Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Library For Astro Boy And Cultural Cat Girl

Japanese androids Astro Boy and All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku will find a home in the stacks, along with Totoro, Pikachu, and many other famous graphic novel characters, upon completion of the proposed Tokyo International Manga Library at Meiji University. Slated to open in 2015, the huge library and archive is expected to house two million graphic novels, animation cels, illustrations, video games, and cartoon artifacts.

Library spokesman Susumi Shibao sees the collection as the first "solid archive for serious study"of the Japanese art forms of anime and manga. Shibao hopes to help scholars worldwide publish academic research on Asian graphic novels and their animated film adaptations. He believes manga has been "taken lightly" in the past and is ripe for a major reappraisal: "We want to [encourage] academic studies on manga as part of Japanese culture."

To give those scholars eager to investigate the collection a taste of what's forthcoming, the school will open the Yoshihiro Yonezawa Memorial Library of Manga and Subculture on Halloween of 2009. This smaller library is named in honor of an illustrious alumnus of Meiji University.

Yoshihiro Yonezawa was Japan's most famous critic of manga and anime, as well as an avid collector of and advocate for dōjinshi.

This self-published subgenre of manga is more experimental and controversial in nature than mass market graphic novels. Dōjinshi creators frequently base their materials on other creators' works and publish only a few copies of each volume to avoid copyright litigation. This makes dōjinshi a scarce and coveted commodity. Yonezawa amassed the world's premiere collection of dōjinshi before his untimely death from lung cancer at age 53, and left over 140,000 rare volumes to his alma mater.

Serious study of manga and anime may be the goal of Meiji University, but the fun and entertainment that graphic novels provide to millions of rabid fans worldwide can't be overlooked. Fifty-seven years after his debut, Astro Boy is making a reappearance in movie theatres in 2009. And this Halloween tribute to Cultural Cat Girl is a testament to the undying devotion of her most avid readers.

Maintaining the balance between the fun of popular culture and the goals of serious researchers might require the help of a couple super-powered androids, too.

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