Life of a Rooster

Memoirs of a psychiatrist, journalist and educator

Manga craze

on July 20, 2014

Art as taught according to the syllabus was one thing. Art the way it was practiced among the students in our Taipei middle school was totally another.

Everyone seemed to be able to draw. Our favorite topics were of course, girls and women. Those were the early days — maybe not that early, since it existed already in the pages of Er Tong Le Yuan (Children’s Paradise) magazine back in our Jeddah days —  of Japanese style manga.

Typical manga style girl, found on the "mailbox" page of ErTongLeYuan

Typical manga style girl, found on the “mailbox” page of ErTongLeYuan

Typically, every character is good-looking, including all the evil ones,  has huge oversized eyes, and amazingly beautiful hair. Eyes were big black pools (if done in lead pencil) where a few white highlights would gather in one corner and were fringed with enormous curly eyelashes. Hair could be any color, depending on your color box, but the skill lay in how to position bunches of curls or fringes. The trick to a good hair style or hair “flow” consisted in dividing the total hair into handfuls and drawing those individually.

Back in Paris, in 7eme,  we had to make little angels once for a class project, maybe for Christmas trees. We were given little cones and ping-pong balls, and had to stick the former into the latter, and paint them into angels. I drew my angel’s face Manga style, and admired it proudly. The teacher took one look at it, and asked whether she was wearing sunglasses! What an insult! When I insisted they were eyes, she pityingly explained that those things were too big to be eyes. Then one classmate also came to admire it and said that she liked my “petite bonne femme“! That was adding insult to injury! Or injury to insult! Whatever. Petite bonne femme indeed! It is hard to translate the exact shade of meaning of this term: somewhere between “little woman” with none of the cuteness, to “lowly housemaid with a matronly air”.

typical manga girl, ErTongLeYuan

But here in Taipei, no more ignoramuses. Everyone drew immense eyes in various styles. Before the year was over, I had purchased a notebook and asked the best among our resident class manga artists to draw me a girl. Some wore modern clothing, others ancient Chinese clothing. Some were full body while others were only portraits. One was even drawn with Chinese brush and ink. I highly prized my collection, and kept it for quite some years, until, like many of our belongings, it disappeared sometime along our travels and moves.

Manga was everywhere: not just on children’s magazines, and serialized comic books, but also on anything a child might buy, such as pencil boxes, erasers, pencils, bookmarks, and undersheets (word I just made up to translate dian ban, a hard plastic sheet the size of notebook page, that you place under the paper for easy writing).

manga on pencil box

And I, totally engulfed by the craze, would draw for hours on end, big eyes, multiple highlights, curls and floating tresses, and dreamy dresses. 

I must mention here a new discovery I have just made, as I was looking for images to illustrate this post:  While browsing for Er Tong Le Yuan, the Hong Kong magazine for children, I found that it was published between 1953 and 1993 when it folded. But one of the ex-editors decided in 2013 to upload online all the issues, and now we can simply go to www.childrenparadise.net and browse these defunct issues. I am quite amazed at it. It used to be beautifully illustrated, full-color, and had both short-series and featured comics. Some were in manga style, some others in classical Chinese style, and so on. There was a section that featured Chinese legends, another adapted well-known classics, such as Shakespeare’s King Lear, and other sections turned books such as Dr. Seuss’s, into comics. There was of course, a mailbox section for letters and drawings from readers. Considering all these were then hand-drawn, it is amazing that it was published twice a month, totaling 24 issues a year!

The now defunct Children's magazine from HongKong, Er Tong Le Yuan

The now defunct Children’s magazine from HongKong, Er Tong Le Yuan

Some topics covered general knowledge. Here: Abraham Lincoln

Some topics covered general knowledge. Here: Abraham Lincoln

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese legends were a staple of the magazine. Here: How silk was discovered.

Chinese legends were a staple of the magazine. Here: How silk was discovered.

Famous stories from around the world, such as King Lear, were presented in Er Tong Le Yuan

Famous stories from around the world, such as King Lear, were presented in Er Tong Le Yuan


2 Responses to “Manga craze”

  1. Saadia Mai says:

    Thank you for sharing the archived magazine materials, this is a delightful childhood memory.
    I remember the big eyes that everyone used to draw. I tried it for a while then gave up on it…

  2. Saadia Mai says:

    Now I see that the art skillfulness has passed on to your daughters!

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