Everyone has seen that section in the bookstores devoted to manga. But what is it?

Manga are Japanese graphic novels, but many people see manga as children’s comic books. The Analyzing the Appeal of Manga Club is working to reshape that image by taking a closer look at manga to find the meaning beneath the ink.

Hillary Ash, a fourth-year in Japanese, and Samantha Hall, a fourth-year in Arabic, founded the club after their freshman year. Ash and Hall began the club as a way to continue their Freshman Seminar, “Analyzing the Appeal of Manga,” which was taught by Professor Maureen Donovan, a Japanese Studies librarian. Ash and Hall wanted to make sure the club would not slide into what many members call “fangirlism.”

Fangirlism or fangirling is when a member rants about a favorite series or character in manga or anime without any substantial discussion.

“[This is] a place where you can discuss manga with people who have a similar interest, and it’s not just fangirling. We try to keep it more academic … to read something and see what might be going on below the surface” Ash said.

The club is making small steps toward changing America’s view of manga from comics for kids to something meaningful. Sarah Smith, a third-year in art and technology, knows the kind of stereotype applied to manga in the United States.

“I know a lot of Americans think manga is children’s comics, but there are a lot of themes in them that really wouldn’t apply to kids,” Smith said.

Manga is a combination of two very different forms of communication: art and writing. But many Americans cannot see beyond the different, and sometimes crazy, cover art of manga. Ash is acquainted with America’s negative image of manga.

“It’s really not all that surprising,” she said. “If they gave it a chance, they would realize it’s not true at all.”

The club is not only unique in its subject matter but also the way the meetings are formatted.

Members do not sit around and read for the meetings, but they research.
Members are responsible for presenting research on a topic of their choice to the club. Nothing is assigned and members are free to present whenever they choose.

Topics range from the history of vampires in manga to discussions of single characters. Ash created the idea for presentations.

“It wasn’t really realistic to have a group of 30 people or so read the same manga in a two-week span,” she said.

The club has yet to experience the same topic twice, which keeps the discussions animated and members coming back for more.

Future plans for the club include a trip to Ohayocon, the anime convention held every year at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Club members actively participate in convention activities and put on panels where they bring their research and thoughts to share with the convention attendees. The club currently meets at 6 p.m. every other Thursday in Hayes Hall, Room 220.