Manga 101 - Basic Walk-through of the Manga World

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Manga Overview

Photo By Aaron Albert

Manga is Japanese comic books. Manga is often made into Japanese cartoons or Anime. The art in Manga has a very definite look to it and is often referred to as “Manga Style.”

(Maw – Nnnnn – Gah) In Japanese, it is actually three syllables, although the middle "N" is spoken very quick. Americans have a habit of pronouncing it "Man-Gah", but that is not actually correct.

The word Manga can be translated as, “humorous pictures.” Manga became very popular in the 20th century when laws prohibiting the publication of those kinds of items were lifted. It has since become a huge part of Japanese culture. Unlike in America, Manga is read by most people in the country. The artists and writer of Manga are well respected for their work, much like the writers of literature in America.

Recently, Manga has become popular in America. It has been a very successful new medium that has become very popular with young people. Manga, and the Anime that it has inspired has been seen on T.V., in movies, and has even influenced the art styles of certain American artists like Ed McGuinness, Brian Wood, and Frank Miller.

In Japan, a lot of Anime is based on popular Manga, but in America, it is usually the other way around. Most of the times, publishers will wait until an Anime has been released through stations like Fox, Cartoon Network, and The WB. Then the Manga will be published in conjunction with the release of the cartoon.

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The Format of Manga

An Example of a Manga Panel. Aaron Albert

Manga usually follows the traditional style as found in Japan. Japanese Manga is to be read from the right side to the left, opposite of traditional American books. Not only do you read the pages from right to left, but you also read the panels and text from right to left. There have been attempts to make Manga published in America to look and read like traditional American books, but many artists have opposed this. The fans of Manga have also been a part of making sure that many Manga produced in America today is in the traditional Japanese style.

Manga is generally published in a much different format than American comics. Manga is usually much smaller and collected in small volumes. They appear like small books, closer in appearance to the Archie Digests. In Japan, Manga is first published in Manga magazines that collect different stories. If certain ones get really popular, then the stories are collected and published in a new volume. Many times, the Manga has a large amount of work already published, as in the case of the popular Naruto, which has just begun to make a splash here in America.

The image below shows how you should read Manga. Follow the numbers for the panels and the text boxes to get the flow of reading Manga. At first, it can be confusing but don't worry, it will come easier over time and practice.

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The Artwork and Style of Manga Comics

Honda Tohru of "Fruits Basket" - A Typical Manga Character. Copyright Tokyopop All Rights Reserved

Manga has become widely known for its style of artwork. People who know about Manga will be able to recognize artwork from Manga comics quickly. The interesting thing is how Manga artwork has begun to influence artists of today. Many artists are showing influence by Manga like Ed McGuinness, and Frank Miller. Americans are even making Manga, like Fred Gallagher of Megatokyo.

There are many characteristics that make Manga very distinctive. The largest thing that Manga art is known for is its characters. Manga characters almost always have large eyes, small mouths, and they also usually have abnormal hair color. These things give their characters a very western look to them. Manga like Akira, however, has gone against this grain.

Manga characters usually show over exaggerated emotions. When a character cries, it usually pours out in buckets, when they laugh, their face seems engulfed by the size of their mouths and their eyes become slits. An angry character will have rosy cheeks and steam rolling from around their body. This use of emotion would most likely be categorized as cartoonish.

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Manga Categories - The Types of Manga

(From Left to Right) Naruto(Shonen), Battle Royale(Seinen), and Fruits Basket(Shojo). Photo By Aaron Albert

Since Manga is so widely popular in Japan, different kinds of Manga has become known. Each has its own title and when getting into Manga, it can help to know what is what. Below is a list of the different kinds of Manga.

  1. Shônen – Boy’s Manga – (Pronounced Show-Nen)
  2. Shôjo – Girl’s Manga – (Pronounced Show-Joe)
  3. Seinen – Men’s Manga – (Pronounced Say-Nen)
  4. Josei (or redikomi) – Women’s Manga – (Pronounced Joe-Say)
  5. Kodomo – Children’s Manga – (Pronounced Kow-Dow-Mow)

Don’t let these different titles scare you; they are just there to help differentiate the many kinds of Manga. Generally, you will be able to know if you will like an upcoming Manga title by what group it is a part of. Shonen Manga is usually action packed and humorous, Shojo Manga is often more lighthearted and involves romance. Seinen Manga will often have more adult themes, with some containing graphic violence and sexually explicit material. There is even a group of Manga and Anime that is referred to as Hentai, which is erotic Manga. This kind of Manga is considered pornographic by most people. Regardless of what your tastes are, you should be able to find a kind of Manga you prefer.

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Popular Manga Titles - Good Reads

Naruto Vol. 3. Copyright Viz Media

Ghost in the Shell
Battle Angel Alita
Lone Wolf and Cub
Dragon Ball
Gunsmith Cats

Fruits Basket
Battle Royale - Read Review
Blade of the Immortal
Full Metal Alchemist

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Manga Publishers

Battle Royale Volume 1. Tokyopop