James Williams

What I Read - Dreamland Japan : Writings on Modern Manga

Dreamland Japan by Frederik L. Schodt is not a new book, having been published in 1996, but nonetheless provides a good overview of manga (and to an extent anime) from its inception to "almost" modern day.


Just like there is a genre of fiction or music for almost everyone, I believe the same could be said for manga. Unlike their American cousins that tend to be dominated by typical strongman or superhero fare targeted to young men, Japanese manga also include subgenres catering to young women, historical fiction, same sex couples and romance, slice of life, and even the seemingly mundane. I’m currently reading a culinary manga Oishinbo that has little action and is a journey through Japanese food and custom. Through the overview of genres, I learned the name for the manga I gravitate towards is called "gekiga" (dramatic pictures). It uses a more cinematic art style and is generally less whimsical and more gritty.

One of my major discoveries from the book was the work of Osamu Tezuka whose prolific outoput has inspired others to call him the Father of Mange. One of his well known works is Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, the later of which would be a conversation point when Disney’s The Lion King was released some 30 years later.


After my initial reading of the book, I learned that Tezuka’s style was a big fan of Disney comics specifically the work of Carl Barks, who drew epic Donald Duck comic adventures. Tezuka’s anime adaption of Astro Boy was one of the first widely aired anime in the US. His oeuvre almost seems like two different artists with the earlier being more light and Disney-esque fare and the having more gekiga themes, dark topics, and historical fiction.

It’s interesting to consider that a very Japanese art form had American inspiration and that years later, it would arrive back at America’s shores.

For more information about Carl Barks, check out this video from @mattwith4ts