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UC Irvine library highlights materials from I-Ching to Astro Boy in its East Asian Collection

Astro Boy, originally a manga series, is credited as the first anime.
Astro Boy, originally a manga series, is credited as the first anime. UC Irvine East Asian Collection houses the manga series as well as Japanese and English language versions of the TV animated series.
(Courtesy of UC Irvine Libraries)

UC Irvine’s East Asian Collection celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2020 and has extended its exhibition programming honoring the anniversary through November 2021.

A preview inside the largest collection of items in Orange County related to China, Japan and Korea are showcased in the virtual exhibit “From I-Ching to Manga: UCI’s East Asian Collection Celebrating 30 Years.”

The collection was established in 1990 to serve on-campus research and teaching. Ying Zhang, exhibit curator and research librarian for Asian Studies, said East Asian studies were expanding in the U.S. at the time, and many students were coming from China.

In 2017, the Los Angeles Times described the campus as “located in what used to be a largely white Republican community, home now to so many Asians that people joke that UCI stands for ‘University of Chinese Immigrants.’”

Zhang’s predecessor William Wong was the first Asian studies librarian hired to create the collection and he put an emphasis on poems, novels and short stories. At the start, the library housed 8,000 volumes of Chinese books, and the collection has grown to include more than 120,000 volumes in multiple languages.

Zhang said the manga stories from Shonen, a popular Japanese magazine, are significant since they include issues from 1959 to 1995 and are believed to be a rare complete collection in the U.S. Readers can track cultural and economic changes throughout generations in the manga collection.

Zhang and John Sisson, research librarian for biological sciences, co-hosted an online discussion Thursday about how anime and manga call the attention of both students and the surrounding communities to the collection.

“More students are really interested in this recent scholarship, trying to understand what’s been going on in the last 10 years or 20 years,” Sisson said. “A 20-year-old manga is like the Dark Ages for them, and the fact that we have these collections going back to the 1950s allows people to go in depth.”

Astro Boy was a robot character created by Osamu Tezuka, who was influenced by Walt Disney and D.C. comics.
Astro Boy was a robot character created by Osamu Tezuka, who was influenced by Walt Disney and D.C. comics.
(Courtesy of UC Irvine Libraries)

"Astro Boy,” originally known in Japan as “Tetsuwan Atomu” or “Mighty Atom,” is a manga series written by Osamu Tezuka in the 1950s and ‘60s that was adapted to run as a mostly black-and-white animated TV series. It’s credited as the first anime and was adapted to the U.S. for NBC in 1963. The Astro Boy series was also remade in 1980 and 2003.

“In Japan, Astro Boy was for children in the ‘50s and then became the nighttime television hit in the early ‘60s,” Sisson said. “Forty percent of the households [children and adults] in Japan were watching Astro Boy in the evenings.”

Astro Boy, the main character, is the robot invention of a scientist who created him in 2003 after the death of his own son. The manga follows Astro Boy as he fights crime and saves both humans and robots. It covered heavy topics of discrimination, slavery and wariness of technology.

One episode saw Astro Boy going to Vietnam to stop the bombing of villagers.

The exhibit was set to be on view in UCI’s Langson Library but it closed adhering to stay-at-home restrictions in the county during the coronavirus pandemic. The virtual exhibit is available online and free events are open for registration throughout the next couple of months.

On Feb. 8, Hyong Rhew, Reed College professor, is scheduled to discuss the importance of “I-Ching” (“The Book of Changes”) and a new translation. On March 9, Brian Yecies will discuss the book “South Korea’s Webtooniverse and the Digital Comic,” which he co-wrote with Ae-Gyung Shim. Lastly, a how-to manga drawing event is set for April 14.

The collection has an item wish list. Zhang said gathering priority items is hampered by the pandemic, and the library is looking for e-resources and e-books from Korea and Japan.

If you watch

Working with Magical Symbols in Ancient Chinese Divination

When: Feb. 8 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Where: Virtual

Cost: Free

Info: news.lib.uci.edu/library-events

South Korea’s Webtooniverse and the Digital Comic Revolution

When: March 9 from 5 to 6 p.m.

Where: Virtual

Cost: Free

Info: news.lib.uci.edu/library-events

Virtual Manga Drawing Event

When: April 14 from 5 to 6 p.m.

Where: Virtual

Cost: Free

Info: news.lib.uci.edu/library-events

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