Back in Japan again, this time for a whole year. As some of you know, I'm here doing my doctoral research on the "culture" of shojo manga, but before I fill you in on my progress, allow me to make a correction to my August column. The caption for the shojo manga magazine, Hana to Yume, mistakenly describes it as being targetted at primary school girls. A description provided by the publisher to the General Magazine-Newspaper Catalog states that middle-school girls make up Hana to Yume's core readership. Furthermore, Hana to Yume was the most popular shojo manga magazine among the 81 high-school girls I surveyed last year. (Just wanted to clear that up for the sake of Hana to Yume fans who might have begun to doubt their level of maturity.)
After a lengthy settling-in process, I finally found a high school in which to do my research, and things are going along more smoothly than I could have dreamed possible. (Knock on wood.) The school has a "manga study club" where a dozen or so would-be manga artists (two boys, the rest girls) polish their skills. They're a great bunch of kids, and they've taken me in as one of their own. In fact, they've inspired me to rediscover my long lost talent (?) for drawing, and I've been scrawing along with them. (Eek!)
Apart from spending three afternoons a week with the club, I've also tagged along to a small comic market they participated in, and spent three hours with them locked in a karaoke room. (Karaoke tip: avoid songs by singers with exceptionally good voices—I picked a tune by Dreams Come True and humiliated myself.) Next week I'm having them over for tacos and Nintendo. (Video games are a popular source of story/character material for amateur manga artists.)
Through the club members, I'm gradually making contacts with other students, and next week I'll distribute a questionnaire to the entire student body that hopefully will prove to be a stepping stone to much broader contact with the students. The focus of the questionnaire is media consumption; that is, what it is that students are reading, watching and listening to, including TV, video, movies, radio, music, magazines, video games, fiction and nonfiction, as well as manga and anime. I'll let you know the results.
In a couple of weeks I'll be heading up to Tokyo to interview shojo manga editors and artists at Shogakukan, including, possibly, Keiko Nishi. If I do meet Nishi, I assure you I'll be strictly professional, and when I ask for her autograph I'll say it's for a friend.
©Matt Thorn 2004