Preview – Inclusivity Now – Inclusion & Creativity: The Manga Connection
Manga is a medium that is so often misunderstood, even as it fills the shelves of enthusiastic readers across the country. The Japanese form of comic storytelling is frequently seen through the narrow lens of a stereotype, leading content producers to miss the great potential it has to speak to a new generation eager to consume content that relates to them.
In our video, Inclusion & Creativity: The Manga Connection, we examine the medium and learn why manga strikes such a chord. Our contributors will highlight how it can act as a bridge for inclusion in children’s media and a platform that sparks further creativity.
I talk to Comic Book and Manga Artist Mikiko, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr Marcus Tan, and student Sabrina Sellami about what makes manga unique as a medium for inclusion. We land on some key takeaways all delegates can learn from:
- A captivating, dynamic visual style of illustration that pulls in readers.
- Authentic, emotionally diverse characters and stories.
- An ability to tackle difficult topics in an authentic manner.
Manga is a medium bursting with convention-breaking characters and diverse storylines. Even as a manga writer I continue to be surprised at the breadth of protagonists, settings and plots found across its black and white pages.
As Mikiko describes, manga has a very appealing visual style. The large eyes and often exaggerated, excitable expressions of its characters can be jarring but delve beneath the surface and it becomes apparent this is just one of the features that allow children and young people to connect with the medium so deeply.
Manga uses its monochrome imagery to dynamic effect. Not only in terms of action but emotionally; we see characters worry, laugh, cry, howl with rage and show fear, allowing young readers to easily identify their own emotions.
It wasn’t until I began working with young people through our comic story workshop sessions that I understood the true power of the medium. I’ve met many children who may be considered introverted or socially awkward but find a way to express themselves through characters able to do a lot of the emotive work on their behalf.
Introverted protagonists battling with self-doubt are by no means out of the ordinary. While more extroverted characters can regularly find themselves taking up supporting roles…a dynamic seemingly flippled from the typical swath of super-powered protagonists and characteristics typically promoted in western media…Spider-Man notwithstanding!
The decision to create our own brand that draws heavily from the manga medium was a considered one. For myself and co-founder Lao, manga has such a diversity of storylines that we could really let our own imaginations run wild and not feel out of place.
As I gain a better understanding I have learned of another of manga’s best qualities, highlighted by both Marcus and Sabrina. There is a natural ability to tackle difficult issues through appealing narratives and characters in a way that doesn’t talk down or patronise the audience.
Dysfunction in families, corruption, gender roles, personal failure, same-sex relationships, morality and even the very nature of truth can all be masterfully woven into stories.
Even with the noble intention of advancing diversity and inclusion, we as producers can make the mistake of creating characters to tick boxes of diversity but not necessarily tell a compelling story. The danger is creating idealistic worlds where everyone gets along but “dumb down” valid message in the eyes of some young audiences. Particularly those unable to link some of the ideal scenarios often seen in western media to their own lives.
Some of the dysfunction that is found in manga may be imperfect but can be infinitely more relatable to someone going through similar things in their formative years. Stories aren’t made to teach children lessons, they’re made to pull them into captivating worlds where they are able to learn from the journeys of characters they truly care about.
Comic Book and Manga Artist
Big Creative Education / Level 3 Games Design
Dr Marcus Tan
ST6 in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry