Adult manga vs. manga for grown-ups

In his latest Flipped column, David Welsh talks about manga for grown-ups: what is it, how can it be distinguished from manga that is “adult” purely because of graphic sex and violence, and whether anybody reads it. For example, he details the numerous violent scenes in vol. 1 of Gantz, then comments:

What’s surprising to me about Gantz is how little impact any of the above has. I can’t really describe it as cynical or exploitative, because the mayhem just sort of is. It seems more dedicated to what gross-bloody-cool thing it can render next, and if there’s a thematic master plan, it doesn’t emerge in the first volume.

On the other hand, Eden: It’s an Endless World manages to embody both types of adult-ness, graphic content and sophisticated storytelling. It’s an interesting literary and semantic problem. Also, someone needs to come up with a better term than “manga for grown-ups” for books that demand an older audience because of mature storytelling rather than simple explicitness. Suggestions, anyone? (Image is of vol. 1 of Eden, which I just ordered from my local Borders.)

Benjamin Ong Pang Kean looks at the possible effect of the Kodansha move on Viz in his latest article for Newsarama.

There are two sets of new arrivals at PopCultureShock’s Manga Recon blog; in the newest Weekly Recon, Kate Dacey introduces three new bloggers and lists this week’s new manga.

It’s official: Iris Print is closing its doors and liquidating its stock, selling its books off on the web at a 50% discount.

Looks like Youka Nitta won’t be going to Yaoi-Con after all.

ICv2 has more info on the two Natsuki Takaya (Fruits Basket) manga picked up by Tokyopop, including cover images of the Japanese editions.

Matt Blind lists the top 50 manga series at Rocket Bomber.

Heidi MacDonald reflects on the Takashi Murakami show of manga-influenced art.

News from Japan: ANN reports that Kazurou Inoue, creator of Midori Days, will launch a new manga called Undead in the magazine Big Comic Spirits.

Reviews: Well, Dave Ferraro liked vol. 1 of Gantz, and he explains why at Comics-and-More. And here are some more titles for grown-ups: Lissa Pattillo reads vol. 4 of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service at Kuri-ousity. Tiamat’s Disciple looks at vol. 3 of Vampire Hunter D: Demon Deathchase. On the other end of the spectrum, Greg McElhatton reviews the all-ages title Cowa! at Read About Comics. Eric Turner checks out vol. 1 of Sundome at Manga Jouhou. Edward Zacharias reviews vol. 30 of Naruto, Kiki Van De Camp reads vol. 2 of Sand Chronicles, and Ai Kano looks at vol. 1 of One Pound Gospel at Animanga Nation.

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  1. David Hearst says

    Eden is a great series. The story is very mature (not in a sexual way but there are some sexual parts) and sophisticated. I’ve only read the first 4 so far but plan on reading the rest of the series when I can get my hands on them. In many ways it is a very atypical manga that avoids a lot of the common manga cliches and instead lays out a very thought provoking story.

  2. I’m glad Dave’s review of Gantz mentions “T&A” when talking about how that manga is over-sexed, because seriously, the sexual content can’t just be called “sex”—it’s absolutely male-dominated sexism. Anyone sensitive to chauvinism should avoid the manga at all costs, since one of the opening scenes involves a young girl dropped naked in the middle of boys, so all of them try (and some of them fail) to not rape her, because, you know, how can they resist raping a naked, helpless, frightened girl? That manga is f*cked up, seriously.

  3. … Seriously, but what you describe sounds offensive to men as well.

  4. I must be the only one in serocon fandom to have found the first volume of Eden to be stereotypically awful, sophomoric rubbish, a throwback to the bad old days of post-apocalyptic twaddle with the usual self-satisfied air of moral superiority. I *hate* it when Japanese authors indulge in the supposed moral purity of their raised-by-wolves child-protagonists, and the first volume of Eden had that in spades. Rousseau by way of Antonio Gramsci. Bah.

    Gantz, on the other hand, is cheerfully nihilistic street-punk pulp, with a triumph-of-the-shounen protagonist who’s a complete and total ass.

  5. Gantz should be burned in piles and the ashes dumped where they’ll never bother anyone :p It’s nothing but sex, violence and boobs of the week.

    I’ve read a few volumes, volume 5 was my last i think. But i found it dull and offensive at times. I’d rather read Beserk, and i hate beserk !!

  6. Lianne, you must have been reading a doujishi of Gantz because the scene you describe simply didn’t happen.

    Yes a naked girl appears in the Gantz apartment. A gangster does try to rape her and one of the boys attacks him for doing so.

    Yes, Gantz is violent and bloody and mature, but much more readable to me than a room full of panty-shot shoujo that fills the shelves.

    And Mitch, yes, you are the only one in “serocon fandom to have found the first volume of Eden to be stereotypically awful, sophomoric rubbish, a throwback to the bad old days of post-apocalyptic twaddle with the usual self-satisfied air of moral superiority”.

  7. “I must be the only one in serocon fandom to have found the first volume of Eden to be stereotypically awful, sophomoric rubbish, a throwback to the bad old days of post-apocalyptic twaddle with the usual self-satisfied air of moral superiority.”

    Sounds just like a bog standard manga of the genre to me :)

    Been a while since i read Eden, i dropped it when it became uncertain whether it was going to be completed or not. I had a few problems with it’s consistency, but i did enjoy it.

  8. Tiamat—>

    You don’t like Berserk? Seven Seas is right… you ARE crazy! ;)

  9. Wow. What seinen titles DO people like?

    If “sex, violence and boobs” a sinner makes, then I forgive me Father, as I have sinned.

  10. I’ve nothing against sex and violence, it’s pointless sex and violence i don’t like. Beserk being a prime example :)

    Good seinen would be stuff like Anne Freaks, Arcana Soul, Koudelka, Kurozuka, or Toshi no Hito. All are great seinen that have lots of sex and violence, but use it correctly.

  11. I’ve nothing against sex and violence, it’s pointless sex and violence i don’t like. Beserk being a prime example

    Well said!

  12. Yes a naked girl appears in the Gantz apartment. A gangster does try to rape her and one of the boys attacks him for doing so.

    John, I exaggerated a bit (I was trying to encompass the attitude of the scene rather than be exact about what happened), but that’s exactly the scene I’m talking about. After everyone stands around being awkward as the gangster tries to rape the girl, the boy stands up for her, then tells her to cover up with a snide comment about how “if she doesn’t, he’s not sure he can contain himself” or something. I don’t remember the scene exactly since I read it a long time ago, but it absolutely stopped me from reading more of the comic. Like a girl being naked against her will is asking to be raped. There was no actual rape in the scene, but the attitude about these people practically expecting the rape of a naked, helpless girl turned by stomach.

    And jun, yes, men could find the scene offensive as well. Which is why I said the manga should be avoided by “anyone sensitive to chauvinism,” not just women.

  13. Lianne, Gantz is just bad in general, it plays to the basest human desires, not unlike a few other manga i could name. Sadly on that score, it does it well. I know a lot of people who love gantz and think it’s one of the best ever. To me though it’s enough to set my skin crawling.

    I’m not offended by chauvinism, since lets face it, most seinen at least leans that way :) What i don’t like is the pointless sex and violence. It neither drives the story, or develops the characters, it’s just there.

    Unfortunatly in the current world, sex and violence sells, the more of each the more it sells.

    Personally, i don’t class Gantz as seinen, i consider it a smut/snuff title. And it’s not one i’ll be reading, or reviewing.

  14. “Wow. What seinen titles DO people like?”

    Emma? Yotsuba&?

    For the record, I don’t loathe Eden, but I read several volumes and gave up because it made me feel sick and sad, and nothing about it impressed me enough to continue to subject myself to that feeling.

  15. Read Gantz as satire and it all makes sense.

  16. Lianne,

    Thank you for making that clarification

    Without the book in front of me I risk remembering incorrectly, but if you read it “a long time ago” then you were reading an unofficial scanned translation, not the Dark Horse release, right? Some scanlations are better than others.

    That being said, when a teenage boy says he isn’t sure if he can “contain himself” I don’t read that as “or else I am going to be the one to rape you.”
    I read it as a bit more biological, and we’ll leave it at that.

    And you quit reading before the other teenage boy, Kei, is caught naked guy the now covered-up girl in a embarrassing comic aside.

    I am not saying your perception of Gantz is inaccurate, and I am not going to pretend that the first volume of Gantz is Sunday School material, but I want the context of criticism to be fair.

  17. Tiamat, it’s your choice whether or not to review Gantz, and there hasn’t been any sex so far, and the violence very much drove the story, so I am going to assume you have read much more beyond the first volume.

    Though I don’t think calling Gantz, “smut” is fair.

    You can despise Gantz all you want, but don’t classify it as something it isn’t.

    I have read smut, sir, and Gantz is no smut.

  18. While it’s not true smut, it’s closer to smut than it is to seinen. Thats why i said smut/snuff

  19. I rather hate the thought of picking up Dark Horse’s version of the book, but I think I may have to in order to read it carefully and write an appropriate review.

    “Can’t contain himself”…man, I wish I had the book in Japanese in front of me. If he said something along the lines of “gaman dekinai,” that’s practically a manga pr0n cliche, and is often strongly associated with sex, not just “an uncontrolled biological response,” as I think you’re implying. But alas, arguing the semantics of a book in two languages when neither of us has any book in front of us isn’t exactly productive.

    Dammit! Now I have to read Gantz again so I can argue this better. Look what you did, John!

  20. I don’t agree that it is closer to smut than seinen, but we’ll probably just have to agree to disagree on that point.

    But I think it is only fair to not call it something that it isn’t.

    Gantz is closer to shonen than it is to an algebra textbook, but that doesn’t make it shonen.

  21. Lianne, I don’t want to put you through an experience you don’t want fo through, and there is little doubt you were repulsed by what you read for a reason. I am just saying I didn’t have the same reaction, and enjoyed the first volume of Gantz.

    I just think Gantz, and all titles, deserve a fair shake, and people who haven’t read the book read these comments, so I just want to make sure we are fair and are not exaggerating or making people walk away thinking “Oh, Gantz is a porno” when it clearly isn’t.

  22. Nakochan says

    Hello. I have been thinking about picking up Gantz because the premise sounds interesting, but after reading these comments and David Welsh’s article I’m not so sure. I’m okay with sex and violence as long as it ccntributes to the story in some way. My favorite manga series is Berserk and I think it’s a perfect example of a seinen manga that is “adult” not just for sexual and violent content but for the well written, complex story and characters. I do have my limits though. I did not pick up MPD Psycho because from what I’ve heard about it the violence is so graphic it would be too much for me. If Gantz is more like Berserk then I’ll probably give it a try. What do you guys think? Would you recommend Gantz to a Berserk lovin’ woman in her late twenties?

  23. Ultimately it’s upto you Nakochan. I despise Gantz, but i also despise Beserk, i see them both as the same garbage pile.

    If you’ve never read it before, and you liked Berserk, then chances are you’ll probably either like Gantz, or not be as offended or made sick as others. Best bet is to go to a book shop and have a flick through the first volume. If it ctches you, buy it, if not, put it back :)

  24. Oh, one other thing, Gantz is highly male orientated, more so than berserk was. That can be a bit off putting at times as well.

  25. You can’t flip through Gantz at the bookstore because it’s shrink-wrapped. Dark Horse has a 10-page preview on its site, but that’s probably not enough to make your decision.

  26. I posted my Gantz thoughts on a Dark Horse forum thread before; Basically, I thought Gantz was male-fantasy shite and, despite some interesting premises, was too gnarly (and later, boring) to be enjoyed. Excerpted comments from a few weeks ago, because I am lazy:

    “Didn’t any one else have problems with how rapey and sexist the manga was? I couldn’t get past how in the first er…. 60 CHAPTERS (just wait, you’ll see) EVERY female character that gets left by herself either gets attempted raped or threatened with rape. WTF is that? oh, aside from a grandma that gets murdered. yay?

    I did enjoy the first 1/3 of the book, the premise is rad and mystery around GANTZ is pretty compelling and nifty. I think the onion alien is the lamest of the ten battles (or so) to date, and there are some compelling sequences part of the way of through the series (will he or won’t he get a girl? what is it like to have a hot girl sleep over when you’re a dorky virgin? what about the possibilities of getting 100 points!) … but unfortunately these don’t really GO anywhere… I feel like the manga drops the ball on the interesting possibilities it creates for itself.

    In a nutshell, this problem with Gantz I have (well, there are more than a few problems with Gantz, but sticking to gender stuff) is that there never really emerges an interesting female character who is not threatened with rape or faced with a pervasive, threatening gaze from other dudes. I mean, Gantz is a seinen battle manga and isn’t primarily about relationships and roles between men & women, but it is something that kept bugging me throughout the non-Battle sequences. It doesn’t even have a I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE “rape revenge” angle, where female character GETS BACK at the dudes being varying degrees of gnarly. Not that that fixes the problems, but it’d be an improvement at least over what Oku has given us.

    I’m cool with racy fan service when it works well but the way Oku handles his female characters and inserts sexual assault as this overarching FACT of the universe of the story is bad. It’s pandering, or lazy writing, at very least. “


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