Given the increasingly global presence of anime/manga, especially in America, I had to ask week 10’s guest Beryl Turner—the head of ACEN, anime/manga aficionado and historian extraordinaire—whether he sees anime and manga in America losing its Japanese connection and become totally subsumed into mainstream American pop culture. His answer? Absolutely. According to Beryl Turner anime and manga will be a prototype for what globalization is touted to do in the best sense—create a sort of world citizenry. He believes that manga and anime as an art form will eventually lose its nationality, and I am inclined to agree. The one issue, however, is the nature of anime/manga fans in America in the past and at present. Even Beryl acknowledged, giving this breakdown of the road map to mainstream status—innovation/discovery, dissemination through the underground as a fringe movement, (re)discovery and tentative investment from Big Business and the explosion—that anime and manga has its roots in the underground. Furthermore, considering that anime/manga fans while extremely inclusive of fans of other genres such as science fiction, still refer to the collective other as “mundanes.” It is hard to see this group of people forgetting the history behind their beloved art form.
I suppose then, that the key to transforming anime/manga into a global commodity sans national boundaries, lies in the unwitting masses who never touch the underground and never make it to a convention like ACEN, those who flip to Cartoon Network and get their first glimpse of Bleach, then head to a bookstore like Barnes and Nobles or Borders and pick up a copy of the manga along with a title by an American author and never bother to dig further. Is this positive? Negative? I can’t say. I am all for the more prevalent exposure of anime and manga in the West and around the world, but then I am also one of those people who likes to stick to the facts, and for me one of the facts here is that manga is Japanese. Still, I would hate to see an authenticity debate rear its head in this quarter. Maybe I should say manga was Japanese, but today and in the future it can and will go in whatever direction its progressively more global fans pull.