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Vinland Saga Editor Akira Kanai Rejects The Idea Of Western Political Correctness In Storytelling




Akira Kanai, renowned manga editor known for his work on Vinland Saga, Ajin: Demi-Human, and Planetes, has taken a firm stance against letting political correctness influence his editorial decisions.

This was revealed during his interview with Manga Passion, where he was asked about his approach to ensuring the international success of manga.

I don’t allow myself to be influenced by so-called political correctness abroad and design the works accordingly,” Kanai declared.

The editor-in-chief elaborated on his approach, stating that he adheres to various content codes related to violence, nudity, and religious depictions. However, these considerations are based on general content standards rather than specific international sensibilities.

According to him, interesting stories will “usually be understood, regardless of whether you come from Africa, Chile, or Greenland.”

Kanai asserted that the fundamental human experiences and emotions are universally relatable. And so, stopping a work just because it deals with a problem that is too Japanese didn’t make any sense to him.

I think that there are no fundamental differences in the population in terms of what they perceive as important – be it in Japan, Germany, China, or South Korea,” he said. “Stopping a work because it deals with a problem that is too Japanese, or specifying to do something – that hardly ever happens“.

Kanai also questioned the notion of creating content that aims to balance between local and global appeal, suggesting that such an approach might not be effective.

He illustrated his point using the example of Skip and Loafer, a manga about a girl from the Japanese countryside moving to Tokyo to study.

I don’t think it’s possible to create works that are exactly in the middle, nor would such works really appeal anywhere. Take Skip and  Loafer, for example, which is about a girl who comes from the Japanese countryside and moves to the Japanese city of Tokyo alone to study at a good high school. I think people all over the world will certainly understand her feeling of insecurity in the same way. That’s why such works tend to appeal to an international audience.

Despite his reluctance to adhere to political correctness, Kanai believed that global exchange was very crucial for a medium like manga.

However, he dismissed the notion that Japan’s push to expand its manga market overseas is due to the country’s declining birth rate.

I believe that the birth rate – except in Africa and India – is declining overall. I find it shameful to expand abroad because the domestic market is shrinking,” he said. “But thanks to advances in digital technology, people living abroad can now easily read manga from Japan.”

He also criticized the idea that Japanese publishers would suffer financially if they did not expand internationally.

Instead, he hoped that the manga community will grow with more and more people being able to read and enjoy manga.

The mindset that Japanese publishers will get poorer and poorer if they don’t expand overseas is pathetic and should be abandoned. Now that it is possible to read and draw manga abroad, I hope that the manga fan community itself will grow. No matter where they come from and no matter what religion they belong to,” Kanai said. “So when it comes to the question of whether I think globalization is important, I can say that it’s much more fun this way.

Kanai also addressed the issue of piracy while discussing the globalization of manga. He acknowledged that while it would be preferable if fans did not read pirated copies of manga, he understood that some fans might not have the financial means to purchase official copies.

But if they don’t have money and there are a lot of pirated copies, I think the pirated copy is okay for now,” he remarked, jokingly adding that Kodansha’s board members might “beat him to death” for saying so.

Akira Kanai is a prominent figure in the manga industry, currently serving as the editor-in-chief of Kodansha’s Monthly Afternoon magazine, which is known for the seinen titles it publishes.

Kanai began his career at Kodansha in 1994, one of Japan’s largest publishing companies. Before being promoted to his current role of editor-in-chief, he served in the editorial department of Morning magazine and Weekly Shonen Magazine.

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