To conclude the Graphic Novel Season, academic and author Helen McCarthy visited Pimlico Library to give a special talk on the evolution of manga.
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Far from being esoteric the talk was accessible to both seasoned manga readers and newbies. Helen began by looking at the history of the medium, tracing its (rumoured) origins to drawings by the Buddhist priest Toba Sojo in the 12th century. However the general consensus credits the creation of manga to Katsushika Hokusai circa 1814.
Interestingly, although manga is considered a purely Japanese graphic narrative form, it has had a lot of western influence throughout its history. In 1862 just after the Edo period (when Japan was placed in total isolation from the outside world) a British Army officer Charles Wirgman launched a political cartoon called Japan Punch, which inspired Japanese artists to rebelliously poke fun at politicians.
Then in the early 20th century Japanese artists were influenced by European multi-panel comic strips published in magazines such as France’s Le Rire and Germany’s Münchener Bilderbogen.
The next wave of western stimulus came in World War 2 in the form of animation and silent film. In fact early Disney cartoons would provide the impetus for Osamu Tezuka, a young medical student to eventually become the “God of Manga”(Ode to Kirihito, Astro Boy and Black Jack).
With Helen being an aficionado of the uber-prolific Tezuka, his life and work formed the crux of the talk. However, she also referred to other manga pioneers. Discussing Tezuka in great depth she used his influence on future manga artists as a platform to discuss the current state of manga. She stressed its importance in not only broadening the graphic novel medium but also progressively pushing forward animation (anime). Referring to key titles such as Lone Wolf and Cub, Death Note, Naruto and Bleach she concluded by observing that manga is not only integral to Japanese culture but also to global culture.