I was thinking the other day about how several of my major-specific classes are really doing me some good, or at least making me aware of issues I wouldn’t have been conscious of, like semiotics/symbols and signs. I was drawing a sheet of verb images to make into cards for my elementary school kids, and it hit me how different some of the symbols and general imagery is here. Back home and in the west, everything’s just really simplified, but here, everything’s really manga-fied, which comes with its own way of depicting emotions and settings. I’m pretty sure the kids will be able to figure out what my “stick figure” dudes are doing (far easier to do stick figures than actual illustrations), but even on road signs here, the way they convey meanings is really fascinating, since they actually use manga figures several times, for animal crossings and other things.
Maybe it’s not strictly a semiotics issue, since semiotics deals with the reasonings behind why certain symbols have certain meanings…but at the same time, how did the sweat drop and the big eyes and the smooshed bodies with big heads come to be? What meaning is there behind the big eyes (well, that one’s sort of obvious) and the sweat drop and all the different mannerisms/idiosyncracies of the medium? How did these signs come to become the primary, if not the only, way that Japan and Japanese people depict simplistic things? I know that Osamu Tezuka essentially invented the anime style with Astro Boy in the 60s, but he alone couldn’t have been responsible for how completely entrenched in Japanese society that style is today.
Well, it’s something to think about, anyway. It’d be fun to do some research into the history of Japanese animation and apply these representational theories to it and see what we get.