My favorite genre is manga. Most people don’t think too much of it but they don’t appreciate all that goes into it. They don’t see the fun in it. They completely miss the underlying commentary. They don’t acknowledge the stylistic designs as a legitimate art form. They are missing out.
First of all, nearly everything geared toward kids is some type of animation. As a kid, I had years of cartoon superheroes forced down my throat.Once I was finally interested, I was expected to “grow up.” But why would I stop as an adult? I like comic books. I like cartoons. Advertisers and society brought me up this way. At some point, my tastes matured enough to find something other than Saturday morning style kiddie shows and their blatant product-placement/movie tie in comics.
And then I discovered manga. I finally felt like I found what I had been looking for. While manga is still essentially comic books—they’re so much more. I really enjoyed the more sophisticated writing and the strong yet almost feminine artwork in the drawings. I also like how the drawing style is consistent through many different subjects and series. In some American comics, characters look totally different just because someone else is drawing them. I hate that.
My favorite, Yakitate!! Ja-pan, is an epic tale about a boy on a quest to make a national bread for his country. It doesn’t sound like it would be incredibly interesting but it is. The series is very clever and has a lot of puns in it. For example, in Japan, the word “pan” can mean bread. See, there is a pun even in the title! The main character, Azuma, also has “hands of the sun” or “solar hands” which are warmer than most people. It helps the bread rise. Japan is big on sun imagery—their flag is even a rising sun. So you can see how this is more than just a kid’s thing. I love that it really does talk about baking. There are lots of baking battles throughout the series and it is actually very interesting as well as educational. You learn a lot about Japanese food culture and their belief in using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Then I feel like I am learning something too.
Then they made Yakitate into an anime series, and that was also very entertaining. I like watching the bread battles. The judging can get very silly but that makes it even more fun to watch. They made a total of 69 episodes, impressive because it was originally only a small magna and only serialized because it was such a hit. They categorize the show as being shounen, which kind of means school-aged here. We would use the phrase “coming-of-age” as a closer equivalent.
I was sad when I got to the last of the 69 episodes and that’s when I found other anime and magna that I enjoy. But I often return to my first love, Yakitate!! Japan.