I recently had a conversation with OGT where he mentioned his participation at the University of Kentucky’s annual Asia Art Festival. There, he participated in a panel on anime and all that good stuff. But after the panel, an interesting conversation occurred. I’ll let OGT speak for himself.

…I chatted a bit more with the panelists (one a soon-to-graduate senior, the other a freshman) and the topic somehow swerved to the manga industry, its travails, and its push to make a market for more esoteric, alternative manga (which for all intents and purposes mostly means “not BESM-standard”).

After hearing this, the freshman subsequently asked “So, like, are they trying to make it cool to read print manga?”

What?

It turns out that in the guy’s high school, reading manga in book form meant you were at a disadvantage, not only in terms of keeping up with the story but also socially. One possible explanation for this is the fact that scanlations are of course quicker and, high school being what it is, no one wants to discuss something which has already passed its expiration date for trendiness, be it Bleach or the Super Bowl.

But regardless of the why, I must reiterate my (and OGT’s) feelings on the matter: What?

The more I think about that person’s statement though, the more I feel it to be a revelation!  It’s like through all of the discussions and debates out there on how to get people to buy manga, as well as all of the talk directed towards making people aware of piracy, we all forgot the fact that teenagers are teenagers, and the choice to read an online version of their favorite comic can be as simple as whether or not it would be acceptable by their friends and fellow manga fans. Knowing this, I can’t help but think, “How blind we all are!”

As someone who was once ages 13 through 18, I know that not every decision a person that age makes is the product of group pressure, and that a teenager can even defy that pressure, but I know that it is still a very powerful, perhaps even overwhelming force. And despite what they themselves might think, keeping up with what’s “cool” can affect nerds, especially when it’s due to the judgment values of their fellow dorks. Sure, this feeling can definitely be exploited for marketing purposes—there are industries built entirely around doing so—but all of the logic and strategy in the world can’t always account for the fickle, volatile psyche of the teenager.

So in conclusion, I feel old. You should too.

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