Sleep of reason? The practices of reading shônen manga
MetadataShow full item record
In this thesis, I explore the practices of English-speaking readers of shônen manga (Japanese comics written primarily for an audience of teenage boys). I concentrate on three series in particular: Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist (2001–2010), Tite Kubo’s Bleach (2001–ongoing), and Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto (1999–ongoing). I argue that, although it may appear to be inherently imbued with (authorial) meaning, the shônen manga text emerges from a curious ‘alchemy’ through which the practices of readers transform the ‘raw’ materials provided by manga creators to produce a text that appears to have always been inherently meaningful in itself. I argue that this is always an impossible and monstrous transformation. In the first chapter, I introduce the monstrous combinations of words and pictures, panels and gutters known as shônen manga and argue for the importance of taking the practices of ‘ordinary’ (or, at least, non-scholarly) reading seriously. In the second chapter I explore the idea that reading is an ‘alchemy’ through which the disparate elements readers encounter on the page are transformed into a meaningful text. In the third chapter, I discuss the ways in which time and narrative are braided as readers assemble the disparate elements they encounter on the shônen manga page. In Chapter 4, I explore the visceral thrills of reading shônen manga, which are often expressed through notions of the awesome and the epic. Finally, in Chapter 5, I examine the ways in which a group of shônen manga readers known as ‘shippers’ find love and romance amidst the fighting in shônen manga and demonstrate the legitimacy of these readings by locating them in the material text through the concept of ‘canon’. By attending to reading as an embodied and material practice in this way, the thesis contributes to debates about the relationships between creators, texts and audiences and ongoing attempts to imagine new ways of being critical within cultural and literary studies. Within cultural geography, these kinds of attempts have often been aligned with what might broadly be described as nonrepresentational theories. As such, this thesis attempts to draw out the geographies through which manga texts are realised as manga texts at all.