It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s the Jacksonville Public Library’s annual Manga Madness program.
In its 10th year of existence, Manga Madness is a program designed for teens and young adults to better appreciate the culture that the comic books come from.
The library had been doing a similar program for teens in January for several years, and began to see more patrons asking about checking out manga from the library.
Christy Wallace, director for this year’s Manga Madness program, said “In 2005, for the very first manga program, the directors of the library decided that it would be a good way for the teens to become more familiar with the history and culture of Japan - especially in how it differs from American culture - to give them some context for the stories they were reading. It was so popular that we decided to do it again the next January, and we have been doing this ever since.”
In the past, the program consisted of watching anime, making origami, playing Japanese games, exploring kamishibai - a traditional Japanese pictorial storytelling - and other traditional arts that can be considered the roots of manga.
One year the library had a historian talk about the history of Japan, and Japanese inspired snacks are always served.
“We're always looking for something new for the teens, and this year we'll have a martial arts demonstration from Jacksonville Taekwondo,” Wallace says, which should be a crowd favorite.
The 2nd Manga Madness that was held had something different for the patrons. Teens were invited to come in costume as their favorite anime or manga characters and a cosplay contest was held. Each character is invited to introduce the story and character they are portraying for judging.
“The Manga Madness program has been such a big hit,” Wallace enthuses, “that the teens have formed their own manga club that meets at the library. They have been organizing meetings to discuss their favorite stories and planning things to do to in the future.”
The manga club founder said they are planning a trip to an anime convention in the future and are making costumes for the trip.
“It is exciting to see that their love of this art and these stories are motivating them to try new things, meet people, and learn more about another country,” and Wallace asserts that is why they started the program in the first place, to give the patrons a little background on where the art comes from.
It was due to the popularity of this and the other teen programs at the library, that the public library expanded the Summer Reading Program to include teens and adults.
This past year, teens and adults that completed the summer reading goal (30 books or 1500 pages for teens and a book bingo card for adults) were entered into a drawing for a Kindle Paperwhite, android tablet computers, and other great prizes donated by area businesses.
The annual Manga Madness will be tonight in the Jacksonville Public Library beginning at 4 p.m. For more information, visit jacksonvillepubliclibrary.org or call 256-435-6332.