Manga Artist Criticizes Messages in Pop Culture Validating Mediocrity
posted on by Eric Stimson
Japan is an enormously competitive and demanding society, as any fan of shounen action manga probably knows. Students go to cram school after their regular classes, office workers work late, and there's a frequently used word, ganbaru, meaning "to do your best." But manga artist Michihiko Tōei (Concierge, The Last Restaurant, Yōkai no Shi'ikuin-san) believes that modern pop culture is instead setting low standards and validating mediocre achievement for its audience. He took to Twitter to explain.
"I'm wonderful just the way I am," "each of us is special by nature," "you don't have to be number one" — the truth is, all the creative works that say this are lying to make sales. If they say it, everyone will happily buy them. If we really believe this, making a recovery in our lives becomes harder. From the late '90s to the early 2000s, themes like "you don't have to put in effort," "you don't have to overdo it" and "you don't have to persevere" became common, but take a look at the lives young people brought up on this are leading. If you look at the protagonists of manga popular in the '70s, you'll understand that it was a time where if you didn't put your life into organizations or missions or skills, you wouldn't be accepted... well, all right, maybe I get the feeling that this goes too far, but if you don't put everything you have into life, you'll be left with nothing but regret.
"Putting everything you have into life" might be a weird expression, but isn't the outlook of someone like Kazuhiko Shimamoto better?
Shimamoto's style has been described by Jason Thompson as "worlds of sweat and blood, of screaming word balloons and big black hair." For more on the 1970s "give it everything you've got" spirit, Justin Sevakis has reviewed Ashita no Joe, Aim for the Ace! and Shimamoto's own Blazing Transfer Student.
Tōei's Yōkai no Shi'ikuin-san ("The Demon Breeder")