Manga is the term used to describe Japanese comics or Japanese graphic novels. They are easily distinguishable from American comic books, and used to be only popular in Japan. In the past twenty years, though, the art has taken America and other countries by storm, going on to become a multi-billion dollar industry.
Manga first began in the late 18th Century. It has been traced back to picture story books back in the late seventeen hundreds, and slowly developed into the manga it is known for today. During WWII, manga truly started becoming popular in the Japanese culture. It was at this time that the large-eyed characters that we have come to know and love truly came into manga. Osamu Tezuka was the mangaka, or manga artist, who started this trend. He has been likened to Walt Disney, and was the first one to tell a story in the way a television show, or small movie, would be told. He became known as “the best” mangaka, and artists who wanted to find fame flocked to his doorstep to learn. A lot of those artists did go on to be famous.
Most famous manga began in a manga magazine. These magazines are printed either weekly, monthly or bi-monthly, and contain anywhere from twenty to forty pages of manga. There are longer manga that are printed once a year which range from 200 to 850 pages. Mangas are split up into specific categories. These categories are meant to target a specific audience, such as teenage girls or young boys. Some manga is even meant strictly for adults.
Manga is written from top to bottom, as American comic books are, but they are written from right to left, which is unlike American comics. This is because the Japanese language is read from right to left. Some manga that has been translated into English is actually switched, reading from right to left. Some true manga fans believe that this ruins manga, but it tends to appeal to the western audience more.
Most comic books that are written in America tend to focus on children. Superheroes and supervillians and their lives tend to be the main topic, and they are full of colorful pictures and action. Manga is different. First of all, almost all manga is in black and white, with the only color showing on the front of the book. While there are manga that are created for children, a large majority of manga is written for older teens and adults. There are not always superheroes in manga, especially not in adult manga. Often, the story in adult manga focuses on regular people and regular lives. There is often a lot of sex and nudity in manga, as the Japanese culture is much more relaxed when it comes to nudity and sex.
There are some manga that have been pulled from the shelves for being too violent, or too sexual. Often these manga are pulled from Western shelves, not Eastern shelves. The only “rule” that has come about in regards to manga is that “overly indecent materials should not be sold.” Because the rules are so loose, mangaka are truly able to tell the story the way they want to.