Manga, Bullying, and Non-Magical Girls.
I’ve been discussing Manga as a medium at length with a new friend of mine, who has enlightened me as to any number of things I didn’t know during the course of our discussions. Manga is at least as deep a field as Western Style Comics, if not more so, with its own very specific conventions toward the production of sequential art. I have only the most surface knowledge of it at best, and have been gradually wading into the shallow end of the metaphorical pool.
My method for selecting Manga is simple: I grab two volumes, one that was recommended, and one that is a “risk” based on what I read on the back of the jacket. If the back of the “risk” volume seems interesting…I take the risk. It’s not that complex a strategy.
This week’s “risk” volume was the “Negima!” Omnibus Volume One. There is no real analogy for this kind of comic in Western Culture…the protagonist is a ten year old wizard who goes to Japan to take a job as an English teacher at an all-girls boarding school, Junior High. Just typing that sentence is odd. It has genre and media conventions, as well as ideas on comedy and propriety that are simply different than Western Comics, and alternates between being endearing and kind of uncomfortable.
Still…today’s art was inspired by the increased Manga intake in my current Comics Diet, and also by one of my students. I usually don’t do any content having to do directly with students, since Adequacy is about the Adult Issues in Education, the Behind the Scenes. That’s true…but the fact is, in order to have a school at all, you need to interact with students, and those interactions often drive the Adult Issues.
This is more about Student Issues, which is why a non-super evolved, possibly magical girl is the artistic content for the day. I figured focusing on that artistically would help to drive my thoughts for the post.
I had a charming young lady come to me in tears last week because she failed a quiz, and was sincerely terrified that the one quiz, at the beginning of her Junior Year, was going to ruin her chances at going to a good college. She wanted to change classes, to just run away from the whole thing…I’ve never seen that kind of “high stakes” education stress before. Thankfully, I was able to help her talk through it, and calm down…only to discover that this week, other students are using Social Media to bully her.
Schools are especially bad at being able to deal with that sort of thing. The biggest thing that I could do was to make time, to sit and listen to the problem, and tell a story from my own time in High School….hoping that some wisdom would happen by accident. As I did that, I realized how much simpler High school actually was in my youth. Even though I was applying to college, and wanted to get into a Good School…there were just far less applicants in the late 80’s. Social Media simply hadn’t been invented yet…bullying wasn’t on a 24 hour cycle. You could just not be near a phone, and be away from school, and it kind of had to stop for a while.
My young student took comfort from just having someone try to understand her problems, from having an adult listen. When we grow up, I think we forget how big a deal that really is. As she left for the day, she pretty much said what the speech balloon in today’s art says…”Thanks. I’ll try hard to be brave.”
Should you really have to be all that brave to go to school, and try to be a good student? The statement stayed with me, and I think that it speaks volumes to the kinds of issues in schools today. Problems that the adults involved just don’t have easy answers to.