In a recent interview with Monocle Magazine, Japanamerica author and pop culture stalwart Roland Kelts was asked about Meiji University’s plans for a manga library. “When you make a Rock and Roll museum, it means that Rock and Roll is dead,” he said. “And when you build a manga museum, to some extent it means that there is an end in sight.”
Perhaps in its present form, yes. Kelts doesn’t believe that manga are going away, but domestic sales are down, with print media competing with – and frequently losing to – digital platforms on cell phones and the Internet. Don’t worry, he explains, manga are just in the process of adapting to the new landscape. Downloadable manga for your cell phone are but one example.
That’s not the only recent adaptation. Akky Akimoto over at Asiajin just wrote about two new manga-style newspapers launching in Japan. There is also potential in both academic and corporate applications, with manga guides to calculus, physics, statistics and other subjects available on Amazon now, as well as a new service for businesses to make their company manuals much more visually stimulating.
This does not mean manga will always be a force for good in the next decade. Keep in mind there are plenty of nationalist manga, and the illustrated “Mein Kampf” sold quite well here. But if practical and enlightening applications take hold, the world’s instruction manuals, textbooks and classic texts could become engaging in an entirely new way. In the United States, underground comic legend R. Crumb re-imagined the Book of Genesis as a graphic novel. Now imagine what Japan’s legions of manga artists could do.
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