Ask Morgana 114: Amano Shuninta

When addressing a subject like Manga – a Japanese art form based on comic-book illustration – there are many problems. As an art form it is, in fact, very wide. It includes one-off, highly representational paintings at one extreme, and highly stylised but almost crude, cartoon-like frames building up a story at the other. In its comic-book form it can deal with fantasy, adventure, romance, relationships, social comment, just about anything. There are even sub-genres that are blatantly pornographic. The latter is where Westerners have a problem, mainly due to the fact that female characters in the highly sexualised stories often appear to have the (often exaggerated) bodies of women, but the faces of girls; this is very disturbing for us.

However, in Japan there is a principle drawn from Zen Buddhism, that (in art especially) things are often other what they appear to represent. It is though the whole of art is metaphorical. This makes it possible, in what is still a fairly conservative society as regards sexual mores, for Manga with themes that are to do with sex or sexuality, to be acceptable in the mainstream. There is a sub-genre known as Yuri, in which girls are seen forming close, emotional, romantic bonds – they may hold hands, cuddle, or kiss – and in many households these stories are acceptable reading for the daughters of the household. Some Yuri stories go way beyond depicting affection, however, and show various levels of sexual activity. Sometimes this can be further complicated by the characters’ moving away from the strictly human to having, for example, cats’ ears and tails, or the wings of fairies or angels.

Today I have picked drawings by Amano Shuninta, of whom I know next-to-nothing except that I admire her style. I have deliberately picked drawings where the subjects can be assumed to be aged 18 or over – generally her work falls into that sub-sub-genre. What I like about her style is just how minimalist it is, what she can do with a few lines, a little shading, or (possibly) computer-generated dots. Amano is worth researching, as is Manga in all its forms and sub-genres. There is a vast quantity on the internet, much of it on Japanese-language sites. Even on English-language sites fans are deeply knowledgeable and their jargon is esoteric, so it is never going to be an easy study.

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Images reproduced under ‘fair use’ provisions.

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