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Japanese professor gives lecture on history of manga

As manga gains in popularity worldwide and in Egypt, a lecture in Cairo explains the history of the art form and widening range of genres within manga

Menna Taher, Tuesday 6 Mar 2012
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Astro Boy
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Japanese manga comics, popular worldwide, are also becoming increasingly popular among Egyptians. In this context of an increased interest in manga in Egypt, manga professor Hosogaya Atsushi gave two lectures at the Japan Foundation and the High Institute for Cinema on 4 and 5 March respectively.

“The art of Japanese comics goes back to the Edo period in the 18th century,” Hosogaya said. “But at the beginning they were just pictures without words.”

At the beginning of the 20th century the art form flourished, and was influenced by American and European comics. Its political leanings were also undeniable.

“One of the most famous comics was about a black dog, who was the strongest member in the army,” he said.

However, after Japan’s World War II defeat, the manga industry came to a halt for a few years. It was during the 1950s when Japan was embarking upon reconstruction in different fields that the manga industry was revived and developed enormously.

Osamu Tezuka, who is referred to as the god of manga, appeared in the 1950s along with the spread of television sets in Japanese homes. This marked the beginning of animated Japanese series based on manga comics, known as anime.

With the popularity of anime, manga characters started appearing in television advertisements and weekly manga magazines filled the markets.

Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy (better known in Japan as Mighty Atom) was the first popular series that appeared on television. It depicted the conflict between science and humanity, selfishness and altruism, nature and nurture.

“The themes of Tezuka revolved around the scientific advances and how they do not necessarily comply with the advancement of humanity,” Hosgaya said. “This could be clearly seen in one of his manga comics on the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima.”

Tezuka had another very important contribution to the manga industry, according to Hosogaya: he laid the groundwork for the Shojo comics (comics written for girls).

According to the book by Osamu Tezuka "God of Anime", Japan is the only country that has a thriving and distinct female comics culture.  

“At first most manga writers were men, even those writing the Shojo comics, however, currently half of the manga writers are women,” Hosogaya said. “Seventy percent of students at the University where I teach are women.”

“In the 1980s many different types of manga emerged,” Hosogaya said. Manga even became a tool for teaching in engineering schools. In the following decade, many video games emerged and manga comics developed a worldwide reach with many works getting translated.

“There are many different types of manga comics,” Hosogaya explained while showing the audience different comic books to pass around.

All the comics he showed can be found in the Japan Foundation library, and ranged from historical works to soccer, from the writing of the alphabet to cooking, and from the Tsunami to the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

“There is a comic on alcohol that is being translated in France now,” he said.

After the lecture Hosogaya gave a workshop on how to draw manga comics by asking students to draw four different frames that make up a short story, while giving out pointers how the stories could be improved.

Hosagaya is an associate professor at the faculty arts department of Manga at the Tokyo Polytechnic University and the head of the Japanese Society for Manga Studies.

Japan Foundation
5th floor in the Cairo Centre Building
106 Qasr El-Aini Street, Garden City

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