There is a great deal of cogent sense and thoughtful sensibilities to be found over at Kathryn Hemmann’s long piece about “Boys’ Love” manga, singling out something I wrote last August for NEO 107 for “articulating a common sentiment extraordinarily well,” although she doesn’t necessarily mean that in a good way. WARNING: the words “Not Safe For Work” do not come close to describing some of the pictures accompanying the article, so do not click unless you are ready for an eyeful. Or possibly a fistful.
The Manga Snapshot column is just about to reach its 100th chapter, marking more than seven years rifling through the magazine shelves of the Japanese comics business, picking out a different magazine anthology every month. Over the years, I have covered manga for boys, manga for girls, manga for girls who like boys who like boys, manga for old men, manga for old men who wish they were boys again, manga for boys who like boys dressed as girls, manga for boys who like girls, manga for boys who think they probably would like girls but haven’t actually talked to one and hence regard them with all the realism of glow-in-the-dark unicorns, manga for women who are ridiculously obsessed with their cats, manga for housewives who love their husbands, manga for housewives who love other people’s husbands, and coming up in NEO 113 (which I just finished writing last week), manga for women who are quite miserable, but love hearing about women who are even more miserable.
I always try to follow a formalist perspective, teasing out suggestions of the implied readerships, not only from the manga themselves, but also from the peripheral content — the editorial asides, the letters pages, the horoscopes, and the adverts. Where available, I also use reader statistics from the Japanese Magazine Publishers Association, which often supplies illuminating data about who actually reads a title — as noted in my essay, “Living Happily Never After in Women’s Manga” (find it here), such details can often be intriguingly counter-intuitive. Sadly, in the relatively small niche of “Boys’ Love” publishing, such statistics are less freely available — I would suggest, at least in part, this is in order to allow the magazines to hide financially counter-productive data regarding the size or composition of their readerships. This, in turn, allows certain sectors of the readership to perpetuate “the stories they tell themselves about themselves,” for good or ill.
Every time the Amazon Japan order thunks onto the doormat, I think that’s it, there can’t possibly be any more titles left to cover. But there’s always another few lurking in the shadows. I have yet to get to the in-law appeasement sub-genre, and I’m still poking around in search of a legendary title for military housewives. Only a tiny handful of early Manga Snapshots were reprinted in Schoolgirl Milky Crisis, so the other 150,000 words or so can only be accessed by buying Neo magazine. There’s very rarely any evidence, at least in the postbag, that anybody reads the Manga Snapshot at all, which is why it was so pleasing to read such a considered and assiduous appraisal.