Manga – History, Context and Culture

Ippei Okamoto's film influences are clear

Big topic, eh? It’s the subject of my forthcoming evening class for the Workers’ Educational Association. Much to my delight, they’ve categorised it as art history; none of this “comics are too cheap to be art” nonsense for the WEA! You can find details and enrol online here.

As you may have noticed if you’re a regular visitor to this blog, my interest in early manga has been growing. It’s partly a result of my work on Osamu Tezuka. Although most of his influences are very little known in the English-speaking world, ┬áhis life and career show such clear lines of development from the artists and writers who preceded him and whose work he loved that it’s impossible to ignore them if one is at all interested in how manga developed. So we’ll be exploring manga from its earliest roots, in its social, cultural and political context, in order to understand its 21st-century flowering into a globally significant art form.

Hopefully we’ll also have some fun along the way. From the riotous lifestyle of Ippei Okamoto, a Taisho-era Jason King if ever there was one, to the wartime spookery of Shigeru Mizuki’s involuntary trip to the Pacific and the kamishibai boom in Occupied Japan, there’s a lot going on even before Osamu Tezuka arrives on the scene. The course will run for 20 weeks, which will give us time to cover things in some detail, and hopefully to share and discuss each other’s favourite manga.

You can sign up online or download a course outline on the WEA website. The WEA team will be happy to answer any questions about enrolling. You can contact me with questions, ideas or suggestions about the course, via comments or email.

2 thoughts on “Manga – History, Context and Culture

  1. I met Mizuki only once at a convention in 1993. He is not listed as being at the convention but I have a picture of him and his translator. I also got him to autograph a limited edition English language book I got from one of the Japanese Komiket people who were also at the convention. Mizuki also drew me a sketch of Nezumi Otoko. He seemed surprised that I knew a bit about his work but I explained that I had seen the TV series (3rd version) which was being broadcast in Hawaii. At the time, I sported a wiry beard and mustache which prompted Mizuki to say that I looked like a Yokai! Very few people outside of the Japanese knew of him but he seemed very amiable and took it all in stride. As for Tezuka, I never met him but friends in Minneapolis were big fans of his work and when Tezuka stopped by they got him to autograph several manga and magazines for me. That was several years before he passed away.

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