Go Team Manga?!

Sometimes when I blog I feel like I have one foot in the library blog world and the other foot in comics blog world, so it is always interesting to me when those two worlds intersect. David Taylor of Love Manga reacts to a newspaper story about a 13 year old checking some manga for mature readers out of a library in Canada. I find it interesting that he wants libraries and bookstores to restrict what people are able to check out according to the publisher age rating recommendations. I’m going to reproduce an exchange of ours out of his comments:

Tangognat:Are you really annoyed that a library let a young teenager check out some mature manga, or as a fan of manga do you just want to avoid this type of situation so there is less bad press in the future?

Love Manga: Nope, not even mildly upset. I worry that the age-ratings are being ignored they after all are there for a reason. If they are continually ignored then we can expect lots more of these articles. Which is a BIG shame really as articles like these written in mainstream media do very little to help the image of Manga in the US, and in particular the UK where it is only one step away from just that weird Japanese Tentacle porn again.
I have said repeatedly on this site and others that the Manga industry here and in the US is long overdue for a really bad article where someone really gets upset about what their children are reading, this one above isn’t it but it is getting close. What would be really nice is if we didn’t gift the article to the mainstream media in the first place, by not acting responsibly.

Even though in many of his comments about manga ratings and their lack of enforcement, he evokes the idea of “protecting the children”, it seems to me that the main reason for arguing for this “protection” on the part of libraries is to protect the manga industry from bad press, the spectre of a really bad article about a kid getting his hands on some manga that is viewed by someone as inappropriate. In linking to the article, David Welsh picks out a quote about not wanting to see any more of these types of articles.

To me this type of story doesn’t have a whole lot to distinguish it from other newspaper stories about book challenges that happen all the time, but I wonder if to a manga or comic book fan it tends to stand out more. There’s a “Go Team Comics” meme that frequently comes up on blogs and discussion boards where it is implied that people should go the extra mile to support the industry that they are already supporting by buying their product. For example, if you are a true fan of a series, you should buy all the single issues AND a trade paperback in order to support the comic book creators.

I don’t think that the manga industry needs libraries to create access barriers in order to avoid potential bad press. It is an odd reason to argue for censorship, but I don’t think it is unxpected coming from someone with a “Go Team Manga” type of mentality. I’m not sure if in a similar situation I’d see an argument from ardent fans of Canadian Literature that Margaret Atwood novels should be taken off high school reading lists to avoid stories like this one about a school board banning and reversing the ban on A Handmaid’s Tale. And I don’t think fans of fantasy fiction would argue for restrictions on Harry Potter in order to avoid more incidents of book burning.

I think that even if there is a big news article in the future that portrays manga as evil, the industry will survive. Huge corporations are making a ton of money off translated manga. The industry is healthy. Even though manga seems mainstream to comics/manga fans, it is still new to many people, and newspapers will write stories that will portray it as both good and bad.