by Dash Shaw
Monday, October 12, 2009
In Starting Point: 1979-1996, Miyazaki talks about how influential the gekiga movement was, and how he moved away from drawing gekiga. It’s interesting if you’re a fan of Miyazaki and gekiga, or just Miyazaki’s mangaka years.
These gekiga presented the message that things don’t go well in this world. Drawn by manga artists who had suffered through misfortune — in particular those who hung out around Osaka (though I must apologize to people in Osaka for saying this) — gekiga were filled with their grudges and feelings of spite, so there were no happy endings. The artists made every effort to provide cynical endings. For a student in examination hell, this disillusioned perspective seemed totally refreshing.
I had already decided to spend my future drawing pictures, so I was trying to draw ones filled with grudges and spite. Yet, as I didn’t have a concrete blueprint for my future I was filled with anxiety.
As we grow from childhood into youth, this anxiety grows exponentially, and we worry about how on earth we should live our lives. Our anxiety forces us to look for an antidote that will rid us of this feeling as quickly as possible. We want to find that something will help us grab our own chair in this world and sit in it.
I chose manga as a weapon to fight against anxiety, and, as I mentioned, at first I drew gekiga, story-oriented manga. Just about that time I saw Hakujaden (The Tale of the White Serpent.) For me, it was a kind of culture shock. I began to have doubts about gekiga…
From a section titled “Manga-style thought is dramatically influencing Japanese culture:”
So why are manga now influencing so many areas of culture? I would say one of the biggest reasons is because with manga it’s not necessary to read what you don’t want to read…
People take a completely different approach with other forms of entertainment. I really don’t think, for example, that many people would leave a theater after watching only five minutes of a boring film. And it’s probably why people have such strong opinions about films. They often sit through films even while feeling angry and wondering why the heck anyone made the thing in the first place. People don’t get angry about manga because if they don’t like the stories they won’t finish reading them. I think we can say this is one of the biggest cultural characteristics of manga. It’s no wonder that manga criticism is such a barren field.
Another hallmark of manga is that an almost limitless deformation is possible. To give a somewhat dated example, in Kyojin no hoshi (Star of the Giants), an entire episode concludes while the character Hyuma is throwing a pitch. Everything about life is encapsulated in that one pitch, and the artist depicts a whirl of recollections in the time it takes for the ball to travel. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than the Japanese pulling off something like this.
When works created in this fashion are taken to places like Europe, where people have no exposure to what I have been discussing, they tend to go crazy over it. It was true of the Japanese manga and anime Candy Candy, which really took off in West Germany, Italy, and even France. Of course, now it’s Sailor Moon, and they say that in Spain everyone is nuts about the work, with even adults watching the show, enthralled. [laughter] This sort of thing is actually happening.
There’s a reason shojo are interesting. They depict the inner workings of the mind, so no one draws anything they don’t want to see. And in the images depicted, what we see is not the character, but what the character is looking at. And the stories become interesting because they deform thoughts and psychological states in a more pure fashion.
Anyway, it’s hard to slice out passages like this. Check out the book if you’re interested.