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February 01, 1996 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-02-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

8A- The Michigan Daily - Thursday, February 1, 1996


Comic books influence,
reflect Japanese culture



The Washington Post
TOKYO -- Many Japanese look to
Kosaku Shima to teach them the impec-
cable corporate etiquette that will take
them to the top of the business world.
When this young, hard-working, irre-
sistibly debonair Hatsuba Electric
worker was promoted to division chief
in 1992, it made national headlines.
Many also look to Rintaro, a vision-
ary, idealistic bureaucrat in the Minis-
try of International Trade and Industry,
to teach them about the secret machina-
tions of the nation's ministries and to
share his insights on energy policy.
Now, politicians in Washington want
to hear what he has to say.
Rintaro and Shima boast social influ-
ence, salaries and celebrity that Prime
Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and Los
Angeles Dodgers star Hideo Nomo
would envy.
Never heard of Rintaro and Shima?
That may be be-
cause they aren't
real. They are char- Every(
acters in Japanese
"manga," or comic eAx remel
Manga are a bil- controlle
lion-dollar indus-
try. Sales of these very your
fat comics, which - Dr
go for about $3.50 Author of a
each, account for
close to a third of Corn
the total output of
publishing houses here and amount to a
whopping 553 million copies a year.
More than 500 categories of manga
are released each month. Some playful
commentators once estimated that the
Japanese use more paper for the tele-
phone-book-size comics than for toilet
Many analysts say this medium is
more influential than television ornews-
papers. Manga play a vital social func-
tion, supplying the flamboyant heroes
that a highly controlled society can't
produce, experts say.
The comics also offer a rich fantasy
world in a society where conformity is
deemed a necessity, assertion of indi-
vidual will is viewed as unacceptable
and life itself is often eyc-glazingly
predictable. All this, while gently rein-
forcing the values of working hard and
supporting the status quo.
"Among Japanese media, manga are
unquestionably the most powerful,"
says the creator of Rintaro, who uses
the pen name Kuzu Haruo.

In their subject matter and approach,
manga range from fantastic, such as
Doraemon the robot cat, to realistic,
such as businessman Shima Kosaku, to
educational, such as the world-famous
"Japan Inc.," a 1,000-page tome laying
out the labyrinthine ways of the
country's corporate economy.
Their stories often blend real news
events with outlandish fantasies,
unsayable words, undoable feats and
-for abest seller-graphic sex scenes.
So ubiquitous is their cast of charac-
ters that for millions ofmanga maniacs
the line between comics and reality
often blurs. For them, the characters
take their place alongside real people
in everyday life, capturing headlines,
offering testimonials for advertising
and winning the public's love and re-
"Manga made me what I am today,"
says Haruko Sato, 30, a self-proclaimed

one is
ddlfrom a
r. Masahiko Ito
book analyzing
lC book heroes

manga nerd.
"After I read the
manga on the
French Revolu-
tion - liberty,
equality, frater-
nity and all that
- I knew what I
wanted to do.
"I was 13, and
I thought,
Wow!' says
Sato, who works
for an interna-

wanted and what they had," says
Hiromichi Moteki, a private publisher
with a passion for manga. "Movies were
too expensive to make, but manga al-
low you to make a high-quality product
Manga are compact and entertaining
and require little concentration. Pub-
lishers also throw in large doses of porn
to woo readers: Huge, sexually insa-
tiable white women are often the sub-
ject of sexual attentions from mighty
Japanese manga heroes.
And as the manga generation began
to reach top posts in the Education
Ministry, a society-wide transforma-
tion in attitudes occurred, elevating the
comics from an entertainment medium
to an educational tool.
"While people are laughing at
manga, they are also unconsciously
learning how to behave and what not
to do," says Dr. Masahiko Ito, a pe-
diatrician who co-wrote a book psy-
choanalyzing one of Japan's most fa-
mous manga heroes.
Why do comic books exert such in-
fluence in Japan? Society's demands
here may often exact such a steep psy-
chological price from its members that
manga can be essential in maintaining a
mental balance, experts say.
"Everyone is extremely controlled from
a very young age, so fantasy is extremely
important," Ito says. "We are a managed
society, and there are psychological
bruises from that experience."
Apart from manga, and "enka," the
maudlin Japanese folk songs crooned
by businessmen at karaoke bars, the
stoic Japanese lack ways to let these
feelings out, he says.
Highly realisticmanga, such as Shima
or Rintaro, often editorialize about real-
life events.
Manga heroes are often pure, prin-
cipledmen who must defendtraditional
values against countrymen who are sell-
ing out to foreign influences.
By featuring the most average
salarymen or bureaucrats, some au-
thors say, they are trying to offer
silent encouragement to the millions
who probably believe that their ef-
forts go unrecognized.
Manga provide the Japanese with the
heroes their society rarely produces in
real life.
"Here, heroes are manga characters,"
Ito says. "In the 1960s, there were no
real heroes, and there aren't now either.
SI fthere are no real heroes, you turn to


,, '. ±
. ,
x - a


t ..'
Nylon inventor dies at 91
Scientist Jiian Hill, co-inventor of nylon, looks at strands of the product during a celebration in Seaford, Del., for the
50th anniversary of nylon on Oct. 8, 1988. Hill, who was a research chemist for DuPont Co. when he made a key
discovery that led to the oavelopment of nylon, died Sunday at the age of 91.
i .
Endangered rimate speci..es kept
safe inBrailianwildlieefug

tional think tank on Japanese-European
Cultural criticscall manga Japan's post-
war literature, its social commentary and
a repository for its most creative minds.
They also call them a window into the
Japanese psyche, shedding light on what
motivates, inspires and titillates readers.
Universities teach manga, psy-
chologists analyze them and there is
even a museum in Osaka to memori-
alize them.
Prof. Tomofusa Kure lectures on
manga at Tokyo Rika University, teach-
ing students to study these graphic nov-
els the way American students study
classic literature. To him, manga are a
unique literary form that has thrived
untainted by foreign influences.
Although comics existed before
World War II, they were considered a
children's medium. But amid Japan's
horrible postwarpoverty, today's manga
industry was born.
"After the war, there was a big gap
between what the Japanese people

0 International crusade
saved tamarins,
habitat from extinction
Up in a murky tangle of vines and
branches in the Atlantic Forest, a high-
pitched squeal breaks the dewy still-
ness of morning.
The branches swish. Out of the shad-
ows bursts a flash of orange-gold - a
golden lion tamarin, one of the world's
most unusual primate species and one
of the fist few hundred on Earth.
The slender monkey gives a sharp,
rasping call, a food call, and a female
tamarin leaps through the high limbs
like a streak of fiery liquid. Around her
reddish body hangs a ropelike ring of
honey-hued fur: two baby tamarins.
Soon, the parents are cuddling the
babies in a tree hollow, teaching them
to chew bugs and seedpods. It's a wel-
come sign that the zoo-born monkeys,
at least, are thriving in the wild.
Thirty years ago these shy, squirrel-
sized monkeys appeared doomed to
extinction. Loggers cleared their forest
habitats. Poachers trapped them for

zoos. Dealers sold them as household
pets - 25,000 apiece.
By 1967, fewer than 70 were known
to survive on the planet. .
But an international crusade to save
the tamarin and its habitat has pulled
the animal back from the brink. Now
there's hope the species may survive in
the wild beyond the 21st century.
The World Wildlife Fund, the
Smithsonian Institution, the Frankfurt
Zoological Society and Canada have
joined Brazil in a risky project to breed
tamarins in captivity and set them loose
in the wild.
Tamarins from 120 zoos around the
world are trained to survive in the forest
and released into their last stronghold,
here at the Poco das Antas Wildlife
Reserve about 80 miles northeast of
Rio de Janeiro.
The project is the first of its kind. It
comes as primates and their rain forest
habitats around the world are disap-
pearing at the fastest rate in history.
Primates now classified as endan-
gered now number 67. They include the
aye-aye lemur of Madagascar, the
woolly spidermonkey (South America's
largest primate), arid the mountain go-

DEDICATION 3:15 PM . OPEN HOUSE 3:30 - 5:30 PM

rilla of central-Africa.
But at Poco das Antas, the tamarin,
coming back. .10
Today, 703 tamarins live in a frag
ment of the Atlantic Forest, now re
duced to 456 patches of less than-
percent its original size. When Portu
guese explorers arrived in 1500, th
forest extended along 4,500 squareraile
of Brazil's eastern seaboard.
What remains, though, is a biologica
treasure of flora and fauna more divers
than the Amazon rain forests to the north
The wilderness contains 15 pr
of all known species and is home to J
of Brazil's 202 endangered animals
Threeyears ago, botanists in Bahiastat
discovered a record 450 types Qf tree.
in a 2.5 square-acre area.
"This is not just about saving mon
keys," said Kathryn Fuller, president o
the World Wildlife Fund. "The tamari
is the symbol of a bigger effort, a cam
paign to preserve one of the most im
portant ecosystems on Earth -tbgt
lantic Forest."
The tamarin stands at the top of th
forest's food chain, she explained. It
presence is a sign of a healthy ecosystem
"You know your forest is doing 0
if tamarins are living in it," Fuller said
"They thrive only in habitats with a wid
variety of plant, insect and animal life.'
It took what primate experts regar
as a miracle of nature to get them to ac
to save the tamarin.
It happened one morning in 19
rancher, out surveying a stand of fores
he planned to cut in Silva Jardim -
about 10 miles south of Poco das Anta
-suddenly heard a piercing screech. I
froze him.
He looked up to see a family of-mon
keys with lionlike manes squatting oa
the branches, watching him intently.
The man and the monkeys stared a
each other in silence. Slowly, .e
monkeys gathered in the canopy aWc
Later, primatologists discovered then
were 300 tamarins in the area.
"It was a gift from God," says Mari
Cecilia Kierulff. "That forest was s
small they should have died long ago.
She is a biologist who introduces zoo
born tamarins to the wild.
With help from the U.S. National Zoo
logical Park and the Smithsonian Institu
tion, Adelmar Coimbra-Filho, apioee
of Brazilian primatology, founde h
Poco das Antas reserve in 1974. -
He began linking isolated patches o
original forest with regrown trees whil
workers "translocated" the newly dis
covered wild tamarins to the 13,000
acre reserve.

I Only f Gram of fathI


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