Your child (or friend) has finally found something they’re interested in. Great! But it’s this weird Japanese thing. Oh no! They’re getting really into it, and they talk about it whenever possible. Now what do we do? Is this healthy for them?
Do not fear: Getting into manga is actually indicative of good character! Those who get into manga and anime are highly intelligent, and often artistic, but have no outlet for it. Many people get into manga in late elementary or early middle school, when they start to branch out their way of seeing the world, but can’t find enough books or programming that speaks to their level of intellect. In addition, with so many schools’ art programs shut down or sub-par today, manga offers a lasting, physical link to art that attracts many readers. Lasting manga enjoyment will most likely also get your child (or friend) into many creative endeavors that would make any educator proud and that they can carry with them their whole life long.
A common story among myself and all the fans I know is that from love of manga, we become interested in all sorts of arts – photography, film, advertising, painting, fashion, and their histories – and international studies, language, and music studies (Japanese specifically but not always), writing, cosplay (costuming), and clubs based on any of those (which brings one social and leadership opportunities). I don’t know a single anime and manga fan who hasn’t picked up at least one of those, and never have I seen it be with negative results. Drawing gets one to look at the world as it is, to better recreate it, and it is always a useful skill; writing gets one into books and helps with school; international studies helps bring a new group of world citizens around; Japanese and language study could get one a job; and fashion, if nothing else, could get one to dress better (worked for me). All of these often bring greater confidence.
If “costuming” concerns you, don’t worry: Dressing up as one’s favorite character allows for a safe environment in which to invent the self and try out new ways of expressing personality goals (like greater self-esteem), which may be unavailable at established community gatherings such as school or sports teams, where there is a bias of treatment toward the person “everyone already knows them to be.” Learning how to sew is a skill that will be useful one’s whole life and can be a great parent-child time opportunity and pride-builder. It also, as the father of a friend put it, “got his little girl to use power tools.”
Beyond all this, going to anime and manga conventions brings one a multitude of potential friends; I have made my best friends of many years through attendance, specifically at smaller conventions. Manga, especially boy’s manga (“shonen”), instills deep themes of friendship and the necessities of being a good person. As stories, both boys’ and girls’ manga show ways in which treating other people will or will not work, how to think critically about people and situations, and many stories focus on identity creation, debating the pros and cons of becoming different types of people. (The “good guys” almost always come out on top.) Of the many people I’ve talked to regarding this issue, literally all of them have said that manga taught them basic social skills that they missed picking up through early school years, and this helped them become much happier adults. Art, hobbies, character-building, and enhanced social skills? What’s not to love about getting into manga?