A briefing on experimental manga

ax cover

Ax cover

To highlight, away from the conventional clutches of Commercialization there were minds in Japan that could pervade on wonders akin to Will Eisner, Dave Mazzucchelli, Joe Sacco or contemporaries like Sarnath Banerjee. People who went away from the commercialized markets to probe their pens into jotting down the unconventional. Experimenting on several acoustic art styles that would echo expressionist ideas, and themes that knew no bizarre boundaries.

Although their Graphic Novels can be categorized as having seinen/mature content over the internet, but originally they went out of the demographic shackles of shounen, seinen or Josei as they germinated in the libraries dating from Post-war Japan as an underground movement of sorts. The initiative was taken by Yashihiro Tatsumi when he decided to provide the country with a market which would appeal to the crowd that appreciates magical realism and other literary aesthetics. Though the market was misunderstood and gained notoriety among conscious parental circles who stereotyped drawings with speech bubbles as bad influence to the children and more so because of the lewd content at times. But there were significant number of adolescent readers that protested against these tectonic calamities which were up to shake off the foundation.

Yashihiro Tatsumi rejected the term ‘manga’ which conventionally meant ‘mindless’ or ‘superficial’ images and decided to term the anthologies as Comics ‘Gekiga’, catering to something as having more of a dramatic or aesthetic sensibility. Though Gekiga couldn’t sustain long enough for the economic pressure and most of the artists had to disperse, but they tried to build up their own anthologies. One of the most significant till date being the ‘Garo’ magazine, that climbed up with the help of Yashiharu Tsuge. His works reflected a personal stance and was drawn from his own metaphysical experiences. His works till date hold high grounds among literary critics. Garo gained considerable popularity around the 60’s leading to the experimental techniques seeping into the commercialized market through the ever praising “Ozamu Tezuka”. He started implementing similar themes and unconventional art styles in his works. Hence began the Golden age of manga.

Aside, other anthologies heir to Garo worth mentioning : ‘Ax’, which gained immense popularity in the west, when the North American Publisher ‘Top Shelf’ decided to release an anthology of selected underground graphic novels from Japan titled ‘Ax’, in 2008.

Influences prevail throughout till date, either in the art style as seen in the works of Junji Ito (Uzumaki), or Shintaro Kago (Anamorphosis no Meijuu), reflections of horror experimentation that has been called ‘fashionable paranoia’ among critics and themes as seen in the bizarre works of Fuyumi Soryo (Eternal Sabbath), Nishioka Kyoudai (Kami no Kodomo) and Hideo Yamamoto (Homunculus). There also have been significant influences outside the cultural boundaries, as many artists from time to time have rejected the conventional manga art style to pursue and blend into European influences, Pioneering this stance was Katsuhiro Otomo the creator of ‘Akira’ manga who was interested in the cyberpunk movement creeping in the western literature.

Without further detention here’s a list of experimental manga that the interested folks can look up, but I doubt if most of them have ever been scanalated.

Rahul Ghosh


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