Japan – The Empire of Signs
We know Japan as a country of a rising sun, as a land where people live in picturesque landscapes in a fairy tale environments. Both high technology and legends are tightly associated with this eastern island-based territory. To add some flavor to definition of this faraway nation, let us quote Roland Barthes who called it the Empire of Signs.
Thus everything has its meaning in Japan, from gestures to written hieroglyphs which are plenty in number and form unpredictable meanings based on a combination of simple signs.
Even bodies and clothes signify so many concepts and sociological positions that you as a foreigner can get easily lost. Barthes mentioned that bodies in Japan act and exist according to a pure erotic project.
Consequentially it is no wonder that anime and manga comics originated in Japan and gained incredible popularity. There is no great subtlety and art in these animations and drawings that look like an entertainment for kids. Nevertheless there is a whole bunch of admirers, millions of them to say the least, throughout the world, who identify themselves with their favorite Naruto or Sailor Moon, and pay whatever it costs to get the latest manga, or to go to the largest comic market in Tokyo twice a year.
If we get back to Barnes, we see that erotic connotations in manga are overwhelming. Thus main divisions of manga are strongly associated with specific type of male or female audiences according to their sexual preferences. Let us have a glimpse of what forms of manga are published in Japan: Shojo manga are comics for teenage girls, shojo-ai are romantic comics for teenage girls, shonen are comics for teenage boys, shonen-ai are romantic comics for men, redisu are comics for young adult females, seijin manga are comics for adult males, shojo-ai yuri manga are romantic comics for lesbians, redikomi manga are comics written by women for teen and adult women telling about more realistic, everyday happenings, doujinshi manga are comics written and illustrated by amateurs, etc. There are literally hundreds of varieties of manga, and each one is usually limited by genger and sexual inclinations of readers.
This testifies to incredible and diverse popularity, preferences, interests, and tastes of Japanese comics readers. As time goes by, there is no doubt the genre will shift to include a lot more topics.
Thus manga comics are yet another proof of Japan as the empire of signs.