Ian Gibson: Manga, anime & Miyazaki

Ian Gibson, the very same man who's drawn the likes of Judge Dredd and Halo Jones, ponders how comics and Manga may be making the world smaller

The wonderful Kiki's Delivery Service

Just recently a couple of quite disparate people have mentioned anime to me. So, naturally I think of John Ostrander.

Now, John, so far as I know, has nothing at all to do with the production of anything remotely related to Japanese animation. So, why do I think of him? Well, he’s a nice fellow for one thing and a very talented writer. And he’s recently been asked to revisit his series of the Suicide Squad, which I always found entertaining.

We’re currently collaborating on a new project (title TBA) when he gets it written (hint, hint, John!) that developed from some ideas I threw at him, while I was visiting his home in New Jersey. And it was there indeed that the link was made.

For John is a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki, and treated me to a screening, accompanied by apple and pecan pie, of several of Miyazaki’s movies. I was absolutely enchanted by Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service among others. A refreshingly sweet view of the world, compared to the previous anime I had been exposed to. And the pie was delicious. In fact it became a daily ritual!

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I had seen some anime that I considered totally disturbed and in need of some serious therapy. Way too much sex and violence wrapped together in such a way as to portray the beautiful act of coupling as a thing more akin to war. Dramatic and frightening rape scenes appeared to be the norm in whatever anime I came across.

I was totally disenchanted even though, as an artist, I could appreciate the skill that had gone into depicting the scenes with such dynamism and style. Brought out the prude in me, big time! Seems that now Japanese Manga comics and Anime movies are even more popular than Japanese cars! If that’s possible? I have one! A very old one!

I also have a lovely little book of a hybrid Manga Anime concoction called Lensman. Also quite old. I don’t know if it is derived from the original Grey Lensman. I don’t understand the Japanese dialogue in the story. And I confess to not remembering if I’ve actually read the original books. If it’s not good enough to make an impression it tends to get discarded from my personal filing system. But I do recall Bobby Heinlein’s reference to the character in his Number of the Beast novel. Now this little book seems to have been produced from stills from the movie. Hence I call it both Manga (comics) and Anime (movies). It has the delightful clarity of vision of the anime style and little of the exaggeration of the Manga. I’ve seen some of Miyazaki’s Manga books and I think he really should stick to movies. His storytelling on the page is nowhere near as internationally recogniseable as on film. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here, in presuming that it is more intelligible to a Japanese audience. And I may well be a little harsh on some of the anime I’ve seen. After all, it could be cultural references to mythological happenings that are part of the Japanese heritage and as such are unfamiliar to me. I seem to recall we have some odd myths of our own. Leda and the Swan comes to mind as one bizarre coupling with extreme phallic innuendo that would make a porn star feel inadequate.

So, in my meandering way, I’ve been exploring the cultural exchange. The world is indeed getting smaller. Our cultural differences sometimes jar as we rub shoulders on this crowded planet. But the dream is that we will learn to know ourselves and each other better. So anime is now well accepted in the West and, hopefully, not just as a passing fashion. I hope we can grow from the exchange. I hope we can grow.

Ian Gibson, long-time artist on Judge Dredd, is the co-creator of Halo Jones, and has also drawn for DC Comics. We think he’s ace. Find his website at www.ian-gibson.comMore Ian Gibson on Den of Geek: Advice and observationsThe Economics of ComicsTurning comics into films – and vice versaLetter from an anarchistThank you for the comics