Good Link Reads

At Mortlake on the Schuylkill, a fascinating analysis of male/female roles, artistic and visual positioning, and connections to the noir genre in X-Factor #5. I haven’t had a chance to read last week’s comics yet, and this makes me look forward to that issue even more. The piece has lots of spoilers, but I didn’t mind — I don’t only read the series for “what happens next”, but to see how beautifully it’s crafted and executed. The resulting comments widen the discussion about the role of the female heroine in jeopardy.

Dave Ex Machina wants help with his Previews order. I’ve responded there, but his comments started me thinking about long-running series. He lists, for example, Usagi Yojimbo Book 20 among his potential purchases. That’s an accomplishment that creator Stan Sakai should be congratulated for, but I wonder if readers start taking series like that for granted. Given the choice between a new book that I’m looking forward to and another volume of a known series, it’s easy to be distracted by the new and flashy. Even with consistently great quality, the continuing series becomes familiar and somehow less attractive, even though that’s not really fair.

Tangognat tackles the question of manga age ratings in libraries. I agree with her that David Taylor got it wrong in recommending libraries enforce age recommendations. Libraries and bookstores are important fighters in American culture against the idea that all popular culture be suitable for children. They provide a lot of wide-ranging material and leave it up to the reader (or the adult responsible for them) to make appropriate selections. That’s the best way to stand up for the idea of our freedom to have all kinds of material available.

Darn. I feel really strongly about this and I’m expressing myself really badly on why it’s so important and even what I’m specifically talking about. Let’s sum up: David should be chastizing the parents who ignored the ratings, not the library. It is not the library’s place to pay any attention to what, specifically, anyone is checking out or reading. It is their job only to shelve works appropriately and, as Tangognat says, “to provide open access to information”.

11 Responses to “Good Link Reads”

  1. Brandon Says:

    I too got a bit worried that maybe people were taking Usagi Yojimbo for granter, so I started buying it monthly to show my support. And I’m glad I did–now I know that in two months there’s an issue devoted to the tea ceremony . . . and I can’t wait!

  2. JennyN Says:

    Johanna – On balance, I agree with you and Tangognat (apart from anything else, the practicalities of a public library’s trying to enforce anything that’s not very clearly spelled out are horrendous). However, when I looked at the discussion on LoveManga, I did notice that many participants seemed to be viewing the matter from an American perspective – specifically that of the US – which rather overlooks the fact that, say, the concept of “First Amendment rights” (as something with any legal force) simply doesn’t apply outside US territory. In this case, the incident itself apparently happened in Canada, while David Taylor is writing from a UK perspective. (My own country originally derived its legal and political systems from Britain and has continued to develop them along lines much closer to Continental Europe).

    I’m sure we all agree that censorship is, broadly speaking, Not A Good Thing. However, I do think that when writing in what is really a global forum / medium – the Internet – we all need to remember that what we take for granted as a cultural/political/legal norm may not be so to others.

  3. tangognat Says:

    Thanks for the link – I do agree with JennyN that there are cultural differences at play, and when American librarians and British manga fans start talking about an incident in a Canadian library and extending the dicussion to libraries in general, all the cultural/legal norms get all mixed up. But in some cases in the comment thread over at Love Manga, I think the discussion was centered around the possibility of a similar situation happening in libraries in the U.S., and I don’t think it is good to make arguments about restricting access in American libraries without an attempt to understand some of the laws and values under which they operate.

  4. James Schee Says:

    Hmm I’ve been getting manga at my library, in a very conservative area in Texas. One of the ones I just picked up was Cheeky Angel #11, and one word balloon has an ink scribble over a word that seemed like it could be a curse word.

    I wonder if the library may have done that? (it is a brand new volume, that they had just put on the shelf, so I doubt a kid could have done so)

  5. tangognat Says:

    I seriously doubt that a library would deface a book like that. It would be much more likely that another library patron picked up the book in the library before it was checked out and scribbled on it. I’ve checked out romance books from public libraries where pages detailing any sort of sex act were already ripped out. And checked out books where someone went through them with a black marker. Usually I’ll hand a book like that to someone at the library and point out that it is damaged instead of putting it in the book drop when I’m returning it.

  6. Johanna Says:

    Brandon, thanks for sharing your enthusiasm!

    Jenny, good reminder — I tried to acknowledge that in my comments above by using the phrase “American culture”, but it likely wasn’t obvious enough.

    I despise the attitude that would think it was your right to deface a book that doesn’t belong to you.

  7. JennyN Says:

    Johanna wrote
    “I tried to acknowledge that in my comments above by using the phrase “American culture”, but it likely wasn’t obvious enough”.

    Actually no, Johanna, you *did* make your comments specific. I was simply making the point that in many online discussions people do seem to forget that what applies in their own national context may not in others (and while some posters on LoveManga did make it clear that they were considering the issue in a US context, my own feeling at least was that a few others fitted said context onto other countries, which doesn’t really work).

  8. James Schee Says:

    I’m really not sure who is doing the defacing, as it is something I’ve seen in other manga volumes from this library as well. Along with library stickers placed on up the skirt shots in places.

    The library keeps their entire GN/Manga library in the Young Adults section, so I’m unsure. Yet it won’t hurt to ask the next time I go in I guess.

  9. tangognat Says:

    Hmm, in that case maybe someone at the library is defacing the books. Bad Library! Along with perserving open access to information, libraries should also preserve up skirt shots :)

  10. Johanna Says:

    Save the Upskirt Shot! Yeah, I’m sure THAT’s a movement that will work in James’ area of backwards Texas. :)

  11. James Schee Says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Upskirt shot movement might work, since there is a bar/nightclub 2 blocks down from the library which has whipped cream bikini night. Or when some female prowrestler signed copies of her issue of Playboy at the local Books A Million store.

    Sex and language seems okay, as long as it is something the city leaders are interested in.

    My area loves censorship though, or I guess at least avoiding anything controversial. The local NBC station never aired the lesbian wedding episode of Friends. The ABC affiliate didn’t air the first 3/4 of the first season of NYPD Blue. Plus there was even discussion of whether the movie Brokeback Mountain should be allowed in theaters in the area.

    It used to get me down, now it just … bewilders me at times.




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