Themes and Issues in Asian Cartooning: Cute, Cheap, Mad, and Sexy

Themes and Issues in Asian Cartooning: Cute, Cheap, Mad, and Sexy

Themes and Issues in Asian Cartooning: Cute, Cheap, Mad, and Sexy

Themes and Issues in Asian Cartooning: Cute, Cheap, Mad, and Sexy


nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;Today, comic art is the favorite reading fare for millions of Asians, and is a government-sanctioned, value-added product, as in the case of Korean and Japanese animation. Yet not much is known about Asian cartooning.nbsp; nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;Themes and Issues in Asian Cartooning uses overviews and case studies by scholars to discuss Asian animation, humor magazines, gag cartoons, comic strips, and comic books. The first half of the book looks at contents and audiences of Malay humor magazines, cultural labor in Korean animation, the reception of Aladdin in Islamic Southeast Asia, and a Singaporean comic book as a reflection of that society’s personality. Four other chapters treat gender and Asian comics, concentrating on Japanese anime and manga and Indian comic books.


John A. Lent

Asian comic art is finally getting its due. As part of the euphoria in the United States about things Asian, comic books and animation (particularly those from Japan, with inroads made by those from Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan) have found a receptive American audience, part of which is oriented to mainstream media, part to cult media. U.S. television has benefited from Japanese animation since 1963, when Osamu Tezuka's "Tetsuwan Atom," better known as "Astro Boy," garnered a Saturday morning berth. Others followed—"Speed Racer" in 1967, "Gigantor," "Marine Boy," "Battle of the Planets," "Force Five," "Voltron, Defender of the Universe," "Dragon Ball," "Sailormoon," and many more.

For the past decade, Japanese manga (comic books) and anime (animation) have had a cult following in the U.S. (and, incidentally, worldwide), as otaku (fans) founded considerably more than 100 clubs, organized conferences and on-line sites, published scores of fanzines, and sparked and fed an offshore (that is, off Japan's shores) industry that has gestated into translation/publishing/distribution companies and special anime sections in chain-owned video stores. Other Asian comic art companies and individuals have attempted to break into the American market—Hong Kong's Jademan series, Taiwanese cartoonists such as Kid Jerry, or Korean animation companies—all with very limited success.

Less apparent are other impacts Asian cartoonists have had upon U.S. comic art. Comic book aficionados know of the British invasion of cartoonists, but are mostly ignorant of a similar Filipino invasion years before, when top cartoonists from the Philippines were recruited to work for the American comics giants. The Japanese also left an imprint upon American comic books that is not well known, although cartoonists such as Frank Miller admit that the cinematic framing they use is imitative of the formats created by Japan's "god of manga," Osamu Tezuka. American animation viewers watch primetime and other animated television fare without giving a thought to where it is produced, yet a fleeting glance at the credits would reveal that almost all U.S. animation is produced in Asia, chiefly in Taiwan and South Korea. In fact, about half of . . .

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