Mostly Manga, and Me (pt. 1)

David Wybenga, a JCMU English Language instructor in Hikone, has been drawn to Japanese comics, or manga, ever since he was a child. He will be writing a series of articles on the topic of manga and how it affects him as an American teacher in Japan. For #1 in a series, David shares his thoughts on the impact Japanese manga had on him during his youth and the differences he observed between American and Japanese comics.

The first manga I read may have been “I Saw It” by Keiji Nakazawa. This was many years ago and at the time I was reading a lot of American alternative comics. The pull to me of this short work was that it was a true story, of a human tragedy that I thought I should know more about – the bombing of Hiroshima during WWII.

As a kid I read Thor, Daredevil, X-Men, Batman and so many others but I stopped sometime in elementary school. Then after college I saw a documentary called Comic Book Confidential. A door opened and my childhood love of picture stories was rekindled. I became excited to learn that comics were much more than Marvel and DC super heroes. I discovered this tiny sliver of American comics that explored social issues, relationships, history, and moved “comic” art along in unusual directions. I sought out those marginal works, eventually leading me to a small comic book store in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and buying this very surprising story of war. When I came to Japan some years later, this manga was present in my mind because through his work I felt like I saw it, too. Mr. Nakazawa next created “Barefoot Gen” a 10 volume, account of the bomb and life after in Hiroshima, which remains to me the most important manga that I have ever read.

-David Wybenga

JCMU English Language Instructor

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