A Beginner’s Guide to Manga
Maybe you’ve heard your friends talking about manga, you’ve seen the word mentioned in comic books or magazines, or you’re just interested in finding new and exciting adventures to follow. Whatever the reason, if you’re interested in learning about manga, you’ve come to the right place! In this beginner’s guide, you’ll find an overview of manga, including what it is, a history of this genre, the different types of manga, and more!
What Exactly is Manga, Anyway?
The term “manga” refers to an assortment of graphic novels and comic books that were initially created and published in Japan. In traditional Japanese fashion, the test is read from right to left, whereas in other languages, such as English, the text is read from left to right, which, if you’re used to reading texts that are printed in the English language, can seem a bit strange at first; however, once you’ve become accustomed to the right to left layout, you’ll have no trouble reading manga.
Another feature of manga that differs from American graphic novels and comic books is the colorization of the prints. In Japanese mange, the prints are typically printed in black and white and color versions are usually only offered for special releases. American graphic novels, on the other hand, are almost always printed in full color.
In its native homeland, a lot of manga series are issued either as monthly or weekly installments in magazines that are dedicated to the genre, such as Shonen Jump, one of the most popular Japanese manga magazines. Additionally, these installments are read as chapters. If a manga series gains enough popularity, the chapters are compiled and published as tankobon volumes that often feature a handful of chapters that summarize the plotline of the story.
It’s important to note that many of the manga series run for prolonged periods of time and they can extend over several different volumes. Why is this important? Because if you are interested in reading a new series, you’ll need to read the volumes in sequential order, otherwise you’ll be confused and won’t know what’s going on.
This History of Manga
Manga is considered a culture; pop culture, to be exact. As such, many people believe that it’s only been around for a short period of time. However, that isn’t the case at all. This genre actually dates back to the 12th century. Choju-jinbutu-giga (which, when translated in English, means The Scrolls of Frolicking Animals) is said to be the first ever manga. It contained a collection of scrolls that featured images of different animals, like frogs and rabbits. While the maker is not known, it’s speculated that several artists collaborated to create the first-ever manga series. The Scrolls of Frolicking Animals still lives on today, as some of art techniques that were featured in this series can still be seen in modern manga series.
Advances in printing technologies in the Edo age (between 1603 and 1867), manga started to be printed on a large-scale and was distributed to the masses. Due to the increased availability, more and more people started to appreciate the artwork that is featured in the genre, and it was quickly considered popular art. In the latter half of the Edo age, Hokusai-Manga, one of the most famed artists in the ekiyo-e (The Floating World) came onto the scene. The artwork featured in The Floating World illustrates everyday life. Around this time period it is believed that the term “manga” was introduced.
During the latter part of the Edo time period through World War II, graphic novels and cartoons from around the world were introduced in Japan, and the illustrations featured in these foreign works definitely inspired Japanese manga creators.
Manga’s popularity continued to grow, and eventually, creating manga was considered a profession. A professional manga creator is referred to as a manga-ka. Osamu Tezuka was among the many artists, but was considered one of the most beloved; in fact, he became known as the “god of manga”. Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy) was Tezuka’s most famous works.
How to Manga and Anime Differ?
A lot of people assume that manga and anime are one in the same; however, that is not the case. The term “anime” is used to describe Japanese animation, whereas the term “manga” refers to Japanese graphic novels and comic books. Manga series are often adapted into animation, and as such, they become anime (examples include Sailor Moon, Pokemon, and Dragon Ball Z). In the 1990s, these anime series were played on American television and brought anime, and as such, manga, into the mainstream in the western part of the world.
Popular series that were originally manga are often turned into anime (as was the case with the shows mentioned above). The opposite can happen, too; really popular original anime series can also be adapted into manga.
To summarize, manga refers to print, while anime refers to animation. So, you see, while manga and anime certainly do play off of one another, the two are not the same.
Types of Manga
There are five main types of manga, which include:
- Shonen. This type of manga is targeted toward shonen, or young boys (tweens and teens). Often, comedy and action are the main focus of this type of manga. Additionally, almost always, there is a “coming-of-age” relationship amongst Shonen characters. Over the past three decades, some of the most popular Shonen manga series have been printed in the Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan and the Shonen Jump in America; Dragon Ball, Naruto, and My Hero Academiai have all been published in these magazines.
- Seinen. This form of manga is similar to shonen in that it focuses on action and adventure, but it’s geared toward adult men instead of younger boys, and as such, it’s darker and more serious. Seinen manga also contains adult content, including graphic violence, expletive language, and sexual relations. Another way in which shonen and seinen manga differ is in the outcome of the protagonist; in the former type of manga, the main characters are innocent and seek to save the day, and with the latter form of manga, the main character often has to confront the realities of life, which often aren’t pleasant. Akira is one of the most famous seinen manga series.
- Shojo. Geared toward young girls, including tweens and teens, this type of manga isn’t as focused on action and adventure, but rather is centered on emotions, drama, and pretty much all shojo series are romanticized. Similar to shonen, the main characters of shojo manga are young females who go through some type of coming of age experience. Sailor Moon is one of the most popular shojo manga series. Other series include Angel Sanctuary, The Demon Prince of Momochi House, and Honey So Sweet.
- Josei. Josei manga is intended for mature female audiences (ages 18 and over). The content is more mature; it can be equated to adult romance novels. Josei series often feature scenes that are sexually explicit in nature with varying degrees of intensity. In many josei manga series, the main characters are both female and male, whereas in shojo series, the protagonist is only a female. Loveless is one of the most popular josei manga series.
- Kodomomuke. Lastly, there’s kodomomuke, which is specifically intended for children. The stories are cute and full of adventure, the characters are young and naïve, and often, there is a moral. By far, the most popular kodomomuke manga series is Pokemon.