Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Complex Relationship

In my last post, I wondered how the Filipinos felt about the invasion of manga. Especially when you know that the komiks pioneers fought against the Japanese during World War II and supported the Americans to return.

Francisco V. Coching spent the war years as a guerilla with the Kamagong Unit of the Hunters-ROTC resistance organization. It was his unit that conceived the clever idea of smuggling arms in coffins past Japanese checkpoints.

As a boy during the occupation, Alfredo Alcala (Voltar, Conan, Boba Fett) would spy on Japanese installations from a distance, memorized the details and location, hid somewhere to draw it put and passed it on the Americans. He was a spy boy.

The tensions I mentioned are real. Ace Vitangcol, the writer of the popular Pinoy manga series, Love Is In The Bag, hesitated when we asked about the reaction towards manga by some in the komiks community.

He said this was a slippery slope and he has been burnt before by this: the manga backlash.

In the early 2000s, a new group of young Filipino comic artists influenced by manga and anime emerged. These were the people behind Mangaholix and Culture Crash and pretty soon, they were receiving hate mail. When Ace started Love Is In The Bag in 2007, he was warned that he would encounter the same thing. "Some factions were not keen towards us."

"This made me asked what is a Philippine comic? I came to the answer: it is anything done by Filipinos."

"We are not in the Philippine market and we are not in the purely Japanese market as that focuses more on manga from overseas and local doujins. We are in between and filling that gap. Our books are sold in bookstores like the National Book Store, and not at events."

For younger female artists like Columbia Kho, she draws comics because "we love manga and not because we want to revive the komik industry." (Columbia contributes to Oh No! Manga) So in that sense manga allows them to better express themselves as compared to other styles or genres. Kring from Cebu proclaimed herself as one of the newer generation of comic artists influenced by manga. Since high school, she saw the dynamism of manga in telling stories. She found manga to be a deep way of storytelling, especially shojo manga which put a lot of feelings into the story. It is the same for Tin Tin Pantoja. "Manga is a natural way of telling a story for me."

This is similar to the reactions I got from younger Malaysian artists I spoke to a few years ago about being influenced by manga and Western comics when there was already a more indigenous style that has emerged in Malaysia in the 1980s in the form of Lat and Gila Gila. To them, there was nothing wrong if their comics look like a Western or Japanese comic. Maybe they are right. We can't fight globalization.

Diplomacy and politics play a part too. From The Straits Times, 11 January 2013: "Tokyo, Manila to boost ties amid regional changes: Japan offers Philippines help over Beijing's 'threatening' activity in South China Sea".

And 2012 marked the 30th anniversary of Malaysia's Look East Policy introduced by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1982 to improve bilateral relations between Japan and Malaysia. The Look East Policy will continue. (New Sunday Times, 23 December 2012)

In the March 2012 issue of Oh No! Manga, a detective tries to solve the case of Serial Vandalisms of 2896. In this future, the culture of the Philippines is slowly deteriorating because of colonial mentality and dirty politics. The people have forgotten their own history and the vandal is a promotor of nationalistic ideals and relives the past through vandalism. He is sending out a message about the country's dying culture.

The detective has a Japanese name, Ysaganni Ibarra and lives in Neo Manila, which is populated by robot maids from Japan.

I wonder if the irony is intentional.


ct said...

One can also look at The Past, Love, Money and Much More: Philippines-Japan Relations Since the end of of the Second World War, ed. Lydia N. Yu Jose.

kurohiko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kurohiko said...

That interview was some time ago... I can't believe it made in this post!

That is also the general opinion of most local artists in the Philippines. A lot of people say that the comics industry is dead (myself included). Now? People are slowly becoming more aware and supportive of local artists! I hope it will continue to change for the better!

Paul Gravett said...

Thank you Ct for your reflections. I found the comments by the late, much-missed Gerry Alanguilan especially thought-provoking. American comics have, of course, been the dominant exported and imitated/integrated form for a century and more, resulting in localised variations far and wide. It seems to me the spread of manga, helped a lot by anime, has been having a similar impact and influence and at its best, results in people manga their own way.

Paul Gravett said...

(people making manga their own way) - sorry!

ct said...

Thanks Paul for the comments. It's pretty much change and continuity and an evolution. Perhaps 100 years ago, American comics displaced a local art style in the Philippines and now manga style has done the same to displace the previous komik style and it continues to dominate. Over time, the artists and the industry accepted and adopted to this market reality and the demands of the manga readership.