Advertisement

Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 638–655 | Cite as

Drawing Disability in Japanese Manga: Visual Politics, Embodied Masculinity, and Wheelchair Basketball in Inoue Takehiko’s REAL

  • Andrea WoodEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

This work explores disability in the cultural context of contemporary Japanese comics. In contrast to Western comics, Japanese manga have permeated the social fabric of Japan to the extent that vast numbers of people read manga on a daily basis. It has, in fact, become such a popular medium for visual communication that the Japanese government and education systems utilize manga as a social acculturation and teaching tool. This multibillion dollar industry is incredibly diverse, and one particularly popular genre is sports manga. However, Inoue Takehiko’s award-winning manga series REAL departs from more conventional sports manga, which typically focus on able-bodied characters with sometimes exaggerated superhuman physical abilities, by adopting a more realistic approach to the world of wheelchair basketball and the people who play it. At the same time REAL explores cultural attitudes toward disability in Japanese culture—where disability is at times rendered “invisible” either through accessibility problems or lingering associations of disability and shame. It is therefore extremely significant that manga, a visual medium, is rendering disability visible—the ultimate movement from margin to center. REAL devotes considerable attention to realistically illustrating the lived experiences of its characters both on and off the court. Consequently, the series not only educates readers about wheelchair basketball but also provides compelling insight into Japanese cultural notions about masculinity, family, responsibility, and identity. The basketball players—at first marginalized by their disability—join together in the unity of a sport typically characterized by its “abledness.”

Keywords

Disability Manga Social acculturation Sports Japanese Shame 

References

  1. Bryce, Mio and Jason Davis 2010 An Overview of Manga Genres. In Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives. Toni Johnson-Woods, ed., pp. 34–61. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  2. Campbell, Fiona Kumari 2009 Contours of Ableism: The Production of Disability and Abledness. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Connell, Raewyn W. 1995 Masculinities. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  4. Davis, Lennard J. 1995 Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  5. Dyer, Richard 2002 The Matter of Images: Essays on Representation. 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Eisner, Will 2004 Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practice of the World’s Most Popular Art Form. Tamarac: Poorhouse Press.Google Scholar
  7. Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie 1997 Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie 2009 Staring: How We Look. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Gottlieb, Nanette 2006 Linguistic Stereotyping and Minority Groups in Japan. Hoboken: Taylor & Francis Ltd.Google Scholar
  10. Inoue, Takehiko 2008a REAL (Vol. 1). San Francisco: Viz Media.Google Scholar
  11. Inoue, Takehiko 2008b REAL (Vol. 2). San Francisco: Viz Media.Google Scholar
  12. Inoue, Takehiko 2009a REAL (Vol. 3). San Francisco: Viz Media.Google Scholar
  13. Inoue, Takehiko 2009b REAL (Vol. 4). San Francisco: Viz Media.Google Scholar
  14. Inoue, Takehiko 2009c REAL (Vol. 6). San Francisco: Viz Media.Google Scholar
  15. Ito, Kinko 2005 A History of Manga in the Context of Japanese Culture and Society. The Journal of Popular Culture 38(3): 456–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Marechal, Beatrice 2001 “The Singular Stories of the Terashima Neighborhood”: A Japanese Autographical Comic. International Journal of Comic Art 3(2): 138–150.Google Scholar
  17. McIlvenny, Paul 2002 The Disabled Male Body “Writes/Draws Back”: Graphic Fictions of Masculinity and the Body in the Autobiographical Comic in “The Spiral Cage”. In Revealing Male Bodies. N. Tuana, W. Cowling, M. Hamington, and G. Johnson, eds., pp. 100–124. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  18. McCloud, Scott 1994 Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
  19. McCloud, Scott 2006 Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels. New York: William Morrow Paperbacks.Google Scholar
  20. Mitchell, David T. and Sharon L. Snyder 2000 Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  21. Pollman, Joost 2001 Shaping Sounds in Comics. International Journal of Comic Art 3(1): 9–21.Google Scholar
  22. Pratt, Henry John 2009 Narrative in Comics. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 67(1): 107–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Robertson, Steve 2004 Men and Disability. In Disabling Barriers, Enabling Environments. 2nd Edition. J. Swain, S. French, C. Barnes, and C. Thomas, eds., pp. 75–80. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Inc.Google Scholar
  24. Squier, Susan M. 2008a Literature and Medicine, Future Tense: Making it Graphic. Literature and Medicine 27(2): 124–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Squier, Susan M. 2008b So Long as They Grow Out of It: Comics, The Discourse of Developmental Normalcy, and Disability. Journal of Medical Humanities 29(2): 71–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Stibbe, Arran 2004 Disability, Gender and Power in Japanese Television Drama. Japan Forum 16(1): 21–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.English DepartmentWinona State UniversityWinonaUSA

Personalised recommendations