by Cygne Sauvage
A great part of my childhood, during summer vacations and weekends, is spent in the shabby shack behind our house where I read the previously-owned magazines my grandmother uses for her trade. Among these are the Walt Disney comics, the first of the graphic novels I encounter upon being literate. I avidly follow Huey, Louie and Dewey, the nephews of the famous Donald Duck, in their Junior Woodchucks adventures. Regular perusal of these magazines, which are all in English, hones my proficiency in this language and enables me earn good grades in school. In my land of birth, this foreign tongue is predominantly the medium of instruction, from grade school to tertiary level, particularly those institutions of learning catering to affluent families. But don’t misunderstand that I am a scion of a rich clan. I attend public schools, definitely not for moneyed people, but since I seem to have an edge over my classmates in language skill I am always relegated to honors classes where all subjects are taught in English.
During my youth, only US-produced reading materials grace the magazine stands though not in competition with local publications because they have different market audience. The latter serves as daily entertainment stuff, along with radio dramas, of those from low middle income. Though forbidden by our parents and schools to access the local graphic novels because of their concentration on adult romances and nonsense fantasies, I manage to read a lot of them courtesy of a neighbor who is fanatic to this genre. True, stories lack depth in imagination as most are just culled from Western stories of mermaids and superheroes while romances are mere translations of Mills and Boons. Sadly, their styles never progress, that over the years they are eclipsed by the influx of non-US based comic books which proliferate the bookstores and magazine stands starting in the 1980s. Thus, I have come to be aware of Tintin, Lucky Luke and Asterix long after Superman, Batman and Uncle Scrooge.
My addiction to Archie and his gang happen during my college days through the kindness of my well-rounded classmates. Thus, an issue has always been among the “basic” goods I purchase every payday since graduation, starting a collection I deem precious.
At the turn of the millennium, globalization and the world wide web give my country’s denizens access to a bounty of translated Japanese mangas and animes which replace the craze over Marvel and DC publications. Walt Disney soon disappear from the cartoon magazine section of book stores, perhaps affected by the ban of the conservative groups critical of its having no sense of family, that is, there are no parental characters, only uncles and aunts. Hence, the X and Y generations are not aware of them.
I am truly amazed at the diversity of the Japanese graphic novels, tackling on almost every subject matter under the sun: history, romance, action, mystery, food, etc. I admit that daily surfing online is not complete without a visit to the site of my current reading which is Shokugeki no Soma.