Archie #565: Wrong About Manga

Archie #565

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.

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.

Archie #565

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 Way to reassure yourselves that you’re not outdated, Archie creators.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.

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