Looking back at the self: Exploring the comic medium from within

Reading through the extras at the end of Tsubasa-RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- tankobon [trade] Volume 12, there was an episode on a comic series that Kurogane, one of the characters, reads. (The basic premise behind Tsubasa, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is that the characters must travel across different worlds and dimensions in order to obtain the pieces of one of the character’s memory or soul.) This episode shows the various forms the comic series takes in the different worlds they visit.

The comic is shown in the traditional manga-zasshi (Japanese monthly comic form); the tankobon form, traditional Japanese binding; a Western bound book reading left to right; scroll form; and in a futuristic, Kindle-esc form in which the character’s voices come out of a speaker on the device. In terms of audiences, the episode 1) shows young girls talking about reading the comic; 2) harkens back to the masses of men seen reading the manga-zasshi in the early episode where it is first introduced; and 3) employs Kurogane as the central figure: a generally violent and stoic man in his late twenties to early thirties.

There are two things I found particularly interesting here. One is that the authors propose that the themes behind manga are, or can be, popular across linguistic, temporal, age, gender, and cultural barriers. Kurogane, the men in the original episode, and the girls shown in the episode commenting on the magazine cross these age and gender barriers, while the different worlds/dimensions necessitate the crossing of the other barriers.

The other is the exploration of the different forms comics take, along with the proposition that, in the end, they are all just slightly different ways to write the same story.  Regardless of the medium, linguistic, and stylistic differences represented in the different versions of the comic, the story remains the same, and Kurogane is able to continue reading and enjoying the same story he originally became engrossed with.

Interestingly, for all the styles represented, there is nothing that seems to represent a traditional American comic or American comic style. While one of the forms reads left to right in the Western style, the drawing style is shojo, and it is a book rather than a traditional American-style single. Perhaps the message is then that, while the medium and stories of manga can transcend a particular format and cultural/linguistic/gender/etc. boundaries, it is inherently different from Western comics. Manga remains manga, regardless of where it is, and even all the dimensions conceivable cannot mix together these two forms. It would be interesting to look at how and to what extent other writers represent their works in relation to Western-style comics.

Any suggestions?

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