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Manga Raises Disability Awareness in Japan, Reveals New Book

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<figcaption id= Yoshiko Okuyama

How characters with disabilities are depicted in Japanese graphic novels, known as manga, and how disabilities affect people in Japan, is highlighted in a new book by a professor of studies Japanese at the University of Hawaiʻi in Hilo.

Reframing Disability in Manga is the second published book by Yoshiko Okuyama supported by research and grants related to disability studies. In the new book, he focuses on several representative disabling conditions, including Asperger syndrome and visual impairments, as described in the manga.

“Informed by numerous interviews with manga authors and disability activists, [the book] reveals positive messages of diversity embedded in manga and argues that the increased awareness of disability in Japan in the past two decades is due in part to popularity of these works, the accessibility of the medium and the authentic stories they tell, ”said Okuyama.

The book features 15 case studies, each focused on a manga or manga series, showing how careful depictions of characters with disabilities, rather than handicapped or handicapped, can influence Japanese cultural constructions of shōgai (disabilities). and promote social change. .

Five-year trip

Okuyama says that the trip to publish the book took almost five years from the incubation of the idea to the signing of the contract and the launch of the book on the market. She credits her colleagues at UH Hilo and academics in the disability field for seeding the idea and providing the feedback and support needed to sustain the project.

Published in May 2020 by the University of Hawaiʻi Press, the book has already been adopted for Asian studies courses, including a summer course taught by Cornell University Assistant Professor Andrew Campana.

Reformulation of disability in manga

Okuyama says she was motivated to research disability in Japan because of her own experience caring for a disabled family member. His early years dream was to become a professional comic book artist or mangaka. Although she chose the life of an educator, the teacher has been teaching a manga course ( JPST 382) for over 10 years at UH Thread.

Reframing Disability in Manga looks at popular Japanese manga published from the 1990s to the present that portrays the daily lives of adults and children with disabilities in an empowered society. It focuses on five representative conditions currently classified as shōgai (disabilities) in Japan: deafness, blindness, mobility problems, autism, and gender identity disorders, and explores the complexities and sociocultural issues that surround each.

Read more in UH Hilo Stories .

—By Susan Enright, public information specialist in the Chancellor's Office and editor of UH Hilo Stories

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