Over on the TCJ message board, there’s a conversation about manga, which takes the expected depressing course. Here’s R. Fiore, making some of the usual arguments:

I don’t see what you’re supposed to get or not get about manga. You like that kind of thing or your don’t. Obviously they turn out too much too quickly. The question you ask yourself is how many manga readers will develop a broader interest in comics in general. I think there may be reason to think they’d be even less likely to broaden their interest than the superhero audience, but if only a small percentage did the audience for comics would expand significantly.

It sounds like it makes sense…and then you think about it, and realize that it means nothing at all.

“You like that kind of thing or you don’t.” Parasyte and Nana, to name two of my favorite titles, are pretty darn different from each other; I can see not liking one, or not liking the other, or not liking both, but it wouldn’t make sense to dislike both for the same reasons, because stylistically, thematically, even artwise, they don’t have all that much in common (except that the storytelling and art are good, I guess.)

“Obviously they turn out too much too quickly.” The level of craftsmanship in manga is very high, from what I can tell — they don’t look nearly as shoddy as mainstream American comics…or as alternative American comics, for that matter. Not every title’s a gem, obviously, but that seems more like the luck of the draw than some sort of chronic case of over-production. There’s a lot of manga because a lot of people (both artists and consumers) are really into it.

“The question you ask yourself is how many manga readers will develop a broader interest in comics in general.” Again, what the hell? Manga’s an enormous category; the bulk of what’s available hasn’t even been translated. It’s also much more interested in serving a wide demographic (agewise, genderwise) than American comics is. You could spend the rest of your life just reading manga, I’m sure, and the quality of the product would probably be at least as high in general as what you’d find in American comics. Why, then, is moving outside of manga supposed to mean that your interest is “broader”?

I think Fiore’s right about one thing, though — an interest in manga is not necessarily going to translate into an interest in super-hero titles or alternative titles, especially when the people who create those books show little interest in making comics for the groups of people manga primarily serves. It’s like saying, “oh, if people like Ciara, maybe that’s a good way to get them hooked on Otis Redding.” No, it’s not. And nor should it be, because Ciara’s fucking great — and despite the endless whining of thirtysomething guys — the teen girls who are into her have nothing to be embarrassed about.