Want to know more about the ancient game of Go or Wines? I didn’t. These activities were as uninteresting to me as learning the ancient art of cloud watching.
Here I’ll look into how manga can influence a culture; and turn activities practiced by the few into popular culture. I’ll be looking at Hikaru no Go (Hikaru’s Go) by Yumi Hotta and Kami no Shizuku (Drops of God) by the brother and sister team, Yuko and Shin Kibayashi.
The medium of Manga has never failed to impress in me how an author can impart knowledge and share his passion of a wildly uninteresting activity in such a way that it makes people like addicts on crack. On my own, if I had ever had the need to learn about Go or Wines and picked up a book in the library on the topic, I’d have been defeated in under 10 minutes.
And that’s being generous.
So why did I read Hikaru no Go from start to finish with impatient eagerness? And why have I started to read Kami no Shizuki with enthusiasm?
It’s teaching in the form of storytelling. Great, magnificent, storytelling that leaves me on the edge of my seat, gobbling up information that would have taken great perseverance and attention to learn otherwise. Especially for two subject matters that I care nothing about. Heck, even for things I want to know, to learn them will take longer to plow through and retain the material than the intricacies of wine or go in manga form.
The visuals that accompany Hikaru no Go and Kami no Shizuku also make it a pleasure to learn. I have no idea how the artist managed to make holding a Go piece so full of tense action that it was like watching an Olympic hockey game final. (GO CANADA!) From picking up a Go piece to slamming it down on the board, I was held breathlessly entranced. If you don’t know how difficult it is to make a board game interesting, try to watch championship chess live without flipping the channel after 10 seconds.
Or how an artist can make pouring wine so elegant and inspiring that even I, a wine ignoramus, was impressed. (Yes. I now know what decantering is, why it’s important to wines, and most interesting, I care.)
Reuters article. Yes. Reuters.
The Japanese government has recognized manga as a the strong learning tool it is. While the rest of the world considers manga, or anything with pictures as beneath notice in education, the Japanese government has opened a website in the past month http://www.anime-manga.jp to help foreigners learn Japanese.
Manga as a learning tool for a culture's mythology, art, entertainment, and language helps the audience, (especially a foreign audience) understand that culture. The dry, institutionalized way these things are taught now, makes me sad. Even I, interested in history, arts, and language found myself more than once nearly being bored to death of Shakespeare or learning Japanese.
Now if only someone could create an mind-blowing, high packed adventure, for the sciences and maths...
I dare to dream.