An article in yesterday's New York Times has been circling inboxes lately, especially if you are an Asian American of the Angry variety. It covers the trend in a few new Manga titles in which certain authors are beginning to brazenly deride the cultures and principles of nearby Asian nations (most notably China and South Korea), promoting a xenophobic and supernationalistic mentality. Though I thought it was definitely interesting and possibly something to consider, I did a little investigating and it seems that NY Times' statements about the reactions from the Japanese media were at the very least misinformed, and at the worst alarmingly biased.
Norimitsu Onishi states that the Manga comics in question "have drawn little criticism from the mainstream media", citing a quote from a book review in the Sankei Shimbun that praises the work for its balanced view. I found this to be extremely misleading, as further research revealed that many mainstream Japanese papers did criticize the book, and specifically boycotted ads for "Kenkanryu", the Manga in question. For example, though they did not deign to review the controversial book, Mainichi Shimbun did cover the resulting controversy in Japan, and identified the work as "strongly anti-Korean", noting that the work was turned down by several Japanese publishers for having unverifiable information before it was picked up by Shinyusha. Though Onishi identifies the Sankei as "conservative", the full context is not given; Sankei Shimbun is known as broadly pro-Western and anti-Chinese. The portrayal of the Japanese media as being accepting of this book is akin to painting all American media organizations as staunchly anti-rap music based solely on The O'Reilly Factor. As a media organization with a reputation of its own to uphold, I would expect that the New York Times put more effort into providing context, especially with regard to sources that will be unfamiliar to an American audience. As it reads now, this article does little more than to paint the entire country of Japan as a nation of racists and irresponsibly incite more uninformed, ignorant animosity between different groups.
As an American of Chinese descent, I'll be the first to say that many aspects of this story are worth being worried about. Movements such as the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform are eerily similar to
Holocaust refusals seen in the U.S. If the popular sales of this book
actually do reflect a growing xenophobia rather than a casual interest in a controversial title, this definitely would be something worth getting riled up over. Unfortunately, this information cannot be gleaned from the New York Times' article, which is set on sensationalizing a foreign country's editorial process rather than providing reasonable, reliable facts on the actual subject.