Sunday, February 1, 2009

Why OEL anything is a bad idea

We here at Eastern Standard strictly define the word manga as comics from Japan. It is impossible for manga to originate from anywhere else. This is not a reflection on the quality of anything non-Japanese that calls itself manga (although it is mostly shit) but - as I just now decided - rooted more in horror at what the implications of OEL 'manga' are.
When manga is just comics from Japan, all styles are supported. You can draw big eyes and small mouths, very realistic gekiga stuff, or much more stylized, unique artwork.
The moment we start defining manga as an art style, the way OEL seems to, we start to reject anything that doesn't meet that narrower definition. Certainly, there are certain stylistic tricks you see in a lot of the most successful books, but even there, you'll find people bucking the trend. Even beyond the simple visual look, the pacing stuff - decompression and the like - that other people ascribe to manga? Read a little Gintama and see how dense that fucker is.
Someone recently started a Wikipedia article on his fiction zine, which claims to be the first OEL light novel magazine. The very idea made me livid, and I wasn't quite sure why - beyond the obvious fact that light novel is simply the Japanese name for young adult novel, and a light novel written in English would just be a god damn young adult novel. But by defining light novels by what they as ignorant fans believe them to be, they're attempting to limit the definition of what a light novel can be. And we really shouldn't be limiting a demographical term by anything but the demographic.


  1. God almighty. I don't really feel like ruining my night staying up to rant, so just pretend I wrote a couple hundred words of abuse directed at bandwagon-hopping word pirates.

  2. I think there's a strange double standard here, but maybe I'm just not understanding it. If manga can be defined as comics from Japan, then OEL manga is a marketing term to refer originally-English comics that are like manga, but not necessarily from Japan?

    I guess that's the problem you have with the term.

    As a rule, any marketing labels like this serve its purpose as long as it usefully define a category of things for people who buy crap, and the term OEL manga actually does serve that purpose. It's the strange thing.

    On the other hand I guess OEL "light novels" do not, unless they refer to something like they're printing it like Japanese people, which it doesn't make sense if it's all fanfic.

  3. I'm not sure *we* are the ones with a strange double standard, if you acknowledge "OEL light novels" as a meaningless oxymoron, but don't think the same of "OEL manga".

  4. I actually don't have a beef with it as a marketing term - just another in Tokyopop's list of sins. But unlike their ghastly attempt at branding light novels as "manga novels", OEL manga was actually used and embraced by fans who should have known better.
    I'm not actually sure what you're suggesting is my problem with the term, but since I'm pretty specifically not talking about marketing at all, but about narrowing the definition of what manga can be in the minds of the ignorant, I'm a bit baffled by your response.

  5. *originally-English comics that are like manga*

    I that's the main problem. What do you think is manga-like? When you make your comics under that defintion, instead of american comics that have taken some japanese inspiration (mostly, with the art), but might try to be their own thing, you end up with comics that try to be a shameless copy of some pretty specific kind of manga. Whatever your editor o marketing department thinks is cool with the kids right now, or something like that.

  6. I think my problem is why are you looking at it as anything other than a marketing term? Because you obviously think it's just that, and yet in the same breath, you analyze how it fails to be a non-marketing term.

    I don't disagree with you all, I just find the discussion oxymoronic.

    In marketing, a term is what it ends up to mean functionally (as used by ordinary people), so if something as idiotic and fanciful as "OEL light novel" can convey some sort of notion as a definition, a label, to a unified group of people, then I guess they're free to do so.

  7. What's the value in an argument about "OEL manga" as a marketing term? It obviously succeeds on that level, just in the same way as labels such as "deathcore" and "power-violence" work for their crowds in music. That still doesn't take away how utterly useless and stupid they are when examining them in practical terms, as well as actually describing a comic/CD/whatever.

    Yeah, it's semantics, but it's also very misleading and self-defeating when having a discussion about such works.

    In other news, the fifth volume of Scott Pilgrim is set to come out later this month.

  8. Later this month hell; looks like SP5 is due out this Wednesday. Now that is good news.

  9. I wouldn't have a problem if it WAS just a marketing term. The problem is that fans actually USE it. Stupid fans who are wrong, but nonetheless people buying in to the narrow minded bullshit marketing people invent.
    Absolutely no one used manga novels - not even many people on the retard farm at Tokyopop's forums. It died the death it deserved, remained a marketing term, and is hard to get worked up about.
    But people seem to think the concept of OEL manga is just dandy, despite all that it implies, and the damage it may or may not do to a newbie fans ability to process the scope of the medium.