Over on his website, Paul Gravett writes a cogent, well-reasoned article about what manga is not. Which leaves us with only one workable definition of what a manga actually is.
A manga is a Japanese comic. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.
Inconvenient for the artist Joe Bloggs, who wants to sell you his How to Draw Manga book. Inconvenient for Large Corporation, that wants to sell you a book of non-Japanese comics with the word “manga” on the front. But that’s what happens when you try try to sell apples and call them oranges. Gravett admits that you can’t boil down a definition of manga to specific elements of style, or attitude or content. An argument that some of you may find familiar, and may even have expected.
In which case, there is no point in using the word manga at all unless we are talking about Japanese comics. In fact, it’s insulting to the broad church of Japanese comics if one tries to strip down such a rich medium to such simple (and, as six years of my Manga Snapshot column should have demonstrated by now, not necessarily universal) aspects as big eyes or spiky hair.
We got there in the end. Only took, what, five years? Ten? What are the odds that this will put an end to the tedious “debate”* on definitions?
No, the odds are not good, for all the reasons I cited in 2008, and on innumerable occasions preceding.
* (I put it in quotes because it’s hardly a debate if the other side consistently turns up empty-handed and wearing ear plugs)