This isn’t a book review in the traditional sense, mostly because I am not certain I want to tell people what I just read. We’ll get back to that. What I did do was this: I explored two genres that I have traditionally frowned upon and was surprised at my findings.
First, was anime. Now, anime is a Japanese style of cartoon (manga == comic book; anime == cartoon). I have had a negative approach to anime because those I knew who liked it also tended toward more adult materials. Turns out that in the Oriental societies, anime is considered to be an art form equal with live action cinematography. Anime runs the gamut from children’s shows to adult action flicks and everything else. Now one problem with anime in the US is that it is seems to be closely linked to pornography. I don’t recommend performing Google searches on anime as you will often be just one or two clicks away from seriously objectionable content. If you read (and can search in) Japanese then your search will be less problematic.
So, a few weeks back, I came in contact with anime over the course of daily life and as usual my gut reaction was to condemn it. Then I recalled a friend who had told me about how anime in Japan is no different then Disney (or Pixar) films in the US. So I decided I should get to know the genre a bit better before writing it off. moreover, it turns out that Disney has released several films by Hayao Miyazaki. These films have been re-dubbed with experienced US actors that include the famed Patrick Stewart.
Turns out my friend was right. I’ll probably not go digging up anime because its tough to find good stuff in the US, but I learned that I shouldn’t discount it as a style or genre. What I watched was excellent material with good (albeit different due to Eastern perspectives) stories.
Result: if you have the opportunity to watch Miyazaki movies like Castle In The Sky or Porco Rosso, take the chance and watch them to broaden your horizons. Another good anime is Steamboy which has an interesting discussion about the role of science within society.
Next I read Marvin Olasky’s article in a recent World Magazine. He spoke highly of another genre that I typically disdained: graphic novels. Now if you are like me, you look at a graphic novel and see pictures instead of words. Obviously it is inferior to real novels, right? Or maybe not so much. Since I was trying out new genres, I went to the library and requested the only one I knew. I was both surprised, impressed and saddened.
Let’s start with the good: the story was well written and told primarily through pictures. It amazed me that quite a few of the first ten pages had few words. Of those words, most were in Arabic. Yet intriguingly, I knew exactly what was going on as if the author had spent pages detailing the scenes. This was surprising. The skill used to tell the story was fantastic.
The depth of the author’s story and literary knowledge also surprised and impressed me. I wouldn’t have expected an author with such knowledge and skill to be writing extended comic books. Maybe there’s something to these….
One thought before I reach the bad. I do not see graphic novels being a good substitute for books because they lack words. That might sound odd, but actual words on a page can boost spelling, grammar skills and more accurately direct your thinking than a picture. In some ways, they complement each other, or can do so if both are well written stories.
The bad: graphic images and content littered several sections of the book. This was a great disappointment not just because the material was offensive, but because there was so much talent wasted here. I wish I could recommend the book, but I can’t and won’t.
This lead me to a decision: do I continue reading this one book despite its obvious problems just so I could explore a new genre, do I just write off the genre due to the content of this book (and quit reading it), or do I wait until a more promising sample manages to cross my path? My decision was to keep reading, though I am not sure if I should have.
What do you do when you reach objectionable material? Some material in a book can be ignored. I can turn a page or ignore some element. (Mind you I try not to make it a habit to have to deal with such issues, and these are typically only a problem in novels.) With a movie, I would probably and usually shut it off. With a graphic novel, a picture is worth a thousand words. You can skip a page, but you still saw several thousand words….
Honestly, I continued partially because I wanted to read the story and partially because I wanted to learn more about the genre. Now, I’m not sure if either reason was a legitimate reason.
What do you do when presented with objectionable elements?