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Manga (漫画) is the Japanese word for comics; outside of Japan, it usually refers specifically to Japanese comics. Because most Japanese nouns have no plural form, manga can be used to refer to multiple comics, although mangas is sometimes used in English.



Literally translated, manga means "random (or whimsical) pictures". The word first came into common usage after the publication of the 19th century Hokusai Manga, containing assorted drawings from the sketchbook of the famous ukiyo-e artist Hokusai]. However, gi-ga (lit. "funny pictures") drawn in the 12th century by various artists contain many manga-like qualities such as emphasis on story and simple, artistic lines.

Manga developed from a mixture of ukiyo-e and Western art movements. When the United States began trading with Japan, Japan tried to modernise itself and catch up with the rest of the world. Thus, they imported Western artists to teach their students things such as line, form and colour (things which were never concentrated on in ukiyo-e as the idea behind the picture was normally considered more important). Manga as people know it in the 21st century only really came into being after World War II when the government bans on any non-propaganda were lifted and many publishers sprang up.

In the 20th century, manga came to refer to comics. Though roughly equivalent to the American comic book, manga hold more importance in Japanese culture than comics do in American culture. Manga is well respected both as an art form and as a form of popular literature. Like its American counterpart, manga has been criticized for being violent and sexual; however, there have been no official inquiries or laws that have tried to limit what can be drawn in manga, except for fuzzy decency laws that apply to all published materials, stating that "overly indecent materials should not be sold". This freedom has allowed artists to draw manga for every age group and about every topic.

Manga format

Manga magazines usually have many series running concurrently with approximately 30–40 pages allocated to each series per issue. These manga magazines, or "anthology magazines", as they are also known, are usually printed on low-quality newsprint and can be anywhere from 200 to more than 850 pages long. Manga magazines also contain one-shot comics and various four-panel yonkoma (equivalent to comic strips). Manga series can run for many years if they are successful.

When a series has been running for a while, the stories are usually collected together and printed in dedicated book-sized volumes, called tankobon. These volumes use higher-quality paper, and are useful to those who want to "catch up" with a series so they can follow it in the magazines or if they find the cost of the weeklies or monthlies to be prohibitive. Recently, "deluxe" versions have also been printed as readers have gotten older and the need for something special grew. Old manga have also been reprinted using somewhat lesser quality paper and sold for 100 yen each to compete with the used book market.

Manga are primarily classified by the age and gender of the target audience. In particular, books and magazines sold to boys (shonen) and girls (shojo) have distinctive cover art and are placed on different shelves in most bookstores.

Japan also has manga cafés, or manga kissaten. At a manga kissaten, people drink coffee and read manga.

Many things appear in manga format, including wanted posters for criminals (see [1]).

Manga outside Japan

Manga has been translated into many different languages in different countries including China, France, Italy, and many more. In the USA, manga is still a rather small industry, especially when compared to the inroads that Japanese animation has made in the USA. An example of a manga publisher in the United States is Viz, the American affiliate of publishers Shogakukan (小学館 Shōgakukan) and Shueisha (集英社 Shūeisha). They have many popular titles such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Dragon Ball Z, Tenchi Muyō!, Rurouni Kenshin, YuYu Hakusho, (Yūyū Hakusho), Yu-Gi-Oh! (Yūgiō) and the various works of Rumiko Takahashi.

Since Japanese is usually written right-to-left in works of fiction, manga is drawn and published this way in Japan. However, when various titles were first translated to other languages, the artwork and layouts were flipped and reversed in a process known as "flopping", so that the book may be read from left-to-right. However, various creators (such as Akira Toriyama) did not approve of their work being modified this way, and requested that foreign versions retain the right-to-left format of the originals. Soon, due to both fan demand and the requests of creators, more publishers began offering the option of right-to-left formatting, which has now become commonplace in North America. Left-to-right formatting has gone from the rule to the exception.

Another company, TOKYOPOP, is producing manga widely in the United States, with the right-to-left format as a highly publicized point. They are widely credited with starting the current boom in manga sales, particularly amongst teenage girls. Some critics have complained that their aggressive publishing schedule emphasizes quantity over quality, and might be responsible for translations which many feel to be of sub-optimal quality. However, even their critics tend to admit that their contributions to the success of manga in America have been considerable.

France is noted for having a particularly strong and diverse manga market. Many works that are published in France fall into genres that aren't well represented outside of Japan, such as adult oriented drama, or experimental and avant garde works. Authors such as Jiro Taniguchi who are relatively unknown in other western countries have received much acclaim in France. Part of the reason for the sheer popularity and diversity of manga in this country is due to it having a well established and respected comics market of its own.

The company Chuang Yi] publishes manga in English and Chinese in Singapore; some of Chuang Yi's English-language titles are imported to Australia and New Zealand.

In Indonesia, manga has quickly become one of fastest growing consumer industries, and Indonesia has become one of the biggest manga markets outside of Japan. Manga in Indonesia is published by Elex Media Komputindo, Garuda publishing, Gramedia, and many other companies. Manga has greatly influenced Indonesia's original comic industry.

Another popular form of manga distribution outside of Japan is through the Internet as scanlations.

The manga style

The most popular and recognizable style of manga is very distinctive. Emphasis is often placed on line over form, and the storytelling and panel placement differ from those in Western comics. Panels and pages are typically read from right to left, consistent with traditional Japanese writing. While the art can be incredibly realistic or cartoonish, it is often noted that the characters look "Western", or have large eyes. Large eyes have become a permanent fixture in manga and anime since the 1960s when Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy and considered the father of modern manga, started drawing them that way, mimicking the style of Disney cartoons from the United States. Being a very diverse artform, however, not all manga artists adhere to the conventions most popularized in the west through anime such as Akira, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z and Ranma 1/2.

A fair number of manga artists don't feel that their stories and characters are set in stone. So a set of characters may build relationships, jobs, etc. in one set of stories ("story arc") only to have another story arc run where the same characters do not know each other. The Tenchi series in particular is known for this; there are more than thirteen different pretty-much unrelated story arcs based around Tenchi and his friends.

Categories of pornographic manga

Commonly called "hentai" manga in English, in Japan they are more often referred to as seijin or ecchi manga. These categories are also used for anime, H games, and other Japanese-style erotic art.

  • Futanari (hermaphrodites)
  • Ero-guro (erotic-grotesque; also genera in other Japanese art mediums)
  • Kemono (humanoid animal)
  • Lolicon (young girls)
  • Shota-con (young boys)
  • Yaoi (gay)
  • Yuri (lesbian)

See also


  • Schodt, Frederik L. Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. Berkeley, Calif.: Stone Bridge Press, 1996. ISBN 188065623X.
  • Schodt, Frederik L. Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics. New York: Kodansha International, 1983. ISBN 870117521, ISBN 4770023057.

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