Monday, April 24, 2023

A History of Modern Manga Review: You Might Like This Title Or This One Or That One, Too Many

 By Jonathan Bilski

Just spotted out of the corner of my eye while clicking to another page, y'know, where you have to click back and see what you missed? I saw a wonderful cover from the artist known as Nadou for a new book I hadn't heard of. A History of Modern Manga just came out this early April. From Insight Editions and written by Matthieu Pinon and Laurent Lefebvre, who tell you by names alone that the French love anime just as much as Americans, maybe more. This tome takes you through its title.

A History of Modern Manga tries to cover as much as it can in its eye-catching coffee-table book that will make other Otaku (Japanese nerd/fan) jealous or at least say, "I don't need the book I know it all already."  The book starts off with the basics of manga and where it came from in Japanese history. Then goes through 71 years of Japan and Mangakas/authors. This is done by giving them each a page. You get a year smoosed into a page and and author's whole career. It takes you all the was back to the 1950's starting with the master of anime Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astroboy (who actually gets three pages) to 2022 and ends with Tastuki Fujimoto, creator of Chainsaw Man. The book ends with a few missing mangas you might have been wondering about. They're based on themes that come about a lot in manga, like Dystopian Future, Humor, Horror and what have you. All of it wrapped in pages with lovely illustrations from the authors, photos to identify them, if passing by whilst in Japan or wherever and some select titles to check out from them.

This dense book praises a huge spectrum of some of the most famous authors from Japan. Dragon Ball's Akira Toriyama, Kiyohiko Azuma for Azumanga Daioh/ Yotusba&! fame, the ladies behind Clamp, Rumiko Takahashi creator of Inuyasha and Ranma 1/2 and many more. The authors early life, how they got into manga and history of their publishing are all written up with some words about their style and stories.

I will say it is hard to cover so much about an author in one page. This limits the book to be more of a guide on what work you might like and want to pick up from that author. Expanding it would probably be a logistical nightmare on rights issue on images from every manga or explaining every piece of their work in greater detail. For what's in here, which is a lot, this still had me wanting more on each author.

On the other side from the author you get a break

down of how Japan is doing and what's popular that year. Oh did Nintendo come out? How's Japan's economy? What anime just came out?

The best part might be how the many later manga authors are inspired by the works from authors earlier in the book. As they are constantly re-referenced throughout it.

In just a few pages it made me want to look up quite a lot of titles or revisit manga I haven't read in years. What did Masamune Shirow do before Ghost in the Shell? Something I want to see. A great book for someone who wants to find out more about manga, some of its most well-known authors and some nice cuts into Japanese history.

If you need a guide into Manga you've found it.
A History of Modern Manga is available now

Book provided by publisher for review purposes.