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Japanese funny books...

Despite the error that appears in the very second sentence of the article, that isn't cleared up until the third electronic page of the piece, there's a reasonably good article in the Washington Post's Weekend section by Mark Jenkins (and online, of course) talking of the gaining popularity of anime and manga. Of course, by the time a paper like the WashPost hits on to a cultural phenomena rise, it's probably actually peaked months ago. I doubt it has, as I really don't see anything that's coming to supplant it.

The hook to the article is Katsucon, an anime convention that's happening in town this weekend. Katsucon is actually one of (I believe) three such conventions that are held in the region. Katsucon, after frequently being held in the somewhat underground city of Crystal City, is now in downtown proper. Anime USA occurs in November at Tysons Corner, and Otakon has summer in Baltimore.

Two things stick out with me. Good things are said for the Teen Titans series, which although is a good series that takes bits of inspiration from anime, that is all there is to it. It's an entirely American product, with the caveat that the majority of the animation is outsourced to Asia, like all non-Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks animated features. There's an attempt to imply a Japanese co-production on the level of say the new Astroboy or the second season of Big O. (Not that I should complain, since not enough good things can be said for Teen Titans. Especially as Cartoon Network has opted to end production on it, to free up money to purchase inappropiate live action movies to air...such as "Ace Ventura II" for Presidents' Day -- ok, I'll save that rant for a later post...)

Second, second is the idea that one reason the genra has become popular is how it isn't condescending. Characters aren't all virtue and all vice, which is something that has had a hard time breaking into American animation. One of the more absurd examples is that of the show Captain Planet, which misguidedly instructed in its series manual that the polluters are evil to the point of lunacy and that they pollute because they want the planet dead. That idiocy helped to make the show more harmful to its cause than anything else. But Captain Planet is in line with how animation producers viewed its audience back in the 70s and 80s, as simple minded. I think even kids can recognise when they're being condesended to.

Also, there's a note that manga is popular with young girls, a market that the comic book companies never really successfully marketed to. That's cute, but looking at DC and Marvel today, I think they just have trouble marketing to anyone who isn't already a comic collector. (Note: not reader -- They don't even try for casual reader, as they consistantly place barriers too high for all but the crazed.)