Sporadic Sequential
Thursday, April 02, 2009
A Completely Different Kind of Corporate Comic

Yesterday's post was inspired by a recent revelation I experienced while reading With the Light vol. 4: I totally want to read some good salaryman manga, darn it!

I've enjoyed With the Light ever since I read the first volume, but I noticed that I was really getting into the latest volume as I was reading it. Then it hit me: My interest spiked whenever the focus shifted to the dad's work-related ordeals. It wasn't that I didn't find the rest of the book interesting (far from it: the fact that the book appeals to me on so many levels — parent, worker, spouse, former staff in a group home for autistic children — is one of the main reasons I'm so fond of the series), but I was especially captivated by the scenes of the dad struggling to succeed at work.

I think a big part of this is being able to relate with many of the things Masato deals with at his workplace. Not that my job is anywhere near as stressful as his, but the conflicts with coworkers and office politics are details that resonate as similar even if they're not exactly the same. I never thought I'd reach the point in my entertainment consumption where I was seeking out material that mirrors my own experiences, but this incident gives me greater appreciation for fans who desire to see their own interests reflected in fiction: There's something fulfilling about recognizing your experiences in the works you read.

It also reminded me of Eric Reynolds' commentary on the state of the American periodical comics industry. When did comics drift away from their audience? Why isn't there more material for adults? Why aren't there more options for types of story that have the potential to resonate with readers from diverse demographics?

All of which is my roundabout way of saying I suddenly realized I'm very interested in reading some salaryman manga and disappointed that there isn't any readily available. I realize it's probably a long shot for any publisher to license anything like Section Chief Kōsaku Shima but I'd love to see someone take a chance on something like this. (Maybe if Kodansha ever makes their move in the U.S. we'll get to see more offbeat titles like this?) Plus, look at how popular series set in the workplace have been in other media. If the public can accept and enjoy Dilbert and The Office, why not salaryman manga? (OK, granted those are comedies and they're rooted in American culture, but still...) And if manga creators can make series about board games and cooking exciting, is it really a stretch to imagine that a manga chronicling a worker's hard-fought rise through the corporate ranks is probably THE MOST GRIPPING TALE EVER?!?

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