Misunderstood Manga fan

Well, it’s official: my daughter is away for 10 entire days on a school trip to Himeji, Japan. Great experience for her, quite a drama for me, what with renewing her passport, buying ‘Kiwi’ gifts for her homestay family and all the school kids she’ll meet over there, the last minute clothing purchases – it’s Summer over there in a big way, and it’s sooooo not Summer in New Zealand! – having to buy a suitcase she could actually carry herself and a backpack for the plane journey that’s big enough to hold all her ‘stuff’ and yet small enough to fit under the seat of the plane…. The lead-up to the actual trip seemed neverending! And then there was the courier breaking some of the gifts I ordered and the poor retailer having to scurry round for replacements and wondering whether they’d get to me in time – they did. Arrived Friday morning, just as I was planning yet another shopping expedition to buy new ones. The killer was having to be at the airport by 6am…when I didn’t get to sleep till past midnight coz of a horrendous coughing fit and then woke at 3.30am coz of the storm outside and couldn’t get back to sleep. But I digress. As usual :-)

So. To the point of this post. Which ties in with daughter’s trip to Japan because of course she’s an avid reader and she wanted something to read on the plane, as you do. So I sourced a couple of Manga books from a series she’s interested in and tucked them into her backpack. Along with the Nintendo. And the MP3 player. And the sketch pad and pens etc etc. Hey, it’s a long plane flight from Auckland to Japan!

But to the topic of Manga. At school recently my daughter became interested in some of the Manga her classmates were reading, and one series in particular caught her imagination. Unfortunately, before she could borrow one, they were universally banned throughout the school because one kid’s Manga turned out to contain entirely inappropriate subject matter for 11-13 year olds. Hey, parents, just because it’s a cartoon-type book with pictures, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily appropriate for your kids! I mean we’ve got some great Anime DVDs…which we definitely would not be letting the kids watch, cartoony or not!

And what interests me about these Manga is the backlash didn’t just extend to a school banning them altogether. Daughter and I visited one of our local libraries to see if we could find this particular Manga series. Given the school’s reaction, I wanted to eyeball them before I bought them online to make sure they were suitable reading. And because we couldn’t find them anywhere we asked a librarian. Who exchanged one of ‘those’ looks with another colleague and then said, “I’ll get someone to help you.” Mmmm. What’s going on here, then? The woman in charge duly presented herself at the desk and proceeded to question me as though I was the worst parent in the entire world for even considering letting my daughter read Manga. “Can’t you encourage her to read anything else?” she finally ended with.

Well! Of course I assured her my daughter was reading well above her age, reads a wide range of books – both fiction and non-fiction, and has a wide range of interests. Which was why I didn’t see anything wrong with her picking up something different, like a Manga. It appears kids – especially the boys – are getting obsessed with Manga to the extent where they won’t read anything else! Hard one, huh? I mean, at least they’re reading, right? But she does have a point. Except her point doesn’t apply to my daughter, as I made it quite clear.

Next step was for the librarian to very reluctantly show us the section where the Manga were hidden away and when we couldn’t find the series we were after, tow us round and make a point of showing us some other more ‘suitable’ reading material. Had to chuckle. Most of the authors and books she showed us, daughter has already read! We did pick up one new author so everyone was satisfied.

And the Manga my daughter wanted? Bought it for her from the Whitcoulls online store. Now I just have to hope she doesn’t become ‘obsessed’ with them and make me eat my words!



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2 Responses to “Misunderstood Manga fan”

  1. Marc Honore says:

    Seems like an inappropriate response by the school. Surely the content rather than the style should determine suitability. Well….you do live in redneck country….. Seems like your reaction to the self-appointed-censor-librarian was quite restrained!

    Congrats on the writing success…..send my best to Rob….


  2. Maree says:

    Hey Marc, nice to hear from you! Have been trying to track you down for ages!!! Will send you a private email now I know your email addy.

    As for redneck kiwiland…. Guess it does seem a little high-handed but I don’t actually blame the school for their response. The teachers are dealing with a bunch of hormone-infested kids on the brink of puberty and boy, do they have their work cut out for them! The stories that come back to me…Yikes! Make your hair curl, I’m telling you. Sounds harsh, I know, but by all reports this particular Manga crossed the line from ‘inappropriate’ to practically pornographic. Kid wasn’t aware until he copped an eyeful and one of his friends was so discomfited he told a teacher. I guess the school figured rather than personally checking every kids’ reading material, better to ban Manga universally. If it slipped by the kid’s parents, then I applaud the teachers for stepping in. I’d be horrified if Roma had seen it!

    Totally different story with the librarian I agree. I mean I’m in there with her, asking for a specific Manga and she’s kinda challenging my ability to parent. Still, her heart was in the right place, which was why I didn’t get all high and mighty and remind her of that in no uncertain terms.

    Thanks for the congrats,