I’ve been negligent about participating in the Manga Moveable Feast, but I’ve finally found the time to write an article for it. This month focuses on suitable comics for children, and the title chosen was Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma. You can read more about this month’s feast here.
Yotsuba&!, pronounced Yotsubato (よつばと, or “Four Leaves and… !”) in Japanese to include the ampersand, is a comedy-driven comic written by Kiyohiko Azuma. It was published beginning in March 2003 and still runs in Dengeki Daioh magazine.
Yotsuba&! was made available to English-speaking audiences by ADV Manga; however, Yen Press took over the license and republished the volumes in 2009. You can buy it through the 3rd-party sellers on Amazon for pretty cheap. In fact, you should buy it.
Yotsuba&! is a comic about a young girl named Yotsuba who moves to a new neighborhood with her father. The comic follows the eccentric, everyday trivialities of Yotsuba as she interacts with her father, neighbors, and town.
It’s a fairly simple story that requires barely any explanation. It’s a comic about a girl who does stuff, akin to how Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway basically boils down to a story about a lady as she goes around her daily routines. As strange as that sounds, Yotsuba&! is a comic about dealing with the hilarious things that occur in daily life (even if some of those things might be caused by a weird, little girl). With chapters titled “Yotsuba and Drawing,” “Yotsuba and the Culture Festival,” and “Yotsuba and Typhoons,” it’s really just a comic about everything and a girl. Basically, what the title says: Yotsuba & !.
There are three things that I wish this essay to achieve:
1) Explore where Yotsuba&! is situated in the Japanese comics industry and the minds of its (adult?) readers.
2) Look at how Kiyohiko Azuma has developed as an artist and how that is illustrated in Yotsuba&!.
3) Explain why Yotsuba&! (in relation to Azuma’s other works) says a lot about writing comic comics.
If you haven’t heard the news, a international coalition of 36 publishers and distributors are going to band together to take legal action against illegal manga distribution websites. You can read up on the story at Publishers Weekly. If you have no idea what a scanlation is, I highly suggest you visit http://insidescanlation.com for more information.
Online manga: where is it? Some would say it’s passed around via the Internet as scanlations. And that’s a problem.
That problem, though, is two-sided. The obvious first side is that scanlations are technically illegal. But the second — and more important — side is that legal alternatives to online manga distribution do not exist. Yes, you can say that there are experiments with online distribution (such as Viz’s online Signature Ikki magazine), but the fact remains that a universal and ubiquitous legal alternative for online distribution of every English-language manga published in the United States does not currently exist.
There are some subsequent problems as well, and I would like to take the opportunity of this post to go through them. I feel like these issues have not been addressed, particularly since no alternative to illegal distribution websites has been offered by the Coalition as of this writing.
Cross-posted from the Convergence Culture Consortium.
The Japanese popular culture industry, especially for anime and manga, is an interesting case study for global fandom, but also for global industry. The comics, television, and film industry for animated popular culture in Japan has its own history, structure, and approaches, but over the past five decades, as it has reached millions of new, international viewers, new industries have risen to cater to these fans. Still, with the rise of the Internet and the economic troubles that most industries have gone through over the past decade, both the domestic and international manga and anime industries have been hurting for money, even with a surfeit of fans.
The anime and manga industry is especially volatile, because its domestic and international audiences have utilized the Internet to spread and consume the media at the expense of industrial and commercial models that cannot keep up with the audiences’ changing tastes, modes of consumption, and cultural behaviors of media consumption (sharing with friends, international online distribution, the culture of collectors versus mere viewers, etc.). The industries, both in Japan and elsewhere, must change: however, the success that anime and manga brought a decade ago have influenced the producers of these media to stick with old models that are no longer fully applicable to the current fan cultures that drive the markets.
Today, I want to discuss two very recent issues of the manga and anime industries — in Japan and in America — publicizing comments to fans in a way that might be seen by many as “giving up”: without adapting to technological, cultural, and commercial changes, the industries representatives have voiced concerns to fans by pleading with them to stop behaving as they current are — mostly by using the Internet to circumvent commercial models for their media consumption — and to think ethically about how these behaviors are affecting the respective industries.