Careful characterisation and specific constellations of characters – Christina Plaka

Copyright: TokyopopShortly before the turn of the millennium, manga fever broke out amongst young comic readers in Germany. The reason for this was the sudden publication of the typically Japanese comics in a paperback format. Even the Japanese way of reading the text, from back to front and from top to bottom, which had been retained for reasons of cost, did not deter the young consumers from stocking up on a wealth of series.

But what is it that makes this comic genre so fascinating? On the one hand, it’s the production of manga targeted at different groups, girls, boys, and adults, all differing in terms of content and style. On the other hand, the fan scene is extremely active, involving the readers in conventions, internet forums, magazines, Cosplay and illustration competitions. And what works in the land of the rising sun has also met with great acclaim in Germany. Although the publishers initially concentrated on the publication of Japanese productions, it was soon established that drawing and narration, completely in the style of the role models from Nippon, was taking place in Germany as well. This involves not only adhering closely to the Japanese aesthetic, but also adopting the authentic reading direction for manga.

On the basis of her outstanding text and drawing samples, the young artist Christina Plaka was given the chance to publish her first stories in the girls’ manga magazine Daisuki and has now even been given her own paperback series. In Prussian Blue (2003), she relates the ups and downs of a young band on the way to their first recording contract. Since changing her publisher, the follow-on albums of the series now appear under the title Yonen Buzz: musicians Jun, Sayuri, Keigo and Atsushi are now either students or making through way through life with menial jobs. Their desire for the band's success therefore is on a collision course with their everyday personal problems, with worries about money and the future, or in the shape of interpersonal relationships. By careful characterisation and choosing specific constellations of characters, Plaka succeeds in pointing up the difficulties young people face in finding their own identity. Popular culture plays a crucial role, in particular fashion and music.  In line with the style of Japanese manga for girls, the artist and author concentrates on everyday stories of adolescence, dealing with identification and fitting in. She also confronts her androgynous protagonists with the emotional and sexual confusion that is typical of Shonen Manga.

Christina Plaka’s career is representative of a new generation of German comic artists. Having grown up with American superhero comics, the initial contact with manga during their teens provided the initial trigger to not only be a consumer of comics, but also to become active in creating them. Whilst a few years ago Christina Plaka herself made pilgrimages to see the great Japanese stars at fairs, now she has long queues of fans at her signing sessions, as she is one of the most popular German mangaka.

Matthias Schneider
is a cultural researcher and freelance cultural journalist.
He also designs film programmes and exhibitions on the theme of comics.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut Stockholm
March 2005