Recently, a group of critics at The Hooded Utilitarian posted part one of an article naming their picks for Best Online Comics Criticism in 2009. It’s a great read with some fantastic links to follow. Johanna Draper Carlson linked to this at Comics Worth Reading, mentioning that she hoped the next installment would include more manga and more women, because “some of the most insightful critics currently are women talking about manga.”
I agree with Johanna, of course, and it got me thinking about how many manga blogs by women I read every day and how much these women have shaped my own experience with manga. Certainly one of the things I value most about the online manga community is that so many of its prominent voices are women, and it feels like a great privilege to be able to interact with all of them so easily. More than that, though, it’s freeing to be a part of a community where women are so respected and so much a part of the community’s voice as a whole.
With that thought in mind, I bring you the following (very short) list. It is not a “Best of” or “Favorite” list of any kind, but simply a small sample of the many wonderful and unique female voices I enjoy reading online each day.
5 Female Voices in Manga Criticism
Brigid Alverson – If there is any manga blogger who does not live and breathe by Brigid’s MangaBlog, it’s certainly nobody I know. Not only does Brigid keep us all informed and connected, she also brings an aura of stunningly good sense to everything she touches. A true voice of reason on the internet… can she be real? Since I’ve met her, I know that she is, which frankly gives me hope for us all. To top it off, her reviews and commentary, on her blog as well as on the numerous other websites that regularly publish her writing (Robot 6 and The School Library Journal spring immediately to mind), are top notch, giving all of us something to strive for.
Shaenon Garrity – Possibly the most consistently entertaining manga blogger/critic/editor on earth, Shaenon Garrity is someone who could get me to read just about anything. I’d read her commentary on the phone book if she posted such a thing. I’d read her thoughts on watching paint dry. If Shaenon writes it, I’ll read it and not just for the laughs either, plentiful though they may be. She’s also consistently on point, using her power of wit for the good of all mankind. Having first encountered her writing via her awesome LJ feature, the Overlooked Manga Festival, and at Comixology, I’m thrilled to see her now at The Comics Journal as well.
Katherine Dacey – Manga Critic Kate Dacey is especially notable for writing some of the most gorgeous prose I’ve seen in any kind of manga criticism. Her review of Children of the Sea, for instance, is one I still think about whenever I see that manga mentioned. Not only that, she reads (and writes) from a staunchly feminist viewpoint that frequently forces me to think more deeply about the way female characters are treated and portrayed, even in the series I love most. I recently stumbled on a LiveJournal discussion that began with the assertion that conversations about women’s roles in manga simply don’t happen in online circles, and all I could think was, “This person has obviously never read Kate Dacey.” Her writing is a constant source of inspiration for me in the manga blogosphere.
Deb Aoki – Though the title, “Manga Guide,” was given to Deb by virtue of her position at About.com, no title could be more appropriate. Both on and off her blog, Deb is guiding force for pretty much the entire manga blogging community, offering information, introduction, and assistance to anyone in need. She is widely acknowledged as the leader of the manga Twitteri, and is one of the people in the blogosphere to whom I personally owe the most gratitude. Her reviews, polls, commentary, interviews–everything she writes is perfectly crafted to educate and inform fans, both new and old. If they ever name a Saint of Manga, it will surely be Deb.
Michelle Smith – Both in her role as Senior Editor at PopCultureShock’s Manga Recon and in her blog, Soliloquy in Blue, Michelle brings a matter-of-fact, real-word sensibility to the world of manga criticism that I think is sorely needed to balance out the rest of us, or at least to balance me and all my ethereal, emotionally-driven rambling. Michelle’s pithy observations and pragmatic style provide readers with a sense of clarity not too often found, well, anywhere. She is smart, funny, exceptionally observant, and capable of boiling pretty much anything down to its bottom line when necessary. No matter how muddy and contradictory the manga blogosphere becomes, Michelle’s voice rings out clearly from the din.
This does not even scratch the surface of all the fantastic female voices in the online manga community. Danielle Leigh, Snow Wildsmith, Lorena Nava Ruggero, Erica Friedman, Lori Henderson, Connie, Lissa Patillo, Julie Opipari, Ysabet Reinhardt Macfarlane, Laura, Emily, Joy Kim, the list goes on and on, and of course Johanna, who started me off on this in the first place.
Thanks to all of these women, as well as those I failed to mention, for educating and inspiring me every single day. Women in manga, rock on!