chapter  10
23 Pages

Is there a space for cool manga in Indonesia and the Philippines?: Postcolonial discourses on transcultural manga


The vibrant landscape of youth culture in Southeast Asia is representative of the transcultural flows that pass through the region. From American movies to Hong Kong comics, various fan events celebrate popular media from all over the globe. The largest fan event in the region is Singapore’s Anime Festival Asia (AFA), a Japanese pop culture event with almost 145,000 attendees across a span of three days. In recent years, AFA has expanded into Thailand and Indonesia, making the event and its stars more accessible to fans in the region. Apart from industry booths by Japan’s state broadcaster NHK and various animation companies, there are also artist tables where fan artists sell fan goods and fanzines, expressing their love for their favorite series using graphic styles that resemble Japanese animation (anime) and Japanese comics (manga). Anime Festival Asia is indicative of Japanese popular culture’s reach across Southeast Asia. However, although the event gives the impression that Japanese cultural industries such as anime and manga have become a part of Southeast Asian culture more generally, the extent to which these Japanese cultural industries are welcomed by local cultures is a complex story. This chapter looks specifically at how the surge of manga and local comics that “visually resemble” manga, which we will refer to as mangaesque works, have raised transcultural tensions in Indonesia and the Philippines. Prior to the impact of contemporary manga, both Indonesia and the Phi-

lippines already had rich comic cultures. Much like Japan, the Philippines developed a comic culture at the turn of the twentieth century, during the American occupation (1898-1946), when modern print technologies and media became available in the country. Indonesia’s comic history, on the other hand, started in the 1930s with comic strips published in daily newspapers during the latter part of the Dutch occupation (1800-1942). The comic cultures of the Philippines and Indonesia were tied to colonial machineries that used popular culture to disseminate information to the public. Hence, when the Japanese occupied these two countries during the Pacific War (1941-45), they also used comics to disseminate information (Cheng Chua 2005; Okamoto 1997). However, after the departure of the colonial powers, both

countries began to reclaim all forms of cultural expression in order to construct their new imagined national identities. To a degree, in the postwar environment, comics in these two nations

became tied to national culture. For decades, local comics in Indonesia and the Philippines were developed in relation to national aesthetics, symbols and narratives featuring local heroes who possessed remarkably Indonesian and Filipino characteristics. This nationalist phase, however, began to change when manga were introduced into these local comic cultures in the 1990s. Japanese manga introduced new narrative and aesthetic styles to younger readers who, in turn, adapted and appropriated manga elements in the development of their own comics. These developments transformed the face of local comic culture, rattling the local artist communities that had been instrumental in developing the national comic cultures. These local communities feared that manga represented a new form of cultural colonization that threatened their local comic cultures. This chapter examines the discourses surrounding local comics in the Phi-

lippines and Indonesia, looking particularly at how local comic communities have questioned the validity of manga’s influence on local comic cultures. As most studies on Japan’s transcultural power focus on East Asian, Anglophone and European communities (Iwabuchi 2002; Allen and Sakamoto 2006; Allison 2006; Berndt and Richter 2006; Napier 2007; Cooper-Chen 2010; Brienza 2015), this look at Japan’s transnational cultural presence in Indonesia and the Philippines offers further insight into the mixed reception that Japanese cultural power faces in postcolonial societies. Given that Indonesia and the Philippines were both occupied by Japan for a short period during the Pacific War, we argue that manga’s presence in these nations has triggered postcolonial sentiments that have led to a re-evaluation of the position of local comics in national culture.