Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Who's Manga's Market?

Lately I've been a bit confused about the manga/anime market. We have a lot more girls and women that buy it from my store than men/boys. I do know that there is anime porn, geared towards men--that's not what I'm talking about here. Some of the more "mass market" manga and anime seems to send mixed messages.

The photo above is for DC Direct's new line of anime inspired super heroine figures. This is Catwoman. She is typical of the anime style - thin, innocent looking enough, yet obviously overly sexual.

Click here to see several other examples of manga/anime figures in this style
. I have put the manga or anime title they come from above the large version of each picture. You get to that by clicking on the thumbnail. Some of these I'm not familar with at all, others I've heard of. I'll be up-front - I don't usually read manga or watch anime. I just don't have the time or interest. But we do sell it here and I know a lot of people that do read and watch it. Manga actually has higher sales numbers than American comics.

But WHO is the market for this? As I said, we've got a lot of girls and women that read it and watch it. From what I understand, the shujo manga in particular, is geared for women/girls. You will have to forgive me for my ignorance, but I believe that some of these manga have "strong" main female characters. Many are girls, not yet women, who fight or do battle. So, we have a product featuring girls, much of which is supposedly marketed to girls, that depicts girls as sex objects.

I just don't get HOW women or girls would want to be bombarded with these unrealistic, sexualized images. I don't care how "strong" she is in the stories, she does not need to be a sex object at the same time. It would seem that these products would be geared more towards men--men who don't mind seeing figures resembling innocent girls depicted as sex objects. I have had customers refer to the section of Previews where these are solicited as "porn." I had a male customer say his wife doesn't understand why these make him "hot" but the Victoria's Secret catalog doesn't. These figures are sexually provocative, designed to catch the attention of men who otherwise wouldn't pay much attention to the medium. Often people are quick to complain about how comic books objectify women - but most of them are ADULT characters, where many of the manga characters are children or teenagers. Should these figures be attached to products that are sold to adolescents? to teens who are often confused and easily convinced that this type of mass-market, objectified girl or woman is something they should resemble? to men who find the innocent, round-eyed female figures posed in this manner as sexually appealing? To me all of these choices seem bad. In all seriousness, WHO are these marketed to? How is it that even very popular manga like Fruits Basket have figures of girls in school-girl outfits with overly short skirts?

Now, let me say AGAIN that I don't read or follow these at all, I only know what I need to know to carry manga in my store. I welcome opinions on this subject.


Alexandra said...

Honestly? Some of us are very good at ignoring/not noticing the sexualization. It's kinda like how women can still read and enjoy American comics despite the sexist portrayals of women.

Most manga, at least from what I've read/skimmed, is also better at actually dealing with sexuality/sexualization/sex in general than most American comics, where it's wink-wink-nudge-nudge-oh wait there's a rape. Again, that's based on what I've read, and I've hardly read it all. Among other things, manga tends to be better at poking fun at sexualization than American comics.

One thing I wonder: how much of this is really manga sexualizing women (more than men? really?), and how much is simply a different aesthetic? I wonder that about American comics, sometimes, too - it's hard to draw a line.

I get what you're saying, and it does bother me. But I read manga for other things, just like I read American comics for other things. If sexualization of women were a turn-off, I'd have nothing left to read - no manga, no American comics, precious few BOOKS...

And on the short skirts thing - anecdotal but true: When I was in Japan for a summer, I had to visit a school as part of the exchange program. They made me hike my knee-length skirt up, because it was too long for the uniform. Not that that excuses anything; I'm just throwing it out there.

Elena said...

Actually, none of the figures in the gallery that you linked are from shoujo manga. They're from bishoujo titles (stories about girls aimed at a male audience).

Shoujo manga/anime characters rarely get made into figures, and when they do, they're quite innocent. I have a collection of figures from Sailor Moon, Pretty Cure, Ashita no Nadja, and Honey and Clover. They're all totally non-sexualized, except for two villianess Sailor Moon figures.

mwb said...

While elena's point remains, one of those figures is DEFINITELY from a shoujo manga. Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket, which is definitely a shoujo manga - despite her super short skirt.

Elena said...

Oh, whoops! I missed the Tohru. Yep, she's from a shoujo manga. (And her short skirt is unfortunately reflective of some real life high school uniforms in Japan. Seriously. I live here and... yeah.)

That figure also might be a fan-cast kit and not an official release, too. A surprisingly large percent of the Japanese figure/sculpt market are fan-made garage kits that the original creators have no control over. Not surprisingly, the majority of "pornographic depictions of originally respectfully treated characters" would fall into this category.

Seriously, though, the point that I want to make is:

Most of the salacious figures in the Japanese market come from anime based on manga/games marketed at young men, not women;


The Japanese figure market as a whole represents the lowest common denominator of anime/manga culture. Seriously. Manga creators almost never have control over what sort of figures get released. And the Japanese figure market is famous for porning up characters who are NOT treated as such in the original anime/manga. (See: Fate/Stay Night figures. They make me ashamed to be a Fate fangirl. I don't need to see my favorite kick-ass female anime character depicted as a half-naked maid!!!)

So I wouldn't jump to conclusions about manga based on the Japanese figure market; they operate independantly. The same is true for these DC figures. It wouldn't be fair to judge the merits of the Batgirl comic book based on that atrocious figure alone.

Lisa said...

Thanks to everyone who has posted thus far. As I said, I know little about anime and manga, but whenever I look at the figures it just makes me wonder. Good to know they're not like that in all of the manga! And, as was also shared with a couple of you, it is aparently also part of the current Japanese culture.

Keep the comments coming--I'm learning a lot about what's really going on in this genre.