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Author Topic: Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."  (Read 5198 times)

Offline Kiniest

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Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."
« on: February 17, 2014, 04:43:32 PM »
I've constantly dealt with people close to me that argue that anime, manga, and comic books in general are all poorly written. This claim is ascended by "in comparision to American classics", and is often backed up by "how many anime and manga become as popular as classics?"

I feel like getting input on this would be interesting, as we've all probably had a hard time dealing with other people when it comes to this. Manga/Anime in general are the kinds of mediums that look like they're badly written if you aren't used to them. I get that taste in writing is purely subjective and always arguable. But to those who believe that the medium is objectively poorly written, what would you say in return?
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Offline Reckoner

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Re: Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2014, 05:17:03 PM »
This question/comparison is a bit too broad for my liking.

Are we talking about books, actual writing, compared to script writing in anime? Or are we comparing western television/movies to anime?

The first is a pointless one to make. Literature is a far more expansive, richer medium than anything out there. It's been around much longer and has had generations upon generations of humans contribute to it over the many centuries. Then there's also a question of type of appeal of each. We're not going to start comparing James Joyce novels to Ore no Imouto are we  :o?

Manga vs western comics?
Light novels/visual novels vs western novels? (lol)
Anime TV shows vs Western tv shows?
Anime Movies vs Western movies?
Anime vs western cartoons?

There's also the consideration of what type of anime are we talking about. Original? Manga adaptions? Light novel adaptions? Visual novel adaptions? They all have different types of writing and storytelling methods that affect what you see quite a bit.

Offline Kiniest

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Re: Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2014, 05:22:25 PM »
This question/comparison is a bit too broad for my liking.

Are we talking about books, actual writing, compared to script writing in anime? Or are we comparing western television/movies to anime?

The first is a pointless one to make. Literature is a far more expansive, richer medium than anything out there. It's been around much longer and has had generations upon generations of humans contribute to it over the many centuries. Then there's also a question of type of appeal of each. We're not going to start comparing James Joyce novels to Ore no Imouto are we  :o?

Manga vs western comics?
Light novels/visual novels vs western novels? (lol)
Anime TV shows vs Western tv shows?
Anime Movies vs Western movies?
Anime vs western cartoons?

There's also the consideration of what type of anime are we talking about. Original? Manga adaptions? Light novel adaptions? Visual novel adaptions? They all have different types of writing and storytelling methods that affect what you see quite a bit.

Then, let's change the question up from the comparison to just the title question.

Are manga and anime, by principle, poorly written?
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Offline Delphinox

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Re: Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2014, 06:10:53 PM »
Then, let's change the question up from the comparison to just the title question.

Are manga and anime, by principle, poorly written?

This is arguably an even broader question. But anyways.

The implication that this question carries is that there's an automatic creative disadvantage to anime and manga as a medium of art that a writer or director cannot make up for. Which is not only a huge generalization and an unwarranted discrediting of the creative minds behind the project, but because the only real objective disadvantage that manga and anime have in comparison to something like theater or literature is legacy/history, by making such a statement, you're essentially arguing that anime and manga are inherently poorly written because they aren't as firmly entrenched as other mediums of arts and entertainment. So in a word, no. If they're poorly written, it's not because of some predetermined principle. It's because the creator failed to make something memorable out of their work.

That's what my attempt at an answer would resemble if I had to take a blind stab at it. But there are too many variables to consider, such as purpose, ambition, accessibility, the aforementioned legacy, and many other intangibles. The only thing I could tell you definitively? Generalizing is stupid.

Offline Kiniest

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Re: Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2014, 06:18:33 PM »
Alright, I'll tell you what this topic is really about, then. I'm very aware of everything you've said, and I agree that generalization is a bad thing. As a matter of fact, generalization is basically the reason why I tried to ask this question. My question is terribly vague, and in a way, I'm having a hard time getting this through.

What can you say to those who generalize anime and manga as poorly written pieces of work as a whole? Why do they generalize it as such? Where are they coming from? For the people who aren't just closed minded individuals who aren't willing to try anything other than what they're used to, where does their logic come from and why do they carry that assumption?

Perhaps I shouldn't beat the bush so much, next time. Or is this not straightforward enough, yet?
« Last Edit: February 17, 2014, 10:34:01 PM by Kiniest »
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Offline TypicalIdiotFan

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Re: Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2014, 07:46:39 PM »
Are manga and anime, by principle, poorly written?

Generally?  Yeah.
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Offline Marid King

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Re: Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2014, 07:53:16 PM »
I can understand a bit of what proponents of that stance, or someting like it, are thinking.

For me, when I group every 'story' I've ever experienced, be it movie, book, play, musical, tv show, videogame, etc, none of the top 20, maybe even top 30, happen to be anime or manga. I praise Steins;Gate and Gankutsuo like  a broken record on this site, but really neither are all that impressive in the grand scheme of things. About 30% of Steins;Gate was stupid fluff, the rest is a shaky plot in the logic department, and despite being based on what is apparently one of the greatest books of all time, under heavy analysis Ganutsuo holds up maybe as well as some of the novels I studied in high school. Obviously my sampling is ludicrously small compared to what it should be for statements like this to be taken seriously, but there's not much I can do about that.

Another point I could make is that, on average, more anime/manga published are of poor quality than for other storytelling mediums. I'd set the value for Sturgeon's Law to 95-99%. There's what, 50 new anime per season? Most of them I dismiss without a second thought, almost everything else I watch by myself, and basically never make recommendations to people I meet.

There's a couple hypotheses I have for why, in my experience, these mediums seem to have a low ceiling and baseline. The first is that anime and manga simply haven't been around as long, and furthermore only one country produces it. So, say a true masterpiece is 1/1,000,000 works. Has anime and manga
even reached that threshold?

The other thing is that I feel most anime and manga are created with the intent of entertainment, and not for it's own sake, or for art. That is, the creator is more subservient to his intended audience than to his creation; it's difficult to expect brilliance given this limitation. This is why IMO soulless, carbon-copy overtropified garbage not only exists but is somewhat prevalent at the moment in anime and manga.

Overall, while I enjoy watching and talking about anime and manga, I think it's a medium-sized fish in an extraordinarily large pond. Of course, none of this means that we won't ever see a true masterpiece, but it might take a long, long time, enough time for the industry to possibly die off.     
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Offline Reckoner

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Re: Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2014, 09:43:57 PM »
What can you say to those who generalize anime and manga as poorly written pieces of work as a whole? Why do they generalize it as such? Where are they coming from? For the people who aren't just closed minded individuals who aren't willing to try anything other than what they're used to, where does there logic come from and why do they carry that assumption?

I think the generalizations come from a very snobby mentality. It's the same reasons why a great comedy movie never wins the Oscars. Or why scifi and action flicks rarely ever win the Oscars. Things that can be interpreted as being "fluff" generally do not gain as good as recognition by critics as other things. People tend to criticize those mindless action flicks or stupid romantic comedies. I think this is a shortsighted view point to take because I think making a truly great comedy is harder than making a good serious character drama. But well without getting into a tangent...

What does a lot of anime contain? Fantastical elements, action, moe, etc. Lots of things that are seen as superfluous elements in storytelling. Even when anime is about character dramas, they usually revolve around a bunch of high school kids doing well, kiddy things. Sometimes just like a usual K or J live action drama.

And hey, a lot of anime really is badly written stuff. Light novel industry is the main culprit for the poor quality as of late, but even then, sturgeon's law is very much alive. However, that doesn't make anime any different from anything else, so again I think it comes back to the types of stories anime generally tries to tell.

To a degree I can definitely see why someone might think anime in general is by principle poorly written. It's pretty easy to see one too many Shakugan no Shana clones and think that the medium is creatively bankrupt of ideas and storytelling concepts that are all interesting. But then you see things like Shinsekai Yori last year and I think that this is very enlightening to what the potential of the medium really is like. Shinsekai Yori is a great television show, and there are few american TV shows in recent times that I would consider as good or better than Shinsekai Yori. Breaking Bad? Sure. Mad Men? Eh. Big Bang Theory? Oh please.

There's also things I find in anime that I just cannot see myself finding anywhere else (Least at the same quantity and quality of enjoyment). Finding a film like Wolf Children in the west is nay impossible. They just won't write those kinds of stories in the west. Let's not forget that anime sometimes inspires the west as well. Nolan cited Satoshi Kon's Paprika as his inspiration for Inception. Story writing can't be that bad in anime if it can inspire a pretty good director like Nolan to do something.

So to answer your question. No, anime is not by principle badly written (compared to other visual mediums). I think it comes with its own appeals that are a bit different from other mediums of storytelling out there, and it's still fairly young as well. There is still plenty to be added to the catalog of anime titles in the years to come.

Offline Funky Dealer

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Re: Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."
« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2014, 10:15:22 PM »
I know you readdressed your original question already, but my response will touch a bit on everything anyway, so I'll go on.

I think that the generalizations regarding anime and manga as poor come from quite a few factors, most of which have been touched on already. There's certainly a cultural and international factor, considering that the two are Japanese by nature (assuming we aren't looking at "foreign anime" or whatever you'd call those mash-ups). Even with that, anime and manga are also made for entertainment as Marid mentioned, and that kind of entertainment - or even how they communicate messages - is also Japanese at heart. When it comes down to it, an open mind to anime and manga implies an open mind to Japan, and some people may not be open in that regard and more prone to generalize.

This doesn't have to be a negative thing, of course. Some people just don't get these things, and you can't fault them for it. I think the issue is that people start with an indifference to anime and manga and then add on their experiences with other mediums (books, movies, comics, so on), making anime and manga look even worse despite them not actually being worse off. Some people can't meet their own expectations with anime or manga, which is understandable considering the cultural differences, but this even makes the most basic mutual understanding difficult. You could possibly blame some of that on the mainstream anime and manga titles, but as it's been said before in this thread. anime and manga is generally poorly written. It's getting past the humps and finding the diamonds in the rough that makes it worth trying, but who'd be willing to try that when they're largely indifferent to it all?

And assuming the person isn't close-minded, it comes back to style in the end for me. Marid also makes a point about anime and manga being made for entertainment or profit, so some people might be pushed back by the quality of all those titles. Even if you take something like a Madoka and try to get someone interested in it, would they watch it for the meaning or the presentation? It could be necessary for the anime or manga to present it that way, but it doesn't always click with everyone. Though honestly, it's hard to tell why an open-minded person would assume bad things about anime or manga without considering personal reasons, so I'd just ask the person directly instead.

On another note, I never liked comparing anime and manga to most Western stuff or (more notably) "the classics," at least on a scale of preference. There's just too much cultural murkiness and hindsight issues to consider. As in, a classic will always be seen as a classic because it's been proven over time, but anime and manga have had very few time-proven series to even compare on a basic level. It's just not worth it for me.

Online The Big Guy

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Re: Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."
« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2014, 10:20:36 PM »
Quote
Are manga and anime, by principle, poorly written?

By principle? No. The problem is that there is a lot of crap out there, just like every other medium. I really started to realize this when I was asked to make a spreadsheet of all of the TV acquisitions last year in November. 150 entries later, and I had to stop when I got to the beginning of October. And of those shows, very few of them get past the pilot stage and of those many get cancelled within the first couple weeks of airing (as opposed to anime, where shows rarely, if ever, get canned). Hell, even if they do air there are entire popular genres that universally suck, like reality shows. It's the same with movies (I would be interested to see how many movies got rated with Rotten Tomatoes last year alone, and of those how many got "fresh" ratings), books, comic books, etc.

If there is a problem with anime and manga, it is that the internet has made it very easy to put every new show and manga under the microscope, meaning that we have to wade through more crap than in other mediums. However, that's not a problem with the medium itself. It would be one thing if the medium of animation and comic books limited the aesthetic and narrative qualities of their stories, but I have yet to see any indication that this is the case.

Why do people dismiss it off hand, you ask? I hold a rather cynical viewpoint on this, but my best explanation is that the people want to feel better about themselves.There is a human tendency to have a "them," or someone that's worse off than you, or you hate, or you think is stupid etc. Consider, for example, the bizarre social stratification within nerd and geek culture. Many of these nerds have been looked down upon and made fun of all of their lives, and yet instead of breaking from that cycle by joining an accepting community, they join a community that looks down upon other types of nerds. For example, you have comic book fans looking down on anime and manga fans, anime and manga fans looking down on 4 channers, 4 channers hating on... basically everyone, and most nerds looking down on the bronies. I've come to the conclusion that it really does not matter what other people like, or what music they are into, or what shows they like. People like what they like, and there is little reason to judge them for it since it doesn't matter either way. By that notion, you don't have justify why you like something either. It is fun and interesting to talk about the merits of this show or that book, but what matters most is that you enjoyed it.

TL;DR Don't worry about it. Watch what you enjoy and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Offline gedata

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Re: Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2014, 07:49:28 AM »
if you wanna go with the Sturgeon's principle, sure.

Offline hyperknees91

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Re: Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."
« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2014, 12:37:49 PM »
People are fooling themselves if they think there is more crap anime/manga/comic books then there are crap books. Trust me...there is plenty of things out there you would not be caught dead reading haha.

But regardless, whether or not something is "classic" is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned. People watch and read what they enjoy.

Offline Pebble

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Re: Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."
« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2014, 02:18:00 AM »
People are fooling themselves if they think there is more crap anime/manga/comic books then there are crap books. Trust me...there is plenty of things out there you would not be caught dead reading haha.

I find it amusing how people usually glorify books as the best medium out there. Clearly they have been very selective about which section of the library/bookstore they visit.

Offline KS

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Re: Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."
« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2014, 10:31:49 AM »
I think there might be a point to make here for Light Novel industry being largely centered around ill-conceived wish fulfillment fantasies of a hapless guy getting roped into some crazy adventure with beautiful girls that have overbearing personalities, but even Light Novels have their moments.  With Light Novels though I find there is often a lot of really poorly planning and consideration for the sustainability of premise a lot of which are just kind of ludicrous.  Rather than develop established characters and premises too a lot of them tend to keep introducing a new bishoujo character per episode and just end up getting bogged or never really going anywhere.  They also tend to be aimed primarily at otaku and the prose written at a fairly low reading level.  I often like it too pulp fiction and can't argue that I see a lot of poor writing tendencies in the format.

Manga though for example seems to be broader in scope, tones and demographics that authors are willing to write about and some of the most celebrated graphic novelists in history have written in the format like Osamu Tezuka and Naoki Urasawa to name a couple. 

Offline TypicalIdiotFan

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Re: Agree/Disagree/Qualify: "All manga books are poorly written."
« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2014, 11:23:16 AM »
Basically it boils down to two things:

1).  Limited acceptance of what is appealing to the audience.
2).  Japanese writers have never been particularly good.

The first one has to do with the general cynicism that publishing companies have towards otaku, the primary target audience of manga and light novels, and the unwillingness to take risks because that doesn't sell.  The second one is more of my own personal interpretation of even "good" authors and storytellers.  There just haven't been that many, and this is doubly so amongst the manga community.  There are a few guys that were / are interesting, but I don't think even they have written any kind of real magnum opus.  They seem like they're trying to push envelopes by expanding upon already tried and true establishments, but they haven't really been given free reign to "go nuts" yet.

I imagine if we really want to find the best authors, we should probably look to the ones that AREN'T popular as hell.  Maybe amongst one of them we can find someone that is an unappreciated gem.
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