, a whole lot of guns and bombs, and even Nazis.

Cartoons were popular entertainment for most of the 20th Century, but it was only late in that century that animation became suitable ‘childrens fare’. [and the production values went into the toilet, too, but that’s a different rant]

Animation, from its earliest inception (1919) right up until Fantasia (1940) — or even Heavy Metal (1981) (and Canadian) was more than just “kids stuff” – it was an art form and a lot of the jokes were ‘adult’ (though perhaps not as adult as Heavy Metal) and while we wink-and-nod at a lot of it now (the black streotypes present in early Tom & Jerry, the fact that both Elmer and Yosemite Sam are always armed and more than willing to fire) we don’t think twice about ‘kids’ watching ‘cartoons’

You’ll note that Fantasia (Disney!) featured cartoon nudity (topless mythological figures) in a celebration of Bacchus (god of wine!) and yet no one seems to care! I doubt kids are watching Fantasia, however, not because parents censor the movie but because it features classical music and no one can be bothered to protest. Let alone has seen it. More’s the pity.

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South Park is the latest animated property that features kid characters, but most obviously is not for kids — much like Simpsons or Family Guy in fact. Kids really shouldn’t be watching any of these (no, not even Simpsons) and only the fact that it is animated, and comedic, gives anyone under 14 the ‘excuse’ they need.

Granted, these can all be really good, really funny shows. I know why the kids want to watch ‘em. The question is whether they should.

Here, perform a little experiment: the day after South Park airs, go to a 6th grade class, and ask the boys what they thought of the most recent episode.

Odds are very good nearly all will have seen it, and thought it was hillarious.

TV-MA means nothing. Parental Supervision? Heh, do you live in the same United States I do? So long as the kids are inside and not getting into trouble – let ‘em watch or play whatever. It’s just a cartoon. It’s just a video game. They seem to like it…

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As Many Other Columnists Have Noted Yotsuba&!, at least in the original, wasn’t necessarily a comic for kids. Peanuts wasn’t necessarily a comic for kids, Calvin & Hobbes has a lot of appeal to readers of all ages, but it wasn’t just a comic for kids, and Bugs & Co. most decidedly weren’t really for kids until a lot of time passed (and the archives were edited).

So let’s look at what Yotsuba&! is: a five-year-old girl discovers her world in a way that reflects both her own ignorance/innocence, with knowing winks to an adult audience, while also remaining appealing to fans of all ages.

Doesn’t seem that far off from Peanuts, which I’ll remind you ran 50 years in syndication in newspapers, or Calvin & Hobbes — or Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wiley Coyote, or numerous other ‘kids’ characters — or Grimm’s (un-disney-fied) fairy tales, or greek myth, or classics like Treasure Island, Huck Finn, Edgar Allen Poe: yes, there are editions of Poe, unedited, aimed at kids.

Kids are marvellously adaptable; they’ll read what they like, and if we present them with stories filled with magic, action, adventure, wonder, likeable & relateable characters, then they’ll read them, and love them. They’ll ignore bits that seem irrevelant (romance) (at least until they’re older) and can put up with quite a bit of scary so long as the young heroes in the story can overcome it, too.

Harry Potter isn’t really suitable for an 11 year old (at least not when we get to book seven) but that doesn’t stop young fans from reading every last page of every last book, and loving it.

##

And so:

Yotsuba&!

Yotsuba is a girl who has “adventures” in the world’s safest, least objectionable wilderness: suburban Japan.

So maybe Yotsuba wasn’t intended for a kid audience. Maybe it’s not the story of a 5-year old, but more about what it’s like to raise a 5-year old

The original audience and intention don’t preclude other ways to appreciate a work. And so much as Bugs Bunny and Bart Simpson lunch boxes now feature prominently in elementary school cafeterias, there is nothing about Yotsuba’s origins that necessarily should limit Yotsuba’s appeal.



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