The Mahou Shounen Breakfast Club came under fire from manga fans for not being authentic. I had no idea what was happening bar the fact that "Mahou Shounen Breakfast Club" was being criticised as the contreversy raged so I kept out of it and my comments to myself. Quite wisely as it turns out :)
The thing that has struck me in the ongoing debate was the question can "white people do manga?"
Well, no. Not unless they've spent some time working and living in Nihon (Japan) or have spent a lot of time socialising & working with Japanese people and communities in the west. Why these conditions? Because a "manga" is a "Japanese comic". Most all manga's I've read are rooted in the Japanese perspective of Nihon (Japan), society, the future, technology, etc, etc... So unless you are very familiar with Japanese culture and it's people you are going to be struggling in an art form where your work is going to compared to that of accomplished manga creators, often of a very professional standard, who have been raised in the culture.
Is it offensive for white people to exploit other cultures in their art? It is no more offensive for white people to create manga than all the Japanese mangas that are set in some Dick Van Dyke Anglo-Euro setting are offensive to me. I am aware that these mangas are some artists creation and they have a right to express themselves no matter how much some of it makes me cringe. A few cartoonists in Paris paid for the freedom of expression and the right to cause offense with their lives this year. Anyone can write or create anything they please. It's called freedom of speech. You're a fool if you don't a defend it but a fool if you flaunt it to no end.
What white people who have little experience of Japan can do is create comics in the style of manga. Adam Warren did years ago. It has been called "pseudo manga" or "world manga" . Bryan Lee O'Malley has built a career out of "world manga". The likes of O'Malley's "Scott Pilgrim" & Warren's "Bubblegum Crisis, Grand Mal" & "Empowered" are recognised and respected (in the west , if not Nihon) as a homage to manga. But what Warren and O'Malley have both done is set their story worlds in the future or the west. Which sidesteps the issue of patronising other cultures.
Should Toril Orlesky and Katie O’Neill have quit? I would have reccomended a reboot of The Shounen Breakfast Club. They suddenly had an world wide audience of critics including Japanese manga fans, regardless of any hostility. It's the sort of response publishers' market research people dream about. They could have accepted the criticisms, respected their, new found audience, no matter how rude and used whatever feedback they were getting to change the Shounen Breakfast Club. Personally I would fielded the idea that the manga style be kept, for the majority of the characters to be occidental even if it meant changing them and the story set it in the future, in New Zealand, Australia or on the Moon.
I wish Toril Orlesky and Katie O’Neill all the best and I hope they learn from this and go on with making comics and art.