Comical Journalism

Panelosophy - Comical Journalism
by Chloe Ferguson

We've all had the unfortunate encounter. It comes in the papers, on the internet, creeping discretely through the bit feature sections of local news, or splashed garishly across the "Arts" or "Business" sections of major outlets. Yes, the manga gimmick article is an old friend, albeit one you wish would simply stop visiting.

The problem is not so much one of poor writing, but of writing consistently turned to the same topics, the same interviews, the same "gee, whiz!" attitude that leaves even the most mildly acquainted manga readers disillusioned with the wider press community's handling of the subject. Small town or local newspapers are more excusable in this respect, as they pander to a much more homogenous group of readers and generally spin the stories as a kind of pseudo local interest piece on the rising popularity of manga nearby.

Larger outlets, however, deserve no such concessions- yet most have continued to spin the same kind of slanted, poorly researched articles that plagued manga when it first arrived on the scene nearly a decade ago. Perhaps most frustrating of all is this lack of forward motion, this inability to move past manga's foreign, Japan-weird aspects and into a realm where it can be discussed like a form of media, not a genre. To be fair, comics and graphic novels have faced the same uphill battle to mainstream recognition as a serious medium for storytelling. It took decades of articles, prizes, and "whod've thought, comics can be serious!" articles for outlet writers to sit up and recognize that a wealth of pictures does not imply a dearth of substance. But can we really not be a little more prompt with manga?

As if to add insult to injury, most articles that fall decidedly under the "bad" heading employ the same gimmicky language and perpetuate the same clichéd stereotypes that slant the collective view on manga. A Bloomberg opener hits all of the offending phrases, touting manga's "doe-eyed girls with melon-sized breasts, slasher samurai, resilient teenage heroines wielding magical powers and adventurous ninja boys." The phrase is bad enough as it is, but most articles then progress into overemphasizing manga's explicitly sexual and occasionally illegal underbelly, vaguely intimating that manga and pornography share much more space than they actually do and plugging negative connotations into the medium. The whole mess is held together by the usual manga sales quotes in the US, perhaps an "I love to read manga!" quote from a tween reader and a quick rundown of the popular US series.

It's undeniable that there are some benefits to manga in the news, as while well written pieces are few and far between, the occasional positive press is better than no press interest at all. That said, the quality level and handling of the subject needs some rejuvenation, and soon: as manga expands into new demographics and topics, the "genre" label is going to wear ever thinner. The lack of research done is also, quite frankly, embarrassing; as it seems even a five minute conversation with a semi knowledgeable industry insider would render most articles' raison d'etre a moot point. Safe to say if similar journalistic quality cropped up on a finance section feature on, say, sub prime mortgages, the outpouring of letters to the editor would be swift and furious. Manga's subject may occasionally be comical, but its handling is anything but funny.