Talking Manga in the Library

A couple of weeks ago I went to Pimlico Library to give a talk as part of the Westminster Libraries’ Graphic Novel Season. They wanted an introduction to the history of anime and manga, so I decided to take them back to first principles. After a brief rundown of early Japanese graphic narrative art (with nods to the graffiti kings of Nara, Toba Sojo and the printmakers and souvenir salesmen of the Edo era) we looked at nineteenth-century adventurers Charles Wirgman and Georges Bigot and gap year kid Frank A. Nankivell. That gave me a perfect opportunity to rave about Rakuten Kitazawa and Ippei Okamoto, segueing neatly into the artists they nurtured and the great renewal of the manga and anime industry in the years after World War II.

I had a wonderful time, and got the chance to introduce the audience to some of my own favourite books on the history of anime and manga, starting of course with Frederik L. Schodt’s groundbreaking (and still unsurpassed) Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics.  Courtesy of Francis Djin of Westminster Libraries, here are a couple of pictures.

As you can see, we had reasonably comfy chairs (but no soft cushions) and good AV facilities. The library itself is very spiffy, with a superb graphic novel collection and a coffee shop upstairs – a very civilised place to read manga. And if you join (easy and free) they let you take them home, which is an excellent way to save space and money.

If you don’t already support your public library, please start soon. Libraries are very vulnerable to spending cuts and unless they are well used, people with no imagination say they’re a waste of money. Help keep them open – all you have to do is show up occasionally. You might even persuade your chosen library to buy more manga and run a few events like Westminster’s!


5 thoughts on “Talking Manga in the Library

  1. I think showing how manga and anime started is such a good way to educate some local anime and manga fans about specific moments in Japanese history leading up to what it is today, more than just the giant robots and sailor-scout outfits. Good job and thanks for the post!

    • You’re most welcome! I love working in libraries – I owe a good part of my education to the public library system – so if any library wants me to speak, set up a manga reading group, do poetry or whatever, get in touch!

  2. Helen this was an amazing talk and a great night. Thanks so much for the support of the graphic novel season and especially for your contribution to the mailart show. An excellent season and a very worthy cause

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