‘Gaijin Mangaka’


alternative comics
cultural appropriation
global manga
Art world
21st Century visual arts

How to Cite

de Sousa, A. M. D. “‘Gaijin Mangaka’: The Boundary-Violating Impulse of Japanized ‘art comics’”. Mutual Images Journal, no. 7, Dec. 2019, pp. 3-26, doi:10.32926/2019.7.sou.gaiji.


This paper investigates the artistic strategies of Japanised visual artists by examining the emerging movement of manga-influenced international “art comics”—an umbrella term for avant-garde/experimental graphic narratives. As a case study, I take the special issue of the anthology š! #25 ‘Gaijin Mangaka’ (July 2016), published by Latvian comics publisher kuš! and co-edited by Berliac, an Argentinian neo-gekiga comics artist. I begin by analysing four contributions in ‘Gaijin Mangaka’ to exemplify the diversity of approaches in the book, influenced by a variety of manga genres like gekiga, sh?jo, and josei manga. This analysis serves as a primer for a more general discussion regarding the Japanisation of twenty-first-century art, resulting from the coming of age of millennials who grew up consuming pop culture “made in Japan”. I address the issue of cultural appropriation regarding Japanised art, which comes up even on the margins of hegemonic culture industries, as well as Berliac’s view of ‘Gaijin Mangaka’ as a transcultural phenomenon. I also insert ‘Gaijin Mangaka’ within a broader contemporary tendency for using “mangaesque” elements in Western “high art”, starting with Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno’s No Ghost Just a Shell. The fact that the link to Japanese pop culture in ‘Gaijin Mangaka’ and other Japanised “art comics” is often more residual, cryptic, and less programmatic than some other cases of global manga articulates a sense of internalised foreignness, embedding their stylistic struggles in an arena of clashing definitions of “high” and “low,” “modern,” “postmodern”, and “non-modern”, subcultures and negative identity.

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Copyright (c) 2019 Ana Matilde Diogo de Sousa