The Impact of Japanese Comics and Animation in Asia
By Ng Wai-ming
Photo : © Fujiko Pro, © Nintendo, © SANRIO CO., LTD.
Japan is a manga superpower. It has replaced the United States as the world’s largest exporter of comics and animation. In Asia, Japanese comics and animation have been very popular and influential from the 1980s to the present. Nowadays, almost all Asian nations have their own editions of Japanese comics and their televisions show Japanese animated series on a daily basis. Different forms of Japanese comic and animation culture, such as comic café (manga kissha), comic rental, dojinshi (amateurish manga) and cosplay (costume play), have penetrated the consumer culture in major Asian cities. Merchandise of Japanese cartoon characters, such as Hello Kitty, Doraemon, Chibimaruko-chan, Crayon Shinchan, Sailormoon, Dragonball, Tare Panda, Pokemon, and Digimon is very popular among Asian children and young people. Asian businessmen also make use of Japanese cartoon characters to promote their products or services. Japanese manga has played a role in changing the youth culture and the people’s perception of Japan in Asia. Youngsters in Asia are crazy about things Japanese. Unlike their grandparents and parents, they hold a positive image of Japan. To them, Japan is the land of Hello Kitty, Pikachau, Doraemon, Ultraman and Final Fantasy. This article looks into the impact of Japanese comics and animation in Asia, focusing on Asian comic and animation production as well as Asian popular culture and entertainment industry. Hong Kong and Taiwan, two consumption centers of Japanese comics and animation in Asia, are used as main examples for analysis.
China, Singapore and Korea are also discussed briefly for comparison. Japanese Impact on Asian Comic and Animation Production Most Asian comic and animation artists are under very strong Japanese influence in terms of drawing, format, atmosphere, perspective, story and plot, and the production system. Hong Kong has its own comic tradition and its kung fu (Chinese martial
art) comics are very popular in Chinese communities in Asia. In the 1970s and early 1980s, pioneering comic artist like Huang Yulang and Ma Yingcheng, forged the Hong Kong-style kung fu comic tradition. Both Huang and Ma incorporated Japanese elements in the making of kung fu comics. Huang’s Little Rascals (xiao liumang, 1971-1975) set the precedent in this genre. Its story is about seven Hong Kong martial art heroes who fight against gangsters in different districts in Hong Kong. Its story and drawing style were influenced by Mochizuki Mikiya’s Wild Seven, a popular comic about seven heroes who fight against the evils. The main difference between Little Rascals and Wild Seven is that the former is a work of Chinese martial art, whereas the latter is a James Bond-like story in which people use modern weapons. Nochizuki’s realistic style, in particular, his drawing of violent scenes, inspired Huang. In 1975, Little Rascals was renamed School of Dragon and Tiger (longfumen, 1975-present). In School of Dragon and Tiger, Hong Kong martial art heroes, having destroyed Hong Kong gangsters, find Japanese yakuza, right-wing organizations, samurai and ninja, their new enemies. This “righteous Chinese versus evil Japanese” scenario has set the formula for Hong Kong kung fu comics. Ma’s Chinese Hero (zhonghua yingxiong, 1983-present) revolutionized Hong Kong kung fu comics in drawing and story. Ma was indebted to Ikegami Ryoichi and Matsumori Tadashi in drawing and to Koike Kazuo and Huang in story. Ikegami is Ma’s favorite comic artist and the realistic
Journal of Japanese Trade & Industry: July / August 2002
Photo : Aaaaaa? Photo : © Inoue Takehiko I.T. Planning, Inc.
and delicate drawing of Asian faces and fighting in Ikegami’s Crying Freeman and Men’s Group (otokogumi) have an impact on Chinese Hero. Ma also learned a lot from Matsumori’s God...