, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 3-126

Eroticism for the masses: Japanese manga comiss and their assimilation into the U.S.

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Abstract

In this article, we describe translated Japanese comics or “manga” with sexual content. Because in the West comics have been treated as junk culture, they lack canons for critical analysis. We have developed methods for analyzing manga that focus on objective assessment of content, on reader subjectivity, and on how the emotional tenor of the artwork is created. We briefly review some history of Japanese art and culture, in which sexuality has always been a legitimate subject for art and which forms the cultural underpinnings of manga. We summarize the erotic themes and visions of manga with sexual content, including heterosexual courtship and consummation, female and male homosexuality, sadomasochism, transvestitism, incest, and bestiality. Critics of manga argue that it glorifies rape, a view we could not confirm. We identified 87 stories with rape or sexual assault; 80 (92.0%) show the woman or others taking violent, often murderous, revenge on sexual attackers. We also analyze visual modalities for depicting men and women. In common with older Japanese aesthetic traditions, the manga we have seen depict women as beautiful, powerful, and erotic. Finally, we suggest that manga functions as an art form by mobilizing the reader’s involvement with the characters, especially female characters, in a complex narrative framework in which sexuality is a positive virtue for men and, especially, for women. We conclude that manage contains some of the finest erotic art being produced in the world today for sheer power, elegance, and drama.

Some of this material was presented at the Western Regional Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, San Diego, CA, April 6–9, 2000.