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An Introduction to Manga

A manga store in Japana

Comic books have always been fascinating. While some are easy to read and understand, others such as Manga are a bit complicated. It is a Japanese version of comics and when you try to enter a new culture, things can become confusing and intimidating. When it comes to discussing Manga, it is not only the comics that are highlighted but history as well. There are several genres of manga and each is unique on its own. The storytelling of manga is immersive and full of twists. You get to see visual characters and their development as well, as you progress with reading. Therefore, if you are someone who is a big comic fan and wants to try his/her hands at manga, then this article shall help you get over the cultural bumps and misunderstandings.

Introduction to Manga

In simple words, the term ‘Manga‘ is used to define comics published in Japan. It is composed of two words ‘Man’ meaning whimsical and ‘ga’ meaning pictures. Manga is used for either entertainment or educational purposes. However, the manga is also found in the U.S but that is just the translated version. Perhaps the best thing about Manga is that comic books are not particularly published for kids but adults as well. In other words, the manga is for all ages and every comic fan happens to derive excitement from it.

Manga comics in Japan are usually published in manga magazines such as Shojo Beat and Shonen Jump. Then, for the U.S, these comics are then republished into volumes of tankobon. Generally, the manga is published in black and white for cost efficiency but sometimes limited edition versions and comics are also published that consist of colored chapters.

 History of Manga

The manga was first introduced in the 18th century by a Japanese Woodlock artist Hokusai. He used the term to describe his artwork. The meaning of the word was exactly the same as we know today, whimsical pictures. However, Hokusai and his artwork cannot be considered as the earliest example of manga as Buddhists during the 12th century created scrolls that consist of chapters. If you were to observe these scrolls you would find chapters that explain animals behaving like humans.

During the 18th century, manga revived for a brief period with the creation of ‘yellow covers’ and ‘kibyoshi’. Kibyoshi consisted of adult books that normally consisted of illustrations with dialogue boxes and text. However, kibyoshi remained a controversial topic and was banned by the government.

Then during the 19th century, more artists came up with their version of comics and in some, criticized the government for their policies. This was hope for manga’s ultimate revival. During the 20th century, the publishing industry flourished as more and more artists were stepping into the scene and were introducing different versions of manga. The government in response started what was a bit like a movement to censor artists and shut down publishing homes.

To remove the curtain from Japanese imperialism and propaganda, the Japanese started using manga to highlight how the nation was unnecessarily led towards war. Then as the Americans occupied Japan, the American culture had a significant influence on manga and as a result, the manga art style saw a bit of a change. Finally, in 1947, the ‘Father of Manga’ and ‘Walt Disney of Japan’, TezukaOsaku came up with his comic books such as Astro Boy, which was a huge hit. Following TezukaOsaku, several artists started working on manga as well and helped it turn into entertainment that we know of today.

Manga Genres

The manga market in Japan is a bit different from what we see across the globe. As already mentioned, manga consists of different genres such as horror, adventure, and action, etc. However, these are the sub-genres of the manga. Manga is distributed and published based on demographics. Although it does not necessarily mean that only those who are interested in a particular genre are able to read the manga but everyone. Artists that specialize in creating romantic, action, and adventurous, target specific audience first before moving on towards other types.

For instance, a romantic manga will be aimed for romantic fans, action manga for the action fans, and adventurous manga for those looking for adventure. This allows the artists and publishing houses to target different age groups automatically as kids are less likely to read the romantic manga.

Shonen

Shonen in the Japanese language means a young man. These comics are targeted towards teens and young individuals under 18 years of age. Upon reading shonen comics you will normally come across a male protagonist who is involved in fantasy, romance, and adventure. Furthermore, Shonen is the best selling genre of manga and also features the longest series.

Shojo

Shoji in Japanese means young woman. Therefore, it is evident that Shojo manga is directed towards young girls under the age of 18. Similar to Shonen, Shojo comics will also feature a female protagonist. The stories usually revolve around magical girls, romance, and sometimes comedy.

Josel

Josel manga is target towards women who are 18 years or older. These comics basically feature women protagonists who are either in college or in their 30s. In addition to that, Josel manga as compared to Shojo and Shonen are a bit complicated to understand. The reason is that the script is comparatively complex. Created for a more mature audience, Josel manga is quite exciting to read at the same time.

Seinen

Seinen manga is for men who are above 18 years old. The stories featured in Seinen manga are a bit complex and mature for a mature audience. Similar to josei, seinen manga is also a broad category that caters to the needs and demands of the older audience. Understanding Seinen maybe a bit confusing for some but once you get a hang of it, you are bound to read it every day.

Manga Today

Today Manga has become quite a profitable industry. From artists to publishing houses, everyone receives a fair share of publicity and profit. It was estimated that the manga industry in 2016 alone earned around 3 billion pounds just from selling comics. This is a huge number considering that it had remained controversial and banned by previous governments. Japanese artists work around the clock to produce the best manga by constantly competing and putting their creativity and skills to the test. Furthermore, manga artists play a crucial role in managing production and conducting basic research around characters and stories.

Final Word

Producing and creating manga is a big task. It is not just about selecting characters and stories and putting them on a piece of paper. Manga is strongly attached to the tradition and culture of Japan and therefore, compromise of any kind is not at all acceptable. Special consideration is given to storytelling and the selection of characters that help shape the story overall. Considering its popularity, one could surely say that the manga industry is bound to expand. With both men and women looking for exciting stories to read, it is imperative that manga artists are motivated to bring something new each time.

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