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Most likely everyone has heard of Manga, those Japanese comic books full of big eyed characters that have been poking their heads into the U.S. of late. Manga are rapidly becoming popular among the D.C./Marvel "fanboys" as well as capturing an audience thought previously lost forevor to the paneled page, girls! Japanese comics may be making inroads into the U.S. when it comes to readership, but over in Japan, reading comics is as natural as watching Ally McBeal.

Visitors to Japan may snicker upon seeing middle aged businessmen hunkering over manga on the trains, but these guys aren't reading The Archies. They're most likely reading something like "Salaryman Kintaro," the saga of a young salaryman whose honesty and traditional values help him battle corruption, or The Section Chief(available in English through Kodansha), the story about the trials and tribulations of a 46 year old businessman. Ordinary stories for ordinary people appear week after week. In fact, Manga are often the springboard for television dramas which could be said to be opposite of the U.S. As any Japanese person can vouch,manga are far less like the adventures Superman and Batman, and more akin to Dawson's creek. Several billion comics are sold each year in Japan, and some say that more wood pulp is used in their production than for toilet paper.

What makes comic books the most popular form of entertainment in Japan? Blame it on the trains!Oftentimes the commute is the only free time of day for many hard working people. They don't get home in time to catch their favorite dramas, and things are usually too hectic for them to set their video recorders. Going to the movies in Japan costs a ludicrous amount of money, sometimes as much as twenty dollars, and getting there which often involves more trains and long lines isn't worth the hassle for most people. So how do they get their daily dose of entertainment? Through weekly magazines like Jump, or Morning which for less than five dollars provide plenty of romance, adventure, intrigue, and of course more sex than even U.S. television is willing to allow these days. Manga are in short, soaps, sports, and Britain's page three girl wrapped into one.