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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Chiharu Komatsu | North American papers add Japanese-style comics to attract young readers

Charlie Brown, Garfield and other long-time favorite cartoon stars will soon be sharing space in North American newspapers with doe-eyed women in frilly outfits, effeminate long-haired heroes and cute fuzzy animals.
Come January, "manga" comics -- one of Japan's most successful exports -- will start appearing in the Sunday funnies section in several major papers in the U.S. and Canada.
The reason? Newspaper editors want to attract more young readers. A study released earlier this year by the Carnegie Corporation put the average age of U.S. newspaper readers at 53 and climbing -- hardly a recipe for circulation growth.
"We thought if teens and young kids are reading manga, then why don't we get something in the paper that teens want to read?" said John Glynn, vice president at Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes comics and columns globally to newspapers. "Newspapers are being seen as their parents' medium."
The U.S. newspaper debut is a bit of a landmark for manga _ a product of Japanese pop culture that has never been quite mainstream in the United States, although it's long been a hit with the younger generation that grew up on Pokemon, Hello Kitty and Japanese animation movies -- or "anime" for short.
"This could be something that really explodes," Glynn said in a telephone interview from Kansas City, Missouri. "This is a great way to take a chance and change the landscape and readership of your paper."
Several newspapers that have signed on to carry the two English-language manga strips on Sundays include the Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, Vancouver Sun and Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Martin Fischhoff, assistant managing editor at The Detroit News, which also plans to carry manga believes it has the potential to be a big hit and draw new readers.

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