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Manga: An Introduction, a brief History and Osamu Tezuka
A brief introduction to the world of manga
Manga alias Japanese comic is inseparable part of Japanese culture. In the middle of 20th century it used to be understood as an entertainment for children because of its lower intellectual and art size. Even now there are people who see manga as only-for-children medium. However this statement isn’t true anymore. There is manga only for adults as well. Manga about cooking, about financing, there is manga for managers, for accountants, manga about sex, etc.
Japanese comic is hard to define due to its unsystematic nature. A good definition and explanation of nature of manga can be found in a book Understanding Comic: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud, which is made as a comic about comic.
Manga divides into two main categories: Shounen – especially for boys, Shoujo – especially for girls.
An early history of manga
The term manga is composed of two words: man – comical and ga – picture. This term is really old. Katsushika Hokusai, a Japanese artist from the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, called his sketches a manga.
Choju-jinbutsu-giga, animal picture scrolls from 12th century, are considered to be a beginning of manga. This consideration is under a discussion, though. An art style of these scrolls inspired artists from Edo period, who drew short stories about animals.
In 19th century, there were a few newspapers published as Nagasaki shipping list and advertiser (1861), Japanese Herald (1861 – 1864) or Chugai Shinbun (1868 – 1870). In these newspapers could be found manga-like pictures with texts relating to natural disasters. In the beginning of 20th century, manga started to appear in so-called koshinbun (small newspapers). These newspapers were similar to current tabloids – they were more accessible.
A pre-war history of manga
The most important person in a pre-war history of manga was a Japanese manga artist Rakuten Kitazawa (1876-1955). He is considered to be the father of manga. In 90th of 18th century, he studied western-style painting and after that started drawing cartoons. He was the one who started to use a term ‘manga’ for his comic and it became a common term used for every Japanese comic. From 1905 to 1915, Rakuten Kitazawa worked for a magazine called Tokyo Puck and was named a chairman of Nihon Manga Hoko Kai (a Japanese organization for manga artists) during the World War II.
There were a lot of magazines and a lot of manga published before the World War II. Some of these magazines and manga continued during and post-war, but they were influenced during the World War II and were dealing with propaganda. Let’s present some examples.
Shou-chan no bouken – Shou-chan and a talking squirrel is an old manga created in 1923 by a manga artist Katsuichi Kabashima. This manga was published as an experiment.
Sazae-san – is a manga by Machiko Hasegawa. This manga story is an excellent example of manga influenced by the World War II. Sazae, the main character dealt with war problems. Sazae-san became popular after the World War II.
Norakuro – a propagandistic story about a little dog in an army fighting against monkeys, pigs, etc. by Suiho Tagawa. This manga was published in 1931 and continued to 1941.
Before the World War II, there were also magazines which these and other manga stories were published in. Let’s mention the most famous ones: Shounen Sekai, Shounen Kurabu focused on boys and Shoujo Sekai, Shoujo Kurabu and Shoujo no tomo focused on girls.
Shoujo – a new pre-war created category
Shoujo is an artificially created category which emerged in the beginning of 20th century. The term ‘shoujo’ means a young girl or woman. Shoujo category was created for adolescent girls, for there wasn’t category like this before. Girls got married in a young age and they became housewives really soon as well.
In the beginning there were certain features for a shoujo girl – affiliation to a new middle class, affluence, high school level of education. It was a period for self improvement. A young girl should be prepared to be a husband’s best assistant.
After the World War II history
During the World War II was manga industry strictly restricted and censored. Everything was subordinated to war efforts. After the World War II, so-called kamishibai appeared. Kamishibai is a form of storytelling – an artist narrates a story according to pictures on a paper board. Kamishibai became a stepping stone for manga and disappeared in fifties of 20th century.
As an intermediate stage to manga magazines publishing served kashihonya – manga rental stores, which most of manga artists created manga for. In this time, humor manga was really popular.
Atelier Tokiwa was a building which one of the most famous manga artists Osamu Tezuka worked in. He surrounded himself with starting manga artists who became popular and famous lately. These manga artists learned from him and got paid by experiences. Among these manga artists excelled especially Shotaro Ishinomori, Fujio Akatsuka and a duo called Fujiko Fujio.
Shotaro Ishinomori – was a screenwriter, a writer and a manga theorist. He excelled on a field of sci-fi manga. He was twice awarded by the Shogakukan Manga Award. He is an author of popular manga series: Cyborg 009, Kamen Rider or Robotto Keiji (which became inspiration for Power Rangers).
Fujio Akatsuka – became extremely popular in a field of gag manga (comical). In the beginning he drew shoujo manga, but he switched to gag manga afterwards. His most famous work is Tensai Bakabon.
Fujiko Fujio – is a manga artist duo consists of Hiroshi Fujimoto and Motoo Abiko. They became well known for manga and anime series Doraemon.
He is the most important and the most famous person in the history of manga. He is often called ‘manga no kami-sama’ (the god of manga). Thanks to him manga became subculture for adults. Osamu Tezuka wanted to be part of everything what was going on a field of manga. He also experimented a lot in his drawings.
Osamu Tezuka had a little bit different style of creating manga. He had a star system of characters. His characters appeared in different manga stories as actors. They were recycled, changed a bit and used in different manga. His characters were also unique, because they could die in manga.
Osamu Tezuka started to draw in a school and thanks to his drawings he was able to make friends. In his first stage of creation, Osamu Tezuka focused on manga for youth. His stories were influenced by war experience. In this time period he created a few world famous manga: Shin Takarajima (New Treasure Island), Ribon no Kishi (Princess Knight), Janguru Taitei (Kimba the White Lion; there was a huge discussion between Tezuka – Janguru Taitei and Disney – The Lion King – like who influenced whom since these stories are similar), Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy).
In second half of fifties, Osamu Tezuka got influenced by Gekiga and started to experiment. This period of his life is his second stage of creation. He created his longest manga, which even remained unfinished, Hi no Tori (Phoenix). This manga was unique because of its main line enriched with side lines. These stories occupied with topics of reincarnation, hope, past or future). Another work from this period is Black Jack. It’s a medical drama.
From the end of seventies, Osamu Tezuka started to write historical manga. The main themes of this third stage of his creation are two old friends fighting against each other and ideology in personal happiness’ way. His work regarding historical topics is: Hidamari no ki (Tree in the Sun).
‘Gekiga’ is a name for a movement of Japanese manga artists who tried to change a style of manga after the World War II. The term also means dramatic pictures. Gekiga brought to manga more sophisticated story and better artistic approach. Authors of Gekiga tried to move manga to adults and older people. A lot of new genres appeared in manga – horror, crime, science fiction, history, sex, etc. New genres quickly became popular.
The one who used the term Gekiga first was Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Another famous Gekiga manga artist was Sampei Shirato – the author of Kamui den (about ninja; this manga became an alternative textbook of history).
Shoujo on the rise
Publishing Ribon no Kishi by Osamu Tezuka was a first signal that even girls can have a fully-fledged comic. Soon after that, shoujo became really popular and lot of manga artists focusing on shoujo appeared such as Makoto Takahashi, Chiba Tetsuya, Masako Watanabe, Miyako Maki or Hideko Mizuno.
In the fifties, the main goal of shoujo manga was to make girls cry. New specialization appeared in manga as well – sports manga, manga about romantic relationships between girls or boys.
Makoto Takahashi – he inspired a nowadays shoujo. His stories were simple, nostalgic and with excellent artistic design. He created manga about girls’ relationship Sakura Namiki.
Masako Watanabe – she wrote horror stories. Her work Garasu no Shiro (The Glass Castle) about two different sisters got awarded with Shogakukan Manga Award.
Hideko Mizuno – she is one of the most famous and successful shoujo manga artists. Her works were interesting and quite controversial. Shiroi Troika (White Troika) is about an opera singer from Europe. Fire! is one of the first shoujo manga with male protagonist and the first with a sexual scene.
Year 24 Group
In 1969 a group consisting of female manga artists changed shoujo manga. They brought a new genre into shoujo manga – science fiction. They removed manga of naivety and broke limits in shoujo manga. On the contrary was so-called ‘otome chikku’ manga – harmless and relaxing romances with ordinary heroines and without unexpected twists in plots.
Among Year 24 Group excelled especially Moto Hagio, Keiko Takemiya and Yumiko Oshima.
Moto Hagio – wrote sci-fi stories and homosexual romance between men. Her works include for example Juichinin Iru (They Were Eleven; about space academy).
Late development of manga
From seventies to nineties of 20th century manga became worldwide popular and spread across the world. The most popular manga were turned into anime (television series and movies). TV series as Pokémon earned thousands of fan and opened the door to the world of manga.
Borders between shounen and shoujo became less clear – both categories are for girls and boys, they still keep their features, though.
Manga is a worldwide spread phenomenon now. It concludes every genre, it focuses on children, adults and old. In Japan, there is sold about 2 billion manga per year. Manga art is also taught on universities.