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Facts of Japan - Manga

Updated on May 17, 2011

Japanese originally used Chinese characters with their own ones to have their language. The Chinese characters used to write the word Manga actually means Whimsical drawings. This word first came to be known during 18th century only. Santo Kyoden’s published picture book Shiji no Yokikai, which was published in 1798, the 19th century work namely Aikawa Minwa’s Manga hyakujo and the much popular Hokusai Manga books were the beginning sources of Manga.  The modern sense of Manga has been used by Rakuten Kitazawa.

Manga refers to the comics and printed cartoons. The style was actually developed in the late 19th century only in Japan. After he world war the modern style and form was developed. In Japan, almost every one reads Manga. It consists of such a wide range of genres that it serves to all ages. The broader range that Manga covers are: romance, action-adventure, historical drama, sports and games, science fiction, comedy, horror, sexuality, mystery, business and commerce and many others.

An example of the way you read the original manga.
An example of the way you read the original manga.

Manga has become such a major part of the Japanese publishing industry since 1950. It has a market of 406 billion yen in Japan. Not only in Japan but also the US and Canadian market share of Manga is almost 175 million dollars.

The typical Manga work is printed in White and black. The color range also exists. Usually serials are done in Manga in leading magazines and each Manga is presented as an episode which continues in the next episode. The successful serials are later published in a paperback edition called Tankabon. A Manga artist is called Mangaka in Japanese. He usually works in a small studio with some assistants and a creative editor from a leading publishing company. Some popular Manga serials are even animated even though Manga serials are usually based on well known live stories.

"Akira" - brilliant cyberpunk manga.
"Akira" - brilliant cyberpunk manga.
Characters from one of top manga: "Love Hina"
Characters from one of top manga: "Love Hina"

No age limitations for manga-lovers.


Kodomo Muke - children,
Josei (or redikomi) - women,
Seinen - men,
Shoujo - young and teenage girls,
Shonen - young and teenage boys.

Manga has a larger influence even outside Japan. The Manhua from Taiwan, Manhwa in South Korea and Manhua from Hong Kong are influenced by Japanese Manga only. Even in France, the Bande Dessinee is influenced by Japanese Manga only. In United States the Manga styled comics are referred as Amerimanga or World Manga.

The modern Manga was actually shaped by two broad processes which are complementary in nature. One of these two views emphasize that during the US occupation of Japan, the culture and art and themes and films brought to Japan by the Western people influenced Japanese Manga. The other one emphasizes that the Japanese traditional culture and art that existed before these outside influence is the central theme of Manga.

But whatever is the influence, the modern Manga which originated during and after the world war was such an explosion and it grew like a giant. The Astro Boy by Osamu Tezuka has become the popular one the world over. Then again the animated version of Sazee-San is still a celebrated one in Japan and it draws more viewers than any other TV program. The stylistic innovations used in these Manga are the basic for their success.

Tezuka used such cinematographic techniques like slow motion, motion picture panel, rapid zooms and close up shots etc. to give a grandeur look to his works. This is the origin and base for the artists that followed Manga in later years. Hasegawa’s detailing of daily life and women’s experiences are truly characterized in Shojo Manga.

Interestingly, after 1950 the largest readership had emerged for Manga and then after two types of Manga came out. They are Shonen Manga meant for boys and Shojo Manga meant for girls. Apart from males, female Manga groups came into prominence in 1969 that were later called as Year 24 Group.

The modern Shojo Manga projects intense life with romance as its theme. For the males Manga has been sun-divided according to the age group. The roles of Manga characters have considerably changed over time. Japan relaxed Manga censorship in 1990 and from then on many sexual Manga themes developed for the adult male readers.

Now Manga is part of Japanese life in every possible way.

Most common types of manga:

  • Maho Shojo - magical girl,
  • Mecha - robots,
  • Ecchi - slightly erotic, often visible underwear, naked body with no details or intimate parts covered,
  • Hentai (jap. pervert) - erotic and pornographic scenes, especially in the anime,
  • Shoujo-ai - for lesbian, much softer than yuri, qualifying only for a kiss or hugging,
  • Shonen-ai - for gays, much finer than yaoi, qualifying only for a kiss or hugging,
  • Yuri - Lesbian, strong sexual overtones, sex often occurs between two girls,
  • Yaoi - Gay, strong sexual overtones, sex often occurs between two guys,
  • Doujinshi - fan-art, similar to the manga (mostly showing couples kissing, less sex).


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