Manga with non-Japanese characters?
March 16, 2007 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find examples of manga with non-Japanese characters?

I'm pitching this poster idea and of course, I work with dense people who a) have no idea of manga and will b) not have enough foresight to envision non-Japanese characters in manga form. What are some (for now) some sites where people might post manga style artwork showing groups of people? Thanks.
posted by jbelkin to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I hate linking to Wikipedia but...
posted by ReiToei at 11:07 AM on March 16, 2007

Manga characters are almost never drawn to look ethnically-oriental. They nearly always look like Europeans. (Or more like Europeans than any other ethnic group, anyway, except with big eyes and strange colored hair, and...)

So where can you find examples? You'd be hard pressed to find any manga which did not feature non-Japanese characters.

But if that isn't what you mean, then what do you mean?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:11 AM on March 16, 2007

Do you mean with non-Japanese *writing* "characters" or non-Japanese protagonist-type characters? If the latter, can you link to an example of manga that does have (recognizably) Japanese characters?
posted by DU at 11:29 AM on March 16, 2007

Here is an example from Amazon of a manga that has human characters that look European and has been translated into English: Tramps Like Us.
posted by xo at 11:48 AM on March 16, 2007

Tokyopop has a great new series called Pantheon High, which basically contains characters from just about every world mythology, but all with that "manga look."
posted by jbickers at 11:56 AM on March 16, 2007

Both Blue Monday and Scott Pilgrim are anime-style books that are written in English.
posted by aburd at 12:01 PM on March 16, 2007

If what you want is manga translated into English, or otherwise with English captions, there are lots of those. Robert's Anime Corner Store, my favorite site for purchasing anime DVDs, has a big section of translated mangas. (Note: I am just a happy customer; I have no other connection to him.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:08 PM on March 16, 2007

Also, this and this may help you track down good translated manga scans. If that is what you are looking for.
posted by aburd at 12:09 PM on March 16, 2007

An old-school 1970s manga example: Eroica Yori Ai O Komete (From Eroica With Love). One lead character is from England, the other is from West Germany; side characters include Italians, Russians, Americans, and plenty of regulars from the leads' home countries. (It's now finally getting an official English translation by CMX.) Mangaka Aoike Yasuko is fond of European history and most of her books involve non-Japanese characters and settings.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 12:14 PM on March 16, 2007

If you don't mind some examples from anime:

"Sugar, a little Snow Fairy" is set in Germany in the fictional town of Muhlenberg, which is based on the real town of Rothenberg.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:25 PM on March 16, 2007

Are you looking for normal-looking characters? Because if not there's One Piece, which has a lot of fan art and is drawn in a pretty stylized and somehow vaguely French kind of way.

The suggestions to look at older manga (say from the '70s and '80s) are good, since you're likely to find more European-style characters and less of the huge eyes/huge robots kind. Googling should get you a ton of fan art or scans.

There's also this really great series of overviews of overlooked manga, most of which probably won't help you but some of which might.
posted by lullabyofbirdland at 1:20 PM on March 16, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks - All suggestions, excellent - thanks!
posted by jbelkin at 1:46 PM on March 16, 2007

Manga characters are almost never drawn to look ethnically-oriental.

...yes and no, really: anthropologist Matt Thorn has this interesting piece on how use of visual markers of ethnicity for Asian characters can vary greatly depending on the background of the character and the setting of a particular manga.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 2:56 PM on March 16, 2007

A few more 70s examples (eeargh, showing my age here or what?):

Candy Candy, all characters are caucasian, settings are the US, England, and Scotland around WWI.

Rose of Versailles, set in France before and during the Revolution; all characters are European and many are actual historical characters from the French court.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 3:07 PM on March 16, 2007

The Patlabor manga has some non-Japanese characters. In the bottom scan on this page, the guy at the top left is Richard Wong (from Hong Kong), and the boy in the middle is Bud Reynard (from India). Also from the same manga, Kanuka Clancy is Japanese-American (sorry, that's from the anime, as I couldn't find a manga scan. She looks pretty much the same in the manga, at any rate).
posted by vorfeed at 4:50 PM on March 16, 2007

Matt Thorn says:

When non-Japanese characters appear in a manga in which most characters are Japanese, that character will be differentiated from the others with stereotyped racial markers of some kind. For example, a character of African descent may be shown with pronounced lips, frizzy hair, and shaded skin. A European character may be shown with a pronounced nose and jutting jaw.

Such is my argument, but many find it unconvincing.

I find it unconvincing because it's wrong. Take, for instance, these four characters. They're from a kawaii anime called "Ichigo Mashimaro" and one of these four is not like the others. Three of them are Japanese, and one of them is English. If you guessed that the one on the left was the gaikokujin you were right, but the only way to tell that is because she's blonde and has blue eyes.

Now consider this picture, of characters from Negima. One of these girls is European. Her name is Evangeline McDowell. If you guessed the blonde with blue eyes in the upper left corner, you'd be wrong. That character is named Ayaka and she is Japanese. Evangeline is the second from the left on the second row. (Evangeline is also a vampire and is hundreds of years old, but let's not worry about piddling details.)

In actual practice the only way to tell characters which are nominally Japanese apart from those which are nominally gaikokujin is by their names -- and even that doesn't always work.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:58 PM on March 16, 2007

Mai the Psychic Girl features some non-Japanese characters
posted by gnat at 5:25 PM on March 16, 2007

But on the other hand, look at something like these Gundam Wing characters -- in a setting with characters of many different nationalities Heero, the Japanese pilot in the center of that lineup, looks somewhat more like the non-Asian characters on either side of him, while the Chinese pilot on the far right, Wufei, is drawn with markedly narrower eyes and shiny black hair. Or in Fake, which has a primarily white, American cast, half-Japanese Ryo (the lighter-haired guy) isn't really drawn any differently from his dark-haired caucasian partner Dee -- the only real markers of ethnicity there are his dark eyes (which are commented on by other characters) and the use of his Japanese middle name instead of his English first name. You see the same thing in Under Grand Hotel, which has only two Japanese characters in an American prison setting -- Sen and Warden Mutou aren't drawn differently from some of the white convicts and guards, but there is occasional mention of Sen's dark eyes and both characters occasionally speak in Japanese to set them apart. These all fit the patterns Thorn notes tend to occur when Japanese characters are minorities in non-Japanese settings, or where non-Japanese Asian characters (in settings where they aren't the majority) may be visually marked as "other".

They're just general patterns, not hard and fast rules, and eye size/shape is all complicated by the common manga use of eyes to signifty traits other than ethnicity -- characters that are meant to be particularly young, cute, light-hearted, etc. are going to generally have bigger eyes than older, more serious characters, regardless of their backgrounds; and leading characters may be idealized more, while suporting characters are sometimes much more cartoony or stereotyped. But I do think his general points that Japanese characters tend not to be given exaggerated signs of "otherness", and that the degree of visual cues of ethnicity can vary a great deal, and are much more fluid and relative than may be typical for Western comics/animation, are pretty much spot on.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 6:05 PM on March 16, 2007

Gunsmith Cats is set in Chicago. All of the characters are Americans (more or less). It is also a fun, action-heavy manga by the great Kenichi Sonoda. I recommend Kidnapped, a story that involves most of the recurring cast.
posted by SPrintF at 6:10 PM on March 16, 2007

Smilla, I'm not saying that he's invariably wrong. I'm saying that sometimes they do what he says, but a lot of the time they don't. A lot of the time the only way to know that a character's ethnicity is for them to tell you in the dialogue.

Here's a cast drawing from "Kaleido Star". Among these six there's one Japanese, one Chinese, one Dutch, one Belgian, and two Americans. You tell me which is which.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:37 PM on March 16, 2007

Anyway, we've strayed quite far from the original point of this post, and "Ask Me" isn't supposed to be for discussions.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:39 PM on March 16, 2007

One easy way to introduce them to the style of manga while showing how it can be applied to Western characters would be to show them the Star Wars manga, which as you might expect is Star Wars told using a manga-inspired visual style.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 10:48 PM on March 16, 2007

In a similar vein as what L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg recommended, how about the cast of Simpsons in manga/anime style, or the cast of Futurama? If people are familiar with either of those shows (and I think they most likely are), being able to compare the original Matt Groening style with the manga style might be helpful.
posted by tickingclock at 5:07 PM on March 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

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