Thursday, November 10, 2011

What is the Mangatrix?

Kyoto is kind of like Japan's Florence (Firenze) in that it holds much of the classic architecture of Japan's past and artworks from Japan's own renaissance (Although Ironically this was the Edo Period, the old name for Tokyo). But in a lot of ways it is not like Florence.

When you walk through the old districts of Florence, they are precisely that. Kyoto has heritage listed buildings galore, but no real zoning, the old wooden housing long since pulled down and replaced with concrete block architecture, now streaked with acid rain. A large part of the reason for this is practical, in a country prone to earthquakes it makes sense to build dwellings out of materials unlikely to collapse and then burn.

But Kyoto unlike Florence leaves one with an inescapable desire to imagine what it would have been like if the whole city had been preserved. Allegedly allied forced had protected Kyoto from being bombed in WW2, when it was still largely wooden structures. With the advances in Weapons guidance systems and the uglification of Kyoto's non temple/shrine/castle/palace buildings, I doubt it would be protected today.

And it occured to me, I could not live here. Not full time. I mean I could, but I would long for open spaces and clean rain and... pretty much all the settings employed in popular manga. I'm thinking of the open seas and island nations of One Piece, the mediteranian settings of everything Miyazake, even Naruto's open deserts, vallies and forrested villages. All very unjapanese.

Japanese people live in cramped apartments, daily reorganizing their lives in a way that is not unimpressive. They also live I think inside their heads, in the imaginary spaces of Manga comics.

It occurred to me, a beguiling theory of the popularity of Comics amongsts Japanese of all ages, is that the demand for escapism is just part of life. Obviously there are a bunch of titles that are very close to the daily lives of Japanese, set in Japanese cities. But into the mangatrix we go, the Japanese escaping the close confines of living, if for only a few minutes at a time, by escaping to comicbook world.

It's just a thought and probably but one aspect of the many things that make Comics so popular in Japan, but I thought it, now it is here. For posterity.

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