Japanese Animation 101: What Is Manga

Tuesday, October 18 by Sheridan D. Corde

What is Manga

What is manga? This art form directly influenced anime. The simple definition of manga is Japanese comic books. Manga has a long, rich history and distinctive stylistic features that differentiate it from other traditions of sequential art.

History. Manga goes back to the 12th century with  "Chojugiga" ("The Animal Scrolls," or, literally translated, "humorous pictures of birds and animals") by the artist Kakuyu (Toba). In the late 18th century, Hokusai Katsushika transformed this style into a form of storytelling through words and art. The first manga magazine, Eshinbun Nipponchi, was published in 1874, but manga did not experience a boom in popularity until after World War II with the publication of Astro Boy by Osamu Tezuka.

Genres. Like Western comics, manga covers a wide variety of genres that appeal to many different audiences. The main two categories are shounen (comics for boys) and shoujo (comics for girls).

Art Style. Manga has a distinctive format and art style. The art is almost always black-and-white and published in digest-sized books. The panel layout tends to be more varied and irregular than in Western comics. Manga is perhaps best known for its characteristic portrayal of humans, particularly large eyes, although the level of artistic realism varies widely between artists and genres.

Creation. The tradition of creating manga in Japan is more like the tradition of novel writing in the West than it is like Western comics. Whereas Western comics typically have a team of artists, writers and editors—even using one artist to sketch, another to ink and a third to add color—-the story and art of manga are typically conceived and controlled by a single writer/artist. They are often released serially, like Western comics, as books or in manga magazines.

-Amelia Hill

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