Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Young Adult Literature: Manga

I know that most people don’t even consider this real literature, but if you actually took the time and sat down to read a few volumes, you would realize that these books have just as much value as a regular book does. I have just as much if not more respect for manga authors than I do for regular authors. They take the same amount of effort into writing a book series, except they have to take the extra time to actually draw out what’s happening along with keeping the story line engaging and interesting.
Note, just because mangas are “cartoons” or “comics” as most people would call them, they are not all meant to be read by children. They are not your ordinary “picture book” that you can give to your child to keep them quiet. Yes, some of them are aimed towards ten to twelve year olds, but they really should not be read by anyone under that age. A lot of mangas I’ve read deal with very deep topics, whether or not the reader at the time realizes it. They shouldn’t be regarded as “trash” just because they aren’t completely written in words.
I know that most people’s first impression of manga is that it contains lost of women with huge boobs, which is something that I am not going to disagree with, because I know it is there. Yes, some parts of manga do contain an overly sexual representation of women, which I am not going to encourage. However, I am going to focus on the positive side and what value people can obtain from reading manga.
A few of the mangas that I’ve read for example have such a deep meaning to them and people can actually learn valuable lessons from. Young adult books get praised often for providing something of value to the teens that read them, yet manga always gets criticized for not being literature when it can portray a valuable lesson just the same as a book can. Two of my favorite ones that come to mind here are Fullmetal Alchemist and Death Note.
Fullmetal Alchemist is about two brothers who tried to bring back their mother from the dead with alchemy, and in return, one lost his body and the other lost an arm and a leg (literally) in order to save his brother’s soul and put it in a suit of armor. The manga follows the two brothers as they encounter many enemies such as a man named Scar, creatures called homunculi (named after the seven deadly sins), and a corrupt government system. This manga explores many themes such as the bonds between brothers, the line between right and wrong, playing “God”, and also genocide. When reading this manga, I could easily draw similarities from their government system to the Nazi’s and Hitler, which although are very serious topics, are covered with great care and detail. In a way, this is almost a retelling of a post-Holocaust world, but with a dystopian fantasy twist. This manga not only tells an interesting story with many loveable characters, but it also represents valuable life lessons that someone could take away from reading it.
Death Note on the other hand is about a high school boy who finds a notebook dropped by a death god called a “death note”. After reading instructions inside the front cover, he discovers that whoever's name he writes down in the book will die. He first uses it to rid the world of criminals, but begins to lost control over his own mind and becomes engulfed with the idea of creating a perfect world. Just like Fullmetal Alchemist, this manga also follows the themes of right and wrong and playing “God”. Throughout the course of the manga, the reader always questions where to draw the line between good and bad and starts to wonder at what point the main character begins to lose his mind. This manga shows the reader deep topics such as death, crime, and murder and portrays the struggle of good and evil in our world today through these topics. I actually wrote an assignment for one my English classes about how the main character in this series is an example of a Greek tragic hero.
Although both of these manga are aimed at young adult audiences and are not meant to be read by younger children, when read by teen or anyone older, they can teach valuable lessons to whoever reads them. Yes, you have to read them backwards, but that is only a small adjustment when it comes to reading a valuable source of literature.
I know that I have not done either of these mangas justice describing them here because I know how amazing they both are, but nevertheless, they are worth reading not only for entertainment, but also for valuable life lessons.