I was lucky enough to hear Teri Lesense speak yesterday on literature for tweens (I hate that word and so does she, but there’s no better term for the 4th-8th grade age group). She covered all types of literature (lots of graphic novels and books in verse came up, as is the nature of tween lit) and it was truly very useful.
Someone in the audience did bring up the common misconception that manga can only be used for older teens (oh, the temptation to run off my manga for the younger set list!) and Teri did mention that there was plenty of manga meant for the pre-teen market. I hate hearing these kinds of blanket statements at librarian conferences; these are the people who are supposed to be up on the kinds of literature and know the range of titles that are
Terri Lesense's book- highly recommended.
available for the age group they’re serving (of course this assumes that people at a tween lit session serve tweens; perhaps they just found library security and marketing boring).
Nonetheless, my takeaway from the session was great. Teri uses the acronym TARGET (trust, access, response, guidance, entuhisasm, tween appeal) for tween services and I think manga fits into this wonderfully. Yes, manga has a wide range of content, some of which is different from what we consider “appropriate” for our tweens- but we have to be able to trust them to digest the content and take it in context. Manga is accessable because of it’s graphic nature; it reaches some kids who were already written off as “non readers” that simply need more in the way fo visual stimulation (not to mention that the J and young teen level mange uses very basic language). As far as causing a response emotionally to the story- if you’ve ever been to a con you know that this happens. You’ll never see readers so attached to a character as otaku (I can’t list how many characters I have cried for, even as an adult). Guidance is more on the librarian end, of course, but the manga ratings are a good place to start and I can assure that there is a manga for every age level reader from Doraemon to Paradise Kiss. This is a big part of why I started this blog- to provide guidance to those who are not up on their manga. Anyone who has ever served an otaku teen in the middle of a manga series can tell you about enthusiasm levels- no, they can’t skip a volume, no, they don’t want another series. They want the rest of this one. And when they’re done with that, they want another one just like it. Finally, tween appeal- this generally isn’t a problem with manga unless we’re getting into Manga Shakespeare (which I love but I know the sentiment is not shared with my 10-14 year olds). Manga is usually action based with the exception of shoujo which gets the young romance set. It’s not normally about boring topics, and it always has interesting and eye catching illustrations.
I know none of this is a new revelation, but it’s nice to know that manga fits so well into the scheme of things. I think I need to put a little more emphasis on manga and GN based tween programming in my own branch.
Okay, this would be much bigger news if this was a company like TokyoPop. But still, just like FUNimation I consider this a step in the right direction. Shogakukan (think Doraemon, Ranma, Yakitate!!! Japan) will be publishing offical manga translations online. Again, I’m definitley happy to hear this. For one, as a librarian this is a big help- it’s a step towards getting my collection person to actually budget for a new release title if she can read some of the volumes online beforehand. But the biggest thing for me is once again the ability to access those titles that will never see the US shores.
The New York Anime Festival will be in September again this year (25th-27th and professional registration is open, my fellow librarians!) and as far as NY/NJ local cons go, this is the one to be at. It’s not huge but this is only the third year so it’s growing. Bottom line though- it’s a great show and a ton of fun.
This year, the NYAF is again running a contest in conjunction with
Super kawaii 2008 NYAF mascot
theotaku.com to design the mascot for the festival. Prizes include tickets to the festival and free manga (naturally). The mascot should embrace both anime/manga and the NYC feeling (last year’s mascot was a great example!). Contestants have 2 weeks (until the 29th) to submit their entries; 10 finalists will be selected and put on display at Sakura Matsuri for voting. You can’t lose:
“(T)he winner will be profiled in the New York Anime Festival’s program guide beside their mascot, receive a copy of all of the New York Anime Festival’s 2009 merchandise, and take home 10 weekend passes. Further, sponsor Del Rey Manga will be providing the winner an instant collection — 50 volumes of manga. The contest’s nine finalists will each receive one weekend pass to the New York Anime Festival and series starter packs from Del Rey containing the first volumes of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, Orange Planet, and Yokai Doctor.”
The rules and entry form will be posted on theotaku.com starting tomorrow- so get the word out to your young otaku artists!!
I had the opportunity to hear Eli Neiburger (author of Gamers… in the Library?) speak at a local library cooperative event yesterday, and he really struck a chord with me. Eli, of course, talks about video games in the library and how they can be used most effectively (which, if you read my archives, you will find is a secondary passion of mine right after anime/manga). The man is full of useful information and really knows how to effectively operate a consistently successful gaming program- I’m hoping that our headquarters branch was listening carefully!
In any case, there were so many similarities between arguements against games and those against manga and anime. Specifically, Eli mentioned the ever nagging library curmudgeon asking, “And what are they learning from that?” Eli’s too, too perfect answer was, “That you give a shit about them.” This is something I have wanted to say far too many times in the last 18 months! I have some wonderful coworkers who work diligently at their jobs who just feel the need to interject when I’m planning an anime marathon and ask what the value is, or feel the need to point out that they don’t “support gaming for the sake of gaming” when I’m running an open gaming day. I typically default to the old non-confrontational standby of, “Well, things are different when you work with teenagers” but I don’t know that I’m doing a good thing by saying that; perhaps I need to be more abrasive about proving the value of anime, manga, and video games- the value of getting the kids in the door.
I think these things bother me more since I am an anime/manga/video game geek; I know for a fact that my friends and I were among the smartest in our grade and that our “lazy” hobbies did not affect our intelligence (Eli makes wonderful arguments about learning capicity and games- for instance the fact that so many 8 year olds can remember all the attributes of over 500 pokemon). But maybe even more so, it bothers me that they don’t see the value in success; yes, it’s awesome that you can fill 3 storytimes a week with 30 kids and be 100% educational. However, you are only getting those kids in because of their parents. And given the fact that a good 3/4 of them stop coming after the age of 7, you’re obviously not doing too much to hook the kids themselves. As a YA librarian, I catch them at the age of 11. They’ve already had a couple of years to think of the library as a boring place with stinky books (Eli aptly points out that we’ve earned that reputation and I wholeheartedly agree). A certain number of them come in to use the computer and spend the day on Myspace when mommy and daddy won’t let them stay on, but they’re at an age where recreational reading does not have broad appeal. However, almost all of them play video games at least sometimes- this means you have an opportunity to pull in any teen that walks into the door. And once you get them to realize that fun things go on at the library, they’ll come back to see what else is happening.
I think with anime and manga, this is two-fold. Nowhere near as many kids are into the otaku scene, but the ones who are also fit the archetype for the teen most likely to come to the library giving you a broad pool to draw from with minimal effort. And when they do come in, they take out stacks of books- manga and otherwise (any public librarian will tell you that their career is judged by two numbers- event attendance and circ stats). There is no question that there is little to no educational value in my monthly anime club. We cosplay, we play Japanese video games, and we do suikawari. I’d say we were exploring Japanese culture if they didn’t teach me more than I teach them. But I fill anime club every single month and I see those kids all month long because they know that I give a shit about them.
As if it’s not painfully obvious by now with my running dialogue about terrible miscasting of anime characters, I have a special distaste in the deepest cockles of my heart for the use of sub-rate caucasian actors and actresses playing inherently asian roles (okay, you can count Spike out because he’s not asian, but Keanu is going to suck big time anyway).
Well, here comes a bit of different news for once. For an upcoming live action adaptation of Ninja Scroll, the five members of Japanese idol band SMAP are being considered. I’ve seen several Japanese films where the members have acted (granted, as is noted in the article all five have not been in theatrical releases together before but I don’t see that as having much of an effect, especially stateside where no one but the super otaku has a damn clue who they are) and they are quite good at their roles. Moreover, I’m just ecstatic to hear that there is an actual consideration that an asian can accurately play an asian role. It’s not that it’s always a big deal, but in the case of something like Ninja Scroll or Avatar, the very fact that the characters *are* asian is a big part of the story.
This is not to say that the film adaptation won’t stink. I’m quite confident that it will- so confident, in fact, that if it even succeeds in the slightest I’ll consider it a success. In fact, I don’t see a live action adaptation of Ninja Scroll thriving over here at all which will be a bit depressing considering it’s one of those classics. But hey, there’s a little hope, right?
When I say I am an otaku, I mean that it all of it’s seedy, sweaty nerd forms (I kid, I kid). I’m a huge video game fan, and in particular I do my otaku best by absolutely loving many different Japanese game series. One of my all-time favorites is the Ace Attorney series, the latest addition of which just came out in Japan (Edgeworth based game, can’t wait can’t wait can’t wait!). For those out of the know——- man you are missing something great——- this is a series of point and click legal adventure games (though it’s a lot more like CSI in game form- you’re doing the investigating and the trials and the characters are incredibly indearing… you have to try it).
Last year, the first Ace Attorney casebook manga was released in NA (and I was lucky enough to score a copy at the New York Anime Festival). The volume was very true to the heart of the video game series, with all the characters we love and the humor we came to expect from any Ace Attorney installment. Well, the good news is that along with the release of the new game comes a weekly manga insallment! Shuukan Young Magazine will be publishing it starting in April, which (hopefully) means we’ll be seeing it stateside (though there is no official release date for the game in NA as of yet).
I think it’s important to note up front that this is an import review- I love this show but I don’t think Ghost Hound will ever get licensed in North America because it’s just so stylized (though it did wrap up in Japan last year, so there is some hope).
Ghost Hound is Production I.G.’s 20th anniversary collaboration with Shirow Masamune. This alone should give you an idea of the feel of the show; there is a definite Ghost in the Shell vibe present (which I think is a good thing). Masamune came up with the idea for the show in 1987- there is a short manga series (2 volumes) that was published but largely this is a stand-alone anime.
Ghost Hound is primarily the story of three boys in the small, rural town of Suiten (located in a remote area of Kyushu). The story primarily focuses on Tarou, the son of the local sake brewer who was abducted along with his older sister as a young child and still suffers psychological aftereffects from experiencing both the kidnapping and his sister’s death. 11 years have passed and Tarou (now 14) still flashes back to the incident, trying desperately to remember what his sister said to him in the days before she died. Over the
Yeah, it's a creepy show.
course of his therapy, and with the help of two other boys who both experienced traumas, Tarou learns how to astrally project into what is called the “Unseen World”- the world of spirits. However, as this occurs creatures from the Unseen World are beginning to appear in the normal world and causing some issues.
This is not just another supernatural anime- I’ve been watching a lot of “spirit” anime lately (Bleach, xxxHolic, Zombie Loan) and this one is wholly different. At parts it is almost like a horror anime; there are distortions which make events very creepy and the way in which Tarou repeatedly relives his sister’s death is quite jarring. There is a great deal of talk about psychology and various forms of psychotherapy- these get much more involved as the series progresses. There is also a lot of Japanese traditional folklore and spirtuality involved here. The show has a great creepy sci-fi vibe that is perfect for an older watcher, not for young teens or anyone with a short attention span. Moreover, it may in fact give you nightmares (or at least weird dreams- it did this to me for three nights!). Well worth a watch, even though it is hard to get your hands on. Should not be missed if you are a fan of Masamune’s work!