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Is Manga a Controversial Subject?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Manga refers to all drawn comic books and graphic novels in Japan. It is not anime, which is the animated and filmed versions of some of the comic books or graphic novels. Many in the Japanese culture enjoy Manga, and there are books suitable to both young and more mature readers.

Despite its huge popularity, certain manga themes are controversial. Adult manga may be extremely pornographic and as well be extraordinarily violent. For example, the manga graphic novel Battle Royale concerns a storyline that many find disturbing because it seems to encourage child pornography and child violence.

Charges of racism have been levied against certain manga books as well. The comic book Hating the Korean Wave is very explicit in its dislike of Koreans and Korean culture. The Japanese characters of the book are drawn with Caucasian features, while the Koreans are drawn with more Asian features. There are numerous negative statements regarding Korean culture that do not bear repetition.

Introduction to China is another manga representing hatred and discrimination. The Chinese are depicted as cannibals, and all of Chinese culture is dismissed as lacking in value. These comics enrage not only their intended targets but also many people of Japanese descent. Not everyone reads or supports manga of this type, and in fact many are furious by such overt racism.

Racism charges in manga are not exclusive to comics for adults. The Pokemon character Jynx was thought to resemble the blackface look that made fun of African Americans. The charge seemed somewhat unfounded, as the black face of the character more closely resembled a stylistic trend then popular in Japan. However other manga have also included the blackface look. In response to criticism of the Pokemon character, further anime featuring Jynx changed the face to purple.

Thus some manga has justly deserved some criticism for overt racism and for perhaps choices lacking in taste. However, not all manga represents such views. Some manga for children is specifically tame, and for adults manga may be more interesting than it is racist, pornographic or excessively violent. It is less the art form itself but more what individuals choose to do with manga that has inspired controversy.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseTour contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon997632 — On Feb 07, 2017

I have a friend who is super obsessed with drawing manga and dresses up like a manga girl. I'm sorry, but this is just plain creepy. Someone else said it was like comics in the US. Some people just get to into it and start acting like freaks. I know. I live in San Diego, and every year, I see Comic Con. I hope I can learn to see this art like something positive, but I would still not let my kids get into it and become weirdos.

By anon948616 — On Apr 30, 2014

Melonlity, those are great points.

I think the reason we have to generalize about "all manga," though, is that racism is not treated with anything like the gravity in Japan as it is in other countries. Japan is a very, very casually racist country; they aren't violent or hateful (usually) but they think nothing of putting, say, a blackface character in a child's game.

That's the problem with Jynx, for example. You take this game aimed at children and it's so cute and fun, and then, just bam!- This insanely racist caricature is thrown in.

The problem with Japanese products is that the racism is so random and unpredictable. You take a property like Pokemon with literally hundreds of characters, and there's just that one, single insanely racist one thrown in randomly.

No, we can't talk about "all manga" but we are kind of forced to, because the racism in manga is so randomly distributed, you could find it literally anywhere, any time, and so we have to be wary of *all* manga.

By Melonlity — On Feb 20, 2014

The sometimes controversial reputation manga has gained is somewhat confusing. It is rather like labeling all American comic books and graphic novels as somehow improper. Sure, there are some comic books out there that are adult in nature and/or push the limits of what is socially acceptable, but the majority of comic books are merely harmless entertainment.

The same is true of manga.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseTour contributor, Tricia...
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