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Manga belongs in the British Museum as much as the Elgin marbles

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23.05.2019

What is manga doing in the British Museum?

It’s a question the Guardian’s reviewer asked about the new summer exhibition which opens today devoted to the comic medium that originated in Japan .

The answer, I’d say, is quite a lot. We’ve come a long way since sequential art (if you want to use a term for comics that makes you feel a bit more grown up and sophisticated) was dismissed as, at best, juvenile trash and, at worst, dangerously corruptive. Graphic novels (another good one for the dinner party) are considered a valid literary form; manga is one of its most prevalent and popular aspects. So why not?

I admit to having a dog in this fight (or, more appropriately, this Battle Royale, one of the manga that made the transition to the cinema). I earn some of my living as a writer of American comics, and as such am standing on the shoulders of the mecha-giants of manga. The first manga is thought to date back to 1902, when the artist Kitazawa Rakuten began to draw comic strips for the Jiji Shimpo daily newspaper.

Manga has been phenomenally popular in Japan for more than a century, and not so much tarred with the low-culture dismissals that western comics endured up until very recently. Manga isn’t a genre; it’s a medium, and within its very broad church there are science-fiction escapades, of course, and bloodthirsty historical epics, but also tender love........

© The Guardian