By Antonio Gonçalves Filho, from Agência Estado
the phenomenon mangoafter seven decades of existence of Astro Boy, the android boy, is not exactly new, but what few know is that he is still older than the character created by mangaka (manga artist) Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989) in 1952. Centuries before Tezuka, other artists Japanese already sketched the first chapters of the history of the manga. More precisely in the 12th century, the first pictorial compositions on scrolls, containing fantastic narratives with animals, monsters and demons, were already circulating among Japanese aristocrats, anticipating the future popular manga consecrated by the stroke of a master of Ukyio-e engraving, Hokusai (1760). -1849).
For those who don’t remember, Hokusai is the author of the gigantic wave that has Mount Fuji in the background. This is just one of the tasty stories of Thousand Years of Mangaby Japanese-French Brigitte Koyama-Richard, released by Estação Liberdade.
It is a great – and well-illustrated – introduction to the universe of manga, from the 12th century reels to the advent of Gekiga, comics for adults produced in the 1950s by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, who, influenced by Tezuka, took this language to a new dimension. realist. And that story goes beyond him and Tatsumi, reaching alternate manga editions (such as Garo magazine), the demonic universe of Mizuki Shigeru’s illustrations (1922-2015) and the recent dramatic manga by Taniguchi Jiro (1947-2017).
It seems understandable that such a long and rich story cannot fit into a volume of 272 pages. In fact, two-thirds of the book is devoted to the preliminaries to the history of manga, which is good for anyone interested in the history of art in Japan and not so much for anyone looking for a sociological analysis of the Japanese fascination with popular manga. misshapen monsters and boys with big western eyes.
Anyway, the chapters that analyze from the 12th century painted scrolls to the Ukyio-e prints, which had such an influence on European Impressionists and Post-Impressionists (especially Van Gogh), are the best, but from 1990 onwards, there is a less profound story. It is certain, however, that it has been explored in other books by the author, professor of Art History at Musashi University of Tokyo – and an example of this could be “L’Animation Japonaise: Du Rouleau Peint aux Pokémon” (Flammarion, 2009).
Thousand Years of Manga, with 400 illustrations, makes up for small omissions. The teacher’s focus is the visual correspondence between classical and contemporary Japanese and Western art – Osamu Tezuka was heavily influenced by Walt Disney, to the point that his Astro Boy assimilated certain features of Mickey Mouse (such as ears). It was, by the way, Astro Boy, the first manga he read, reveals the teacher.
Just as mangaka were influenced by Western artists, the West was also marked by stories such as Osamu’s android boy (a kind of robot created to make up for the absence of a scientist’s son in a disaster). Superheroes without parents in western comics the reader knows by the dozens, but Astro Boy condenses innocence and love for humanity like few others.
Manga, defends the author, finally has a pedagogical function, in addition to pure entertainment, but Japan took a long time to legitimize the genre as art (the first manga museum only opened in the 21st century, in Kyoto, according to the book). After Japan’s defeat in World War II, Japanese artists looked to the Western model, particularly the American one, for heroes to stimulate the imagination of children, fascinated by Tarzan.
Against Rice Burroughs’ ape-man, the samurai stories, banned during the war, are also rescued from limbo in the 1950s, according to the author, accounting for the recovery of Japan’s ties to its roots. There were even violent reactions against the “Westernization” of creators like Osamu Tezuka. They burned his comics in the streets, accusing him of “exerting a nefarious influence on Japanese youth”. Tezuka was not shaken. He was even a protofeminist when he signed the first shöjo manga for girls in 1953, “The Princess and the Knight”.
Other mangaka followed her path and helped to solidify the image of the new post-war Japanese woman, less sensible and far from the stereotype of a good mother of a family. They looked to the street for inspiration. Her manga, the author notes, influenced fashion, hairstyles, and makeup.
Shöjo manga heroine Ikeda Riyoko was short lived (she died aged 46 in 2005), but left seminal works on independent women, including an adaptation of Lady Oscar. After her, just a “demon” like Nezuko, Tanjira’s sister in “Demon Slayer”, manga by Koyoharu Gotouge, to get the public’s attention. Dependent on her brother to regain her human form, she represents, in a way, a regression. But the story is like that, full of revisitations and the search for success. The “Demon Slayer” movie franchise has already grossed nearly $9 billion. That says something about the Japanese. And a lot about the manga.