Most westerners know what Manga is, even if they have never read it before they know the premise and will mention something on the lines of describing it as a ‘Japanese comic.’ Because we westerners knew manga so wellI—or at least well enough to know what it is—I assumed that maybe the Japanese knew the term, Graphic Novel. Turns out, most don’t. In learning Japanese and preparing to go to Japan I practice talking with native speakers using an app called, HelloTalk, which allows me to practice my Japanese with people from Japan and they in return practice their English, it really is an extraordinary app for cross cultural exchange—but that’s not where I’m going with this. In talking to one another about each other’s classes I mention that I am reading Akira. They are utterly shocked that I’m reading manga, this is because almost every person I talk to from Japan thinks American’s have no interest in Japan.
It’s an odd feeling for me to imagine that these people don’t realize how much they have affected our culture. How in bookstores and in libraries there are whole shelves dedicated to manga. A couple of my language partners ask what class I am reading manga in, when I say Graphic Novel they all respond with the same thing. “What is a graphic novel?” I am a bit dumfounded, how do I answer this in simple English? So I try to relate to their culture, I say its kind of like manga, but a different drawing style. “Oh, so a comic?” I want to say yes, but it’s not like a comic. There is more depth, more narrative, and in trying to explain this, I lose my audience. They say okay, or “すごい” “sugoi!” meaning, “amazing!” or “awesome!” which sounds full of interest but they soon dip into a different subject. I feel like I lost some silent battle, I feel like I didn’t describe it well enough. I want them to experience Watchman, to experience our writing and artistic styles just like we have experienced theirs. I want them to understand the Graphic Novel and fall in love with it just as I have.