MMF: History

I believe that “all manga” should be a part of a historical MMF.

By profession, I am a historian and a manga scholar. I am not gonna lie that I find historical value in all of manga because it’s true. Manga represent fragments of beliefs, hopes, and realities of people at a particular time. They’re no different than paintings or photographs. Even the raunchiest of manga can still provide a reflection of its society for manga’s historicity makes it historical.

However, that’s gonna give us a crazy MMF, right?

Even if I engage you all in an argument that I must include all manga in this MMF, I won’t. Definitions of history and what should be historical is problematic as it is so to use it to define manga is going to give us a headache.

So for this MMF, how are we to define what makes a historical manga?

For now, I can see three dimensions to a historical manga: the biography, the retelling, and the period piece.

The biography is the straight forward biography (often authorized by the person itself or his family) that hopes to capture the life or experience of a person. The easiest ones are autobiographies. Titles that fall under this are: Barefoot Genji by Keiji Nakazawa, A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Onwards towards our noble deaths and Nononba by Shigeru Mizuki, and Disappearance Diary by Hideo Azuma, Project X Series.

Historical retellings are a little different compared a biography. They are imagined biographies or historical events — stories that have some historical basis but for everything else, the writers take liberties in developing historical characters. There are times when these stories are brought into the fantastic but that’s quite rare. Stories such as Vagabond by Inoue Takehiko, Buddha and A Message to Adolf by Osamu Tezuka, Kaze Hikaru by Taeko Watanabe and Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura are some examples of historical retellings.

The last of historical manga are period pieces. Think of them as your versions of period drama on TV (e.g. Downton Abbey). They rarely tackle historical figures, but they do try to capture the culture and the “spirit” of the period they wish to portray. On the Western Front we have Kaoru Mori’s English period pieces such as Emma and Shirley, and Lovers in the Night and Gerard and Jacques by Yoshinaga Fumi. On the Eastern End, we have Rurouni Kenshin by Nobuhiro Watsuki, Lone Wolf and Cub by Kozure Okami, Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura, Stepping on Roses and Tail of the Moon by Rinko Ueda, Sakuran by Moyoco Anno, A Bride’s Stories by Kaoru Mori too.

I’m quite sure there are tons more historical manga which I have not mentioned here. Please don’t feel limited by the titles I mentioned here. If you’ve read other historical manga which you’ve enjoyed, feel free to share it with us!

What I’m hoping for this MMF is that people can connect with various histories that can be found in manga. Histories, while one of the stories that never really sell in the English market, is one of the most thriving genres in Japan. But more than that, it is crucial because it shapes identities, particularly, national identities. It is in history, both imagined and unimagined, that people find roots in their values and their composition as a person.

If anything, I’m hoping everyone will understand, perhaps connect with Japan’s perceived identities through their wonderful array of historical manga.

Well, if it even increases manga sales, that’ll make me a happy historian!

So, I’d like to invite all of you to participate in this month’s historical MMF. I’ll be hosting it from 24 March – 1 April 2013. I’d be happy if you contribute reviews, opinions, and insights on this month’s MMF!
For any contributions you can do the following

Send an e-mail to punkednoodle-at-gmail with the header [HISTORY MMF] with your stuff in it. You can also link me up your MMF entries with the hashtag #historyMMF in twitter and tumblr.

I look forward to everyone’s contributions! /o/ Let’s bring some history lovin’ this month!

Entries during History MMF

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