26. Read a book and write a 5-6page review

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Running head: THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS MANGA
The Four Immigrants Manga
[Author Name(s), First M. Last, Omit Titles and Degrees]
[Institutional Affiliation(s)]
Author Note
1
THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS MANGA
2
Although the history of manga goes back to the ancient times, when nobody would think
about publishing a graphic novel, the modern concept of manga brings the images of very
complex drawings that illustrate stories of various characteristics. The evolution of manga is
linked to the Edo period, when the Ukiyo-e, that can be translated as pictures of the floating
world, those paintings often portrayed caricaturized versions of people, landscapes, life´s
uncertainties, and sensual placers. Those caricatures appeared in the characteristic Japanese style
of painting. Ukiyo-e were part of the popular culture of the Edo period, just like manga is part of
today´s culture. Those paintings were very popular and constantly produced, so many of them
ended being part of the packaging of some product exported to Europe. (“Manga: Evolution,”
n.d.) During the 19th century, the relationships between the Western cultures and Japan started to
grow, and the Japanese commenced to receive influences from different groups of people.
Religious groups, political influences, educational developments, all of them had their effect in
the Japanese art. Isolation was over and a new era brought new challenges to the population and
great developments in almost all aspects of the Japanese life. One of the most influential artists
was Charles Wingman, who
introduced the caricature in
the Japanese newspapers. He
influenced local artists with
the western ideas of
perspective, anatomy, and
shading. His satires
Figure 1 Charles Wingman, “Britannia´s Bloodletting for Shogun”
The Japan Punch, 1966
introduced cartooning to
Japan.
THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS MANGA
3
The last decades of the 19th century started an interesting exchange of people migrating
to different western countries, to study, most of the times, and work. In California, settlements of
Asian immigrants started to appear, fist because of the Gold Rush, then because of the works in
different sectors.
Life and Art in San Francisco
Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama is not the only one tried to make a collage representing the
perceptions of Japanese immigrants of the American culture. However, his book has the property
to hide the rest of the works about the same issue. It has some peculiar characteristics that make
the work unique. The art is what I never could expect from a Japanese artist. Simple, but perfect
at the same time, the cartoons are like old Mickey Mouse drawings, or Felix the cat. Far from
Wingman´s Japanese Punch, where each ethnicity was portrayed in their traditional attire, here
we can see very American-like Japanese young men, trying to adapt, and survive in a very
different environment. The story tells the adventures and misadventures that the four young
immigrants lived for 20 years, from 1904 to 1924. There are 52 episodes, each one showing an
important event in the history of the country, the world, or in a smaller scale, to the protagonists.
The book never loses its comic strip nature, and all the episodes the cultural clash is
evident. They struggle to understand what´s happening around them, but their understanding is
poor, in the best situation. They do not understand English, so the dialogs of the American
characters are just glimpses of what people could have said. Originally, the book was bilingual.
Japanese characters spoke Japanese, and Americans spoke something like English, but limited to
the knowledge of English the four young men had. Years pass, and different events come to life
in Kiyama´s book. First episode is the narrative of the arrival to San Francisco, and how things
can be very different from expectations. The actuality of the topic is undeniable; besides,
THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS MANGA
4
different forms of discrimination
are part of the daily life of the
biggest share of the immigrants,
regardless their origin. Migrating
is difficult and adapting to a very
different culture is a shock for
most of the immigrants. In the
beginning of the last century,
Japanese immigrants had to
endure very distressing situations,
and even they weren´t able to gain
American Citizenship.
This book has in it all the
characteristics of the future
comics. The superhero comic of
the 1930s, the underground movement of the sixties, all those subgenres of graphic novels were
anticipated in The Four Immigrants. Although Yoshitaka Kiyama is considered in Japan as a
traditional artist that portrays the style of the beginning of the 20th century, the drawings in this
book are amazingly simple. Comics must be drawn with quill and ink, only the black of the ink
and the white of the papers, there is no place for shades of gray. Patterns of lines depict textures
and colors. The simplicity of the drawings contrasts the complexity of the concepts that the book
shows, like discrimination, Americans´ lack of motivation to understand the immigrants, the
ethnocentrism of the American people, and a long list of negative characteristics, mixed with
THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS MANGA
5
humor and the practical sense of adopting some of the characteristics of the host culture, but full
of outsiders´ points of view. There is no significant event in the history of San Francisco that
Yoshitaka Kiyama had not showed in his book. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake, World War
I, the ban for Orientals from getting the citizenship, even after serving in the military, the
Spanish flu pandemic are some of the episodes of the book.
The pen remains firm with the passing of the years, the understanding of American
culture improves, the understanding of the language too, but the barriers still are there, and the
dreams of becoming American would never be reached, because of the Immigration Act of 1924,
that forbid Japanese immigrants to get citizenship; ban that was lifted four years after publishing
the book. Some gags are hilarious, some are terrible sad, but most of them demonstrated the
nature of the racial issues in the first decades of the last century. The book has 52 strips, aiming
to be released weekly for a year, but Yoshitaka Kiyama decided finally to collect them all in a
book and publish it in 1931. For fifty years, the book remained forgotten, until 1980, when
“Frederik L. Schodt came across a copy of Kiyama’s work in a library in Berkeley, California. In
1997 he began translating it, and in October 1998 it was published by Stone Bridge Press
(Berkeley, California), retitled The Four Immigrants Manga: A Japanese Experience in San
Francisco,1904-1924.” (“The Four Immigrants Manga,” n.d.)
Translation is a complete different chapter in the analysis of the book. Because of the
particularity of being bilingual, Japanese people speak Japanese between them, and Americans
spoke what Henry could understand from the English he heard, the translator had to create a
system to portray both dialogs in English. The solution is simple but genial. Because the book is
written from the point of view of an immigrant, the Japanese speak proper English and the
dialogs are written with a notorious typeset lowercase font, some of the Chinese characters speak
THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS MANGA
6
Cantonese, but American whites´ and African-Americans´ dialogs kept the Kiyama handwriting
and the broken English that an immigrant would catch from others´ conversations. While most of
sociological theories considered America like a melting pot, where all the cultures would blend
forming a unified and indivisible new culture, The Four Immigrants portrays the society like a
salad bowl, where all the ingredients can be easily identified.
This book is a pioneer in several aspects, it is the first manga, comic, or graphic novel
published. It talks about immigration from the perspective of an immigrant. It shows the barriers
that immigrants need to overcome to survive in a new culture. It is a memory, a sociological
analysis, and even a psychological scrutinizing of the adaptation process. The expectation, shown
in Charlie´s plan to buy some land, marry a white woman, and build a HOME, is crushed under
the bitter reality of not being able do achieve any of his goals.
Reading through Henry Kiyama´s memories, it is hard not to notice the bittersweet
feeling that Henry has, the longing for all the things he cannot have, and the transformation from
the “schoolboy” that came from Japan being only 19 years old and grew during some brutal
experiences, like the earthquake of 1906, when he and his friends lost their lodgings and
belongings, the different dreams that had to resign, but the endless determination to learn and
become an artist. The war and the Spanish flu, the prohibition, and the relationships with the lost
generation of 1920s. The content is very rich, and the translator provided enough explanations
and notes to understand all the denotations and connotations of the strips. (Kiyama, 1998)
Two curious facts that I found while researching about the book. The original version, the
bilingual one, has the orientation of a western book, from left to right, contrary to manga that are
read from right to left, like making Japanese people to see the book from a western perspective.
The second fun fact is that the book is classified as Asian American History and it cannot be
THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS MANGA
found in the comics or manga shelves of the bookstores. However, it is not completely wrong,
because the book made history both in America and Asia.
7
THE FOUR IMMIGRANTS MANGA
8
References
Kiyama, H. (Yoshitaka). (1998). The Four Immigrants Manga: A Japanese Experience in San
Francisco, 1904-1924. Stone Bridge Press, Inc.
Manga: Evolution. (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2018, from
https://www.rightstufanime.com/anime-resources-manga-evolution
The Four Immigrants Manga. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from
http://www.jai2.com/HK.htm

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