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On "introducing a Japanese 'manga' character to American audiences"

Astro Boy

Remember one of the key rules of culturology: "Cultural differences" aren't something you sensibly take note of when and if they pop up. Rather, you simply know that they lurk everywhere unless shown otherwise (and, of course, you don't ever attempt to demonstrate that "otherwise" part). 

There's a new Astro Boy movie coming out, and the director is making the normal interview rounds. Here's the opening question from an interview on the AMC web site

Q: What were some of the difficulties in introducing a Japanese manga character to American audiences?

Note that the question isn't "Were there any difficulties?". No, the interviewer takes it as a given that there must have been multiple difficulties stemming in the fact that... uh, the source material and the movie director come from different nations. I guess. Anyway, I award the interviewer a perfect 10 for awesome culturologist form! (With an extra point for use of "manga" instead of "comics"!)

Director David Bowers, however, doesn't seem to be aware of the rules, at least in this interview. Look at his sensible response:

A: It was interesting -- it's such a rich story, and I think its themes are universal. I think American audiences are very used to superheroes, so it's not an enormous stretch for them. The only difficulty was having it be such a beloved character and having to decide what to retain and what to get rid of. 

Translation: "Uh, no difficulties on that front" Well, Bowers may have failed the culturology test (to his credit), but the above raises my expectations for the movie. Maybe I'll even see it some day.

Incidentally, I don't know how much media attention this film will get, but I have zero hope that coverage will completely avoid the inane meme of "Astro Boy demonstrates the special Japanese relationship with robots". Dear reader, should you spot that goofiness in print, send its perpetrator here for an education. 


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