Archie #565: Wrong About Manga

What an odd mix of stories. First, Archie’s featured in a magazine picture, and his new role as “teen model” goes to his head. Betty and Veronica teach him a lesson by convincing him to make himself look like an idiot. They get their payback, though, when he ditches them for a couple of other random girls.

Next, Archie and Jughead fight because Jughead thinks Archie should go out with Betty and Archie wants to call Veronica. Everyone’s scowling at each other or acting shallow or flat-out being mean. I’ve seen the teen characters fighting before, but it never seemed like they really meant to hurt each other.

Archie #565 cover
Archie #565

The third story is an abrupt change of mood. Archie finds out about his father’s youthful dreams of being a trumpter while cleaning out the attic, but Dad reassures him that he might the right choice in choosing family over artistic performance. Adults who’ve made compromises will likely appreciate the sentiment, but the story seems aimed more at those who pay for the comic than those who’ll read it.

The last story… this is the reason I wrote about this issue. It’s one I was looking forward to, one about Archie getting caught reading manga in class. Sadly, it’s wrong or misleading about manga on almost every count.

First, the manga is drawn as American comic-sized. There have been manga series published that way, but I’m not aware of any popular ones recently. The cover also visually appears to be on the left, as with American comics, instead of the book running “backwards” (right to left), even though the text specifies otherwise.

When Archie is assigned to write an essay on manga as punishment, he and aspiring cartoonist Chuck immediately ask a previously unseen Japanese student for help. (This comes uncomfortably close to racial stereotyping for me.) She responds that she can’t help because her “favorite comic is Arnie… about a teen boy and his two rival girlfriends”. Way to reassure yourselves that you’re not outdated, Archie creators.

The girl introduces the boys to her Aunt Grace, who “knows everything there is to know about comics!” Grace’s favorite comic is also, surprise surprise, “Arnie”. But her husband and son read both American comics and Japanese manga, she’s proud to announce (as the kid briefly turns away from his video game). We’re halfway through the story and all we’ve found out is that manga opens from the back, but we’ve gotten two pitches for the comic we’re reading.

Grace then starts her lecture, which I shall reproduce without the smart aleck asides and thought balloons from Archie… gotta keep a comic story visual, you know. I shall in their place insert my own smart aleck footnotes.

In Japan almost everyone reads those thick manga books1… even in those crowded subway cars,2 you’ll find many commuters reading manga!3 In manga books you’ll find four different alphabets, including our Roman alphabet!4 Manga has many symbols for unusual sound effects! Including one for total silence! Japanese manga is also very visual and quite cinematic… and manga readers are able to read very quickly! It’s not unusual for a manga reader to read a 300 page manga book in less than half an hour!5 You’ll notice that in some manga all the females have very big eyes! Those books are are [sic] called “shojo manga”, comics for young girls!6 But in Japan these comics are read by all age groups and both sexes!7

1. I thought commuters were more likely to read anthology magazines than the collected book format comics.

2. Why does she keep using the word “those” as though Archie was already familiar with what she’s referring to? He’s supposed to be new to the subject.

3. I’m beginning to think that this is the manga story equivalent of Bam! Pow! Comics Aren’t Just for Kids! Every introductory manga feature seems to feel the need to mention commuters, even if it’s less true these days than it used to be.

4. Somehow I don’t think that Archie’s reading untranslated manga. Given only a page and a half to cover the basics, this doesn’t seem like a relevant or useful comment. Instead, it gives the whole thing a “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” approach of random odd facts.

5. Trying to get in a shot about value here, are we? Where’s the discussion of the variety of manga genres or how popular manga is either here or there? (That comes as a punchline to the story, actually, where Archie muses over how Japanese cartoonists are millionaires and treated like rock stars. Keep dreaming, Archie writer.)

6. This was where I lost it. Shojo is defined by eye size of the female characters? What a lame comment.

7. Notice the confusing references. I think this statement would have been more accurate without the “these”.

Archie takes dictation and his resulting report gets him an A, even though it’s woefully incomplete. I’m actually surprised that they didn’t work in a plug for their manga-styled Sabrina stories.

9 Responses to “Archie #565: Wrong About Manga”

  1. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Johanna, Didn’t anyone think to call Tania Del Rio and ask her how to describe manga in 50 words or less? They have a subject matter expert right there on staff.

  2. Tania Says:

    Man…. I had no idea about this…. That’s all I’ll say. :(

  3. Lea Says:

    Ed beat me to it. Holy Cow.

  4. ~chris Says:

    Ed and Lea beat me to it.

  5. MangaBlog » Blog Archive » Clueless in Riverdale Says:

    […] If the Manga Association paid for this month’s Archie, they should be asking for their money back. Johanna reads it so we don’t have to. The first question that jumped to my mind appeared almost immediately in the comments: Why didn’t they pick up the phone and talk to Sabrina artist Tania del Rio? She’s an articulate and knowledgeable manga artist that works for the same company, but I guess that was too obvious for them. Sigh. […]

  6. Johanna Says:

    Tania, I’m sorry to hear that. I have no idea how much editing goes on with Archie stories, but I think a lot of opportunities were missed here.

  7. Lea Says:

    Reading it aloud to someone else, it occurs to me that this reads like it was culled from Manga! Manga! by Fred Schodt.
    Which is a very good book that is -nearly twenty-five years old- now, and things have changed since it was written.

  8. Brian Says:

    They took manga stereotypes and stretched them out like a tarp (eye size? are you kidding me?) instead of learning and using the facts in the comic. I am astounded by this shamefully bad attempt to fit in with contemporary pop culture.

  9. Sabrina Manga Ends » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] than just one slim reprint collection. They also never seemed quite comfortable with either the idea of manga or doing something so different for […]




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