Manga are Japanese comic books, where the genres are almost similar to western comics, ranging from fantasy to superheroes to historical drama. Manga first became similar to its present form in the late nineteenth century, where magazines would have small cartoons aimed at both young boys and girls. The introduction of these short Manga stories were mainly the result of the Meiji era’s effort to encourage literacy all over Japan. In the 1920s and 30s, Manga comics were exclusively for the juveniles. However, the economic boom after World War II and American influence in Japan broadened this art to encompass all ages and social classes, with a wide variety of subject matter.
Around the 1960s, ‘Gekiga’ Manga appeared. This was the term that was given to more serious manga, which were drawn in a more realistic style. Gekiga were released in Japanese through lending libraries, where works that might have been considered offensive or experimental were tolerated. Today the amount of Gekiga has significantly reduced since the 1960s and ’70s.
Manga comic art 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 comics. They typically range from 150 to 350 pages and are printed in black and white, with very few pages of colour. They usually contain about 15 stories and are designed to be speed-read, much faster than the text of a novel. The action depicted in Manga stories are at a slower pace than that of Western comic books. Hence, it is not unusual for a single sword fight to last over 30 pages!
There are many characteristics that make Manga very distinctive. The most important thing that Manga art is known for is its characters. They almost always have large eyes, small mouths, and abnormal hair color. Manga comics today cover a broad range of genres, from sports and sci-fi to romance and drama. This explains why it is read by all ages throughout Japan and is now becoming more popular in other countries. It is divided into various groups targeting different ages and gender. Some of the genres of Manga comics that are found today include Kodomo for children, Shojo for girls, Shonen for boys, Redisu/Josei for ladies, and Seinen for young men. 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 action.
Some of the bestselling Manga comics include Barefoot Gen, a series that starts with the story of the bombing of Hiroshima. Dragon Ball Z is one comic that the younger generation is familiar with due to the popularity of the Japanese TV anime of the same name. Much like the anime, the manga is aimed at a younger audience, and is filled with action and adventure.
One of the most popular Manga characters of all time include Goku, the main protagonist of the Dragon Ball franchise. His abilities include super strength, flight, teleportation, super speed, & enhanced reflexes and he is mostly every young boy’s favourite character world over. Another famous Manga character is Astro Boy, who was Japan’s first great modern cartoon hero on printed pages as well as on TV. Astro was inspired by the Pinocchio legend. His creator wanted to build himself an artificial son, a robot who could replace the human child that he’d lost. That’s the emotional center that makes him more interesting and popular than the average action hero. Sasuke Uchiha is another fictional character from the manga and anime franchise Naruto who’s weaponry and techniques are based on Japanese mythology such as the Kusanagi sword. This show in particular has garnered critical praise all over the world.
Recently, Manga comics have gained widespread popularity in many countries, particularly the United States. Perhaps it is due to the mix of harsh reality with the tantalizing world of fantasy that makes Japanese manga so appealing. Many popular series, such as Doraemon and Kimagure Orange Road follow the lives of seemingly ordinary people who have a shadow life that makes them somehow special. Thus, the roles of picture, word, and frame have and created the unique characteristics of Japanese manga. Put simply, the complexity and drama of the story is the reason people of all ages enjoy these comics – little portals into other worlds that entertain, educate, and delight.