When people in the past have argued about the definition of manga and anime, the grounds of contention have had to do with this idea of manga as “by Japan, for Japan, made in Japan,” and which pieces, if any at all, are relevant in categorizing. While I have my own ideas in this regard, I want to set that aside and ask, how would we define manga if Japan ceased to exist?
A lot of these debates occur because people bring their own values and their own priorities to “manga-ness,” such as personal desire to draw manga, or a desire to have clear-cut difference to make it easier to discuss, but generally they assume that there is a Japan, that as a nation-state, as a land mass, as a culture, it will never disappear. I do not wish this upon Japan or the Japanese, but with 3/11 and the Tohoku Earthquake and the subsequent fear of radiation, there is the possibility however small, or at least the notion implanted into our (my) thoughts, that someday there will be a great diaspora or maybe the government will have no one left to govern, and that included in this movement out of Japan would be the people who work in anime and manga.
If the vast majority of people move to the same location, is that where “manga” is located? If the artists spread around the world, and have to decide whether to draw for the scattered Japanese audience or for the country they’re now living in (with its potentially vastly different culture), are they considered manga artists either way or is there now a significant difference? What if we then fast-forwarded 100 years and now those artists had children if they didn’t have any, had maybe integrated more thoroughly into their adopted homes, and now a new generation takes over for them? If young people who grew up with the made-for-new-country comics of the now-deceased artists are drawing for that same audience but influenced by those artists’ styles which clearly derive from their days in Japan making manga, are they now manga artists too?
As it stands, I must admit that these questions don’t really impact the health or condition of manga or its fandom, but I thought about it and how it might alter the notion of Japanese-ness in anime and manga, and I thought it interesting to present, even in this half-formed state.