A little digression into the state of Indonesian graphic novels

Edited 7 May 2008 to add scans and more rambling.

Another Triple Knock by Nunik Triwahyuni

Nunik Triwahyuni's Triple Knock series returns 14 May 2008 with the release of Another Triple Knock, one of two Indonesian graphic novels among the 17 Elex Media manga titles slated for next week. (You can read the Indonesian synopsis and review here). The initial Triple Knock along with several other Indonesian shōjo graphic novels: the groundbreaking Past Promise by Calista; Magic Michiru by Shinju Arisa; His Other Personality by Anzu Hizawa; Meet the Boy by Veronica and White Feather by Archie the Red Cat were cited in a works by Indonesian women comic artists presentation by Elex Media Editor of Comics Ratna Sari for the February 2004 Japan Foundation Forum, for having performed satisfactorily, thereby enriching the Indonesian graphic novel scene.

Bulb by Rommie Halleyyandri, Chandra Herawaty & Wong Welly Last Decision by PHJ

But despite Another Triple Knock's publication and Elex's seeming bid to renew interest in Indonesian graphic novels (aside from Another Triple Knock, Elex also released Last Decision and Bulb in April 2008), wholesale promotion of original Indonesian comics is most likely not the intent. Elex has already stated that its 2008 local comics concentration is educational—specifically, its national and international historical figures biography series, Seri Tokoh Nasional and Seri Tokoh Dunia (the Seri Tokoh Dunia volume 47 on microbiology pioneer Antonie van Leeuwenhoek streets the same day as Another Triple Knock). This educational focus, while laudable, does have the downside of Elex discouraging submissions of fiction-based local manga and instead, actively encouraging aspiring Indonesian komikus (manga-ka) to shelve their fiction for the interim and toe the Elex heuristic/pedagogic line if they want to break into comics.

So these current makita (also maqita) are probably just among those optioned some time back, before the institution of the educational edict.

Elex maintains that this biography rigidity might not always hold true, that two or three years down the line, depending on reader reception, more original Indonesian graphic novels might find their way into the market. But whether these graphic novels can perform as well as the Elex shōjo makita did during the 2001-2004 bubble—in which local manga had sales comparable to average sales of Japanese comics in Indonesia (referring to Fate by Shinju Arisa, Past Promise by Calista, and Magic of Love by Anzu Hizawa)—remains a big, risk-burdened question mark.

For the status quo is lack of interest.

This is apparently due to, among others, issues of technique, plotting, and similarity to and parity pricing with Japanese manga, as seen in the comments posted in the Alasan Tidak Baca Komik Lokal? (Why don't you read local manga?) thread at the Elex forum.

Archie & Meidy 4 by Yohanes Surya Chiaroscuro 1

The implication I read here is that even if Elex decides to push local comics in the future, these would most likely be titles with proven sales track records like Triple Knock. This is my speculation. I'm not that optimistic about the field being opened to an influx of Indonesian manga by new artists or being able to stage some sort of "comeback." Of course, Elex is not the only publisher of Indonesian graphic novels, although it is the one with the strongest distribution clout. Another major player, Megindo (which also publishes the monthly anime and manga magazine Animonster), seems to have taken a more measured approach to promoting local manga than Elex, but that the company that publishes Yohanes Surya's Archie & Meidy series (which is educational/physics-plus), as well as Chiaroscuro, Inspirit Arena, Mayana, and FlashCrisis doesn't seem to have released any new local comics since the last quarter of 2007 hints at still troublesome times ahead.

Much as it depresses, makita will probably continue to remain in the fringes while Japanese manga, Korean manhwa, and Chinese manhua thrive, for the simple reason that the latter group is more profitable. I doubt the Indonesian graphic novel would totally disappear although rising costs of production and distribution will continue to affect pricing (one of the sticking points against local comics), even if executive mandates and creative issues were resolved.

So will I buy Another Triple Knock? Yes, I will.* Not for any noble doing my part in supporting the local comics industry impetus but simply because writing this post has made me curious about what could've changed since I bought Magic Michiru, His Other Personality, and Meet the Boy.

~niki DBA Observer huamulan03

* I do anyway. Magic Michiru volume 1

Magic Michiru 1 by Shinju Arisa

and Meet the Boy (which I view very fondly, even after nearly five years)

Meet the Boy by Veronica

are from my toshokan. As is this title:

Wings of Desire by Anzu

For all that it was published in English by Chuang Yi Singapore, I count Wings of Desire by Anzu as a makita and one that doesn't suffer in comparison with the regular manga which inspired its style.

invaluable resource(s)

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