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General Information About Manga
General Information About Manga
Introduction to Manga

In Japanese, the word manga is the word given to any comic created in Japan. The word has recently acquired the same meaning in English. Manga has become more and more popular over the years, forming an important part of Japanese culture.Manga are written by mangaka (like an author of a book, you have a mangaka of a manga) and are generally first published in magazines (zasshi). Thereafter, they may be published as tankobon, a compilation of a given series bound in book form.

The first appearance of manga can be traced back to the 17th and 18th centuries to an artist who referred to himself as Hokusai, although his real name is unknown. Hokusai focused greatly on different forms of art including wood blocks and paintings, but also created works of art which he called manga. It would not be until the 20th century, however, that manga would begin to gain popularity, eventually transforming into the art form we recognize today.

Manga first reached something like its present form in the late nineteenth century. At that time, magazines would have small cartoons - around fifteen pages in length - that were aimed at both young boys and girls. The introduction of these short manga stories were mainly the result of the Meiji era's (1868-1912) effort to encourage literacy within Japan.

In the mid 1900s came one man who was a vital part to the process of forming the modern style of manga. His name was Tezuka Osamu (November 3, 1928 – February 9, 1989) and he has often been considered the "Walt Disney of Japan" or the God of Manga. Osamu created longer manga works, reaching 180 pages, matching the length of those that are published in tankobon today. One of his many works, Shin Takarajima (New Treasure Island), published in 1947, was an important influence on the manga that we have today in that it was published in a form known as akahon or "red book", a type of cheaply bound comic book, which got its name from the red ink used on the cover.

At the time, akahon were used for the relatively little material that was published for children's entertainment, but with Tezuka Osamu's release, many more akahon were created and sold. One of Osamu's better-known works is Tetsuwan Atom, better known as Astro Boy, and is still popular today.

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Astro Boy
Around the 1960s, gekiga, dramatic pictures, appeared. This was the term that was given to more serious manga, which were dawn in a more realistic style than manga. Gekiga were released in Japanese through lending libraries, where works that might have been considered offensive, or in some cases experimental, were tolerated. Today the amount of gekiga has significantly reduced since the 1960s and '70s.

Today, there are more than 3,000 professional manga artists in Japan, many of whom make their living as assistants to more famous mangaka. Approximately 300 of these professionals are able to make an above average salary from their manga alone. Some well-known and popular mangaka today include CLAMP, a group of 4 women responsible for writing works such as Cardcaptor Sakura and Chobits; Rumiko Takashi, who wrote Inuyasha; and Akira Toriyama with his Dragonball series.

Manga forms an important part of the Japanese politics and economy. For example, Kiichi Miyazawa, former prime minister of Japan in 1995, published a column of his opinions in a manga magazine known as Big Comic Spirits, a magazine that, at the time, was read by approximately 1.4 potential voters and young salary men per week. Manga's wide readership also had a significant economic impact. In fact, it is recorded that of the books and magazines sold in Japan in 1995, 40% of are manga and of 2.3 manga and magazines produced, 1.9 billion were sold. This 1.9 billion equates to more than fifteen for everyone (men, women, and children) in Japan (Schodt, Frederik. Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 1996).

In 2001, it was recorded that manga issues totaled to 3.286 billion, coming out to 69% of works published in Japan. As well, exports for manga-related items, including animations and games, forms almost $3 billion Japan's exports (Nakamura, Ichiya. "Japanese Pop Industry" November 2003: 1-18).

The Manga Itself...
The majority of manga is read in a right to left, up to down format, often times written in kanji, the Japanese character system, with furigana and hiragana written beside a kanji for those who do not know what the kanji is.

Sound effects are also present and are written with either hiragana or katakana. Some of the manga that has been licensed and translated into English retain the hiragana/katakana sound effects, while other manga will have them translated into English. Those manga that become popular are also generally adapted into television series in a style known as anime, such as Sailor Moon, Gundam Wing, and Fullmetal Alchemist. Though most often the anime are based closely off of a manga counterpart, sometimes a few key differences between the manga and anime can be found.

Artistic Styles
Each mangaka has their own style of drawing, and depending on the genre of the manga, the style used can vary greatly. Often times, most would associate manga with large eyes, small noses or heads that may be larger than they would be if properly proportioned. This style of drawing has been termed as the moe style of manga and can be most commonly seen in shojo (girls) manga. But the styles can also extend to more realistic drawings, the styles used in a particular manga depending on the mangaka.

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Manga Outside of Japan
Today, there are also non-Japanese comics in a similar style to manga. This includes AmeriManga, the term given to those manga that are originally published in English, and Manhwa, the Korean equivalent of manga.

There is also dojinshi, which are manga created by amateurs that are published outside of the mainstream market. Dojinshi has also come to represent manga that are drawn by fans, either created to extend existing storylines or to introduce a new storyline using the characters of an existing manga.

Manga Genres
Manga today covers a broad range of genres, from sports, to sci-fi, to romance, alternative worlds - the list goes on. This may help explain why it is read by all ages throughout Japan and is now becoming more popular within other countries. As well, manga can be divided into various groups targeting different ages and gender.

Some of the groups that are found today include kodomo (children), shojo (girls), shonen (boys), redisu/josei (ladies), and seinen (young men) manga. For more information about individual manga genres, click on their respective names or visit our click here for a thorough introduction.
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