Girls love manga
By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Catherine E. Toth
Rachael Ing would normally seem out of place in a bright blue French maid costume on a Sunday afternoon. Instead, she right fit in among the other costumed anime aficionados — mostly girls — who are part of MangaBento, a fan club of sorts that meets regularly at the Academy Art Center at Linekona.
The 18-year-old from Kane'ohe got hooked on Japanese animation after she saw her first episodes of "Sailor Moon" and "Gundam" about five years ago.
Now her dream job is to be a mangaka — manga artist — or character designer.
"I like that there is more of a continuous storyline and that the stories are more in-depth than normal American cartoons," said Ing, who's majoring in fine arts at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa. "And I like the artwork. It's very dynamic."
Ing is part of a growing number of anime and manga fans in the United States — who also happen to be female.
Unlike readers of traditional American comic books and graphic novels, manga fans are more likely to be girls than boys. About 60 percent are female, estimates ICv2, an online trade publication that tracks pop-culture trends.
Though manga has been around since the 1950s, with manga godfather Tezuka Osamu's "Astro Boy" — and the anime "Princess Knight" was a kids' favorite on "Checkers & Pogo" in the '70s — its popularity has surged in recent years, particularly among girls.
With more TV series and books being translated into English, fans no longer have to search out the nearest Japanese bookstore; now you can find manga in trendy bookstores and Wal-Mart.
Anime is even easier to find, from megaplex theaters to cable TV. The Cartoon Network features blocks of anime programming, with mainstream faves "The Powerpuff Girls" and "Yu-Gi-Oh!"
"It used to be a strictly male-dominated thing," said Stan Dahlin, chairman of Kawaii Kon, an anime convention that kicks off Friday at the Ala Moana Hotel. "Now that ratio has just lopsided. Now there's more females (attending conferences) than males."
There are manga and anime that specifically target females. Called shoujo, these stories often revolve around unrequited love, relationships and teenage angst.
"They have stories about female issues that they relate to," Dahlin said. "And they portray women as strong individuals ... They're saving the guys now."
Though there is still no shortage of Bambi-eyed heroines in cutesy costumes in manga and anime, the varied storylines and dynamic art are attracting legions of female fans.
Lauren Lee, 18, of Nu'uanu, prefers the action-packed shounen style of anime, which is geared toward boys.
"I don't really know what it is. It just catches my eye," said Lee, who was dressed as Yomiko Readman from the manga "Read or Die."
"I get so addicted sometimes."
Addicted isn't even the word. Lee, a senior at McKinley High School, is borderline obsessed.
There are bookshelves in her room entirely devoted to her manga collection. Her walls are covered with posters. Her closet is packed with about 30 costumes of her favorite characters — all of which she made herself.
She admits to reading some shoujo manga — particularly the gushy-adorable "Fruits Basket" — but the action and artwork of shounen manga attract her most.
"The stories really get you in," said Lee, an avid cosplayer. "There's so much going on."
In the United States, comic books and graphic novels almost exclusively target male readers. In Japan, by contrast, manga reaches for all types, from young children to retirees. Topics rance from sports to crime to romance.
"There's something out there for everyone," said Chris Macedonio, 26, of 'Aiea, a fan since the '80s. "And with large companies like Borders and Best Buy picking up anime and manga, it's just becoming more mainstream."
Though it can be difficult to track, sales in the U.S. have more than doubled from $55 million in 2002, according to ICv2.
Claudia Gelillo, a 36-year-old mother of four from 'Ewa Beach, remembers how difficult it was to find manga 20 years ago, growing up in White Plains, N.Y.
She got hooked on "Mai the Psychic Girl" when she was 12.
"I thought it was so cool," said Gelillo, whose four kids are anime fans, too. "Here was this girl with psychic powers. Just her and her dad. My mom was a single parent, so I could relate."
Gelillo likes how female characters are often portrayed as strong and fearless. But she appreciates the real-life issues that are addressed in the story lines.
"They don't all have happy endings," Gelillo said. "The girl doesn't necessarily end up with the popular guy ... It's a realism that's allowed in the books. If you get hurt, you get hurt. If you get slapped, you get slapped. It really pulls the emotion out of you."
Kara Kansaku admits she was first attracted to "Sailor Moon" because the characters were "pretty girls in pretty dresses."
Now, the 15-year-old freshman at McKinley High School is more into shounen, her favorites being "Yakitate!!" and "Saiyuki."
An artist herself, Kansaku said the artwork in shounen is more complex and interesting than that in shoujo. And for her, the action makes shounen more exciting. "Yes, I judge the book by its cover," she said, smiling. "And shoujo is too girly for me."
KNOW YOUR LINGO
Commonly used manga and anime terms:
Anime: Japanese animation
BGM: Background music, usually instrumental, during an anime show
Cel: Hand-painted draw ing on transparency, used in the produc tion of anime
Chibi: Little; also refers to the "super deformed" stubby caricature style
CG: Computer graphics, the 3D animation used in newer anime productions
Con: Short for convention, an official gathering of anime vendors and fans
Cosplay: Costume play. Dressing as anime, manga or other pop culture characters
Digisub: A fansub that is digitally produced and distributed
Doujinshi: Self-published works, often fan art
Eyecatch: Graphic or scene used to begin or end a commercial break in anime
Fanart: Artwork drawn by fans of their favorite characters
Fanfic: An unauthorized story, written by fans, involving characters from an existing story
Fansub: Anime translated and subtitled by fans without official authorization
Japanimation: Old term for Japanese animation; refers to crudely old-fashioned anime
Kaiju: Giant monster, such as Godzilla
Kawaii: Cute; especially girlishness
Manga: Japanese comic books or graphic novels
Mangaka: Manga artist
Mecha: Giant robots
Omake: Bonus features included with anime videos and manga
Otaku: Fan of anime or manga
OVA: Original Video Anima tion (OAV is Original Animated Video). An anime miniseries pro duced to be released directly to video
Seiyuu: Voice actor
Shoujo: Anime or manga aimed at girls
Shounen: Anime or manga aimed at boys
Shounen: Stories involving -ai male-male relation ships (Yaoi is more explicit)
Shoujo-ai: Stories involving female-female relationships (Yuri is more explicit)
Reach Catherine E. Toth at email@example.com.