Japanese art of manga strikes chord in Touchet

The Manga Club meets at the Touchet Library on Friday afternoons.

Among other things, Mia Garcia’s character Yume Jun Carter, above, likes deep-fried sushi, red bean mochi, manga, anime, yuri and peanut butter.

Among other things, Mia Garcia’s character Yume Jun Carter, above, likes deep-fried sushi, red bean mochi, manga, anime, yuri and peanut butter. Photo by Alfred Diaz.

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TOUCHET — Take a small rural library with barely enough room for one study table.

Surround it with a few shojo girls. Provide a tub of Pocky, a few pencils and plenty of paper and what you get back is the Touchet Library Manga Club.

“I love drawing manga. It will always be a big thing for me,” club leader Mia Garcia, 15, said.

Even in the busy Touchet Library, where activities range from Wii bowling tournaments to science Saturday to good old-fashioned reading to toddlers, there are still a few patrons who walk in on a Friday afternoon and wonder what’s up with all the teenage girls drawing at the table.

“I think people are just interested to see teens that are interested about something like this,” Touchet Library Clerk Eryn Garcia said, as she watched daughter Mia and three other teenagers talk and eat, but mostly draw.

For the uninitiated, manga is visible in cartoons and video games. It is a style of Japanese cartooning that took off like Astro Boy in the 1950s.

That was one of the first manga creations to become popular in the United States.

Anime is the film or video version of manga, and it includes cartoons like “Speed Racer” produced in the late 1960s and the modern classic known as Pokémon.

Manga Clubs are not a new phenomenon. Walla Walla High School has one. The clubs are also common on college campuses.

As for Touchet Library Manga Club, its members meet once a week to share their love for manga and anime, draw, talk and just hang out.

“In Touchet, there is not a lot of clubs for people ... and I wanted to team up with people. And so this is where we come,” Garcia said.

At 17, Isabel Saldana is the senior illustrator of the group, a skill she hopes will carry on to her career.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I what I want to do is computer illustrations. Hopefully in Japan. But if not, then for Disney,” Saldana said.

The members’ love for manga goes beyond drawing characters. The teens also learn and use manga terms like shojo, which means a cute young woman.

Japanese treats like Pocky chocolate are sometimes indulged in, when they can afford it.

“Not at every meeting. They are kind of pricey,” Garcia said.

And at least one of the teens has developed a love for Japanese cuisine.

“I like seaweed. It’s good. Sometimes I eat it plain,” Garcia said. The others didn’t agree.

Then there are the manga books that they read and share. These books are graphic novels based on manga characters and are traditionally read from right to left.

“I read them so much that I started having trouble reading left to right. I started thinking backwards,” Garcia said.

The members also give each other assignments to work on between weekly meetings, sort of like homework.

“You’ve got to be sort of a perfectionist. Manga is kind of a lot of symmetry. You want everything to be perfect,” Garcia said.

Should you ever wander into the Touchet Library one Friday afternoon, check out the works being created by young budding artists sitting around a tub of Pocky.

“I think people think the Touchet Library is nothing but shelves of farmers’ almanacs. But we really are a lot more than that,” Eryn Garcia said.

Teens looking for something to do can grab a pencil and join in.

“I would really like to have more people because we are really small. And it’s really fun to have new people,” Mia Garcia added.

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