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Otakus “in this corner of the world”: Manga visibility in India

There was a time when manga fans toiled hard to explain their passion to others. Otakus would sit in front of their desktops and read several scanlated volumes at a stretch. Geeks would storm the houses of cable television service providers, if the channel named ANIMAX was taken off air! Anime has enjoyed more visibility than manga, as not every fan would be an avid reader. They would rather peruse their favorite series via the audio-visual medium. Overall, manga literacy was low as accessibility was a notable issue.

However, it is heartening to see that manga visibility in this corner of the world (Kolkata, metropolitan city located in Eastern India) is on the rise. During winters, the city hosts several bookfairs, big and small. In these seasonal expos of the printed word (2022-2023), I was jubilant to encounter dedicated manga corners in several stalls, set up by reputed publishers. Perhaps, the number of titles found are mostly limited to the mainstream potboilers such as Naruto, Bleach, Death Note and a few more. Yet, It gives otakus hope that manga visuals are slowly becoming popular and gaining acceptance among the general reading populace.

Manga is slowly becoming a global form of visual expression, which is not just limited to its Japanese ethnic origin. Creators from different countries and cultures are contributing to 'manga' as a growing mode, bringing in their own signature styles. Discourses (academic and non academic) regarding manga, anime, comic narratives, popular visual culture, graphic aesthetics, fandom are also gaining momentum. University curricula are becoming more accommodating of such experimental courses and papers. As a person in the academic business myself, I receive queries from interested young minds who wish to pursue research in comic/graphic/manga. It makes me nostalgic, reminding me of a time when I was a doe- eyed fresher in the Master's program at Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India; requesting her professor if she might be permitted to write a term paper on manga. I thank my lucky stars as the response received was in the affirmative!

Perhaps some day not so distant in the future, book stalls in fairs might feature original manga created by Indian artists. Academic publishers might display their volumes on manga/anime/graphic scholarship, which is otherwise inaccessible to Indian students in hardcopies. Otakus have a long way to go. But, one step at a a time does the job!

Cheers! Stay tuned for more @Dr Otaku.

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