Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Collection Highlights: Japanese Manga

In the stacks of Armacost Library you might run across some classics of Japanese manga
(漫画; "man" translates as "whimsical" or "involuntary" and "ga" translates to "picture"). Though this post does not delve into the history of manga or its impact as a cultural phenomenon, the following books serve as great introductions should you wish to learn more:

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind may be the most whimsical manga in our collection, created over several years (1982-1994) by Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli (Kiki's Delivery ServiceHowl's Moving CastlePrincess MononokeSpirited Away, etc.). It takes place in a post-apocalyptic, polluted world. Nausicaä, princess of the Valley of the Wind, navigates tensions between two other kingdoms, poisonous forests, and giant insect beings (who are feared and misunderstood). Soaring through the air on her personal glider, with bucolic vistas below, and her pet (Teto) which looks like a cross between a mini-tiger/squirrel/rat, you experience the kind of good-feeling fantasy with life-relevant themes that Miyazaki is known for. 

Another manga classic in our collection is Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira, a science fiction series that takes place in Neo-Tokyo after World War III, where biker gangs and rebel groups fight for control. A secret government program involving experiments on children to awaken telekinetic, superhuman powers underpins this manga. Kaneda and Tetsuo, childhood friends, become at-odds with each other when Tetsuo's unpredictable psychic powers are awakened, and he becomes a threat to the future of Neo-Tokyo. Themes of transformation, alienation, and societal pressures abound, across all six volumes of this cyberpunk landscape. 

Sci-fi and fantasy not your thing? Browse the stacks around these two titles and you will find other gems not discussed in this post. Such as Barefoot Gen: A cartoon story of Hiroshima by Keiji Nakazawa, and Yoshihiro Tatsumi's dark and gritty short tales found in The push man and other stories.