Manga: 100 years of interesting Japanese culture

Manga in the Japanese culture: a short history

With the rising popularity of Japanese culture nowadays, I guess there aren’t many people who haven’t heard about manga. The word refers to comic books or graphic novels originating from Japan. But how much about it do you know about it except for the peculiar aspect of the illustrations?

In this article you will find some interesting information about it. I have read some interesting manga over the years. As a result, I can give you some great examples.

The etymology of the word „manga”

„Manga”, written in Japanese as 漫画 is composed of two kanjis. The first one is 漫 (man) meaning “cartoon”, or  “impromptu” and the second one is 画 (ga) meaning “picture”.

Origins and evolution

Manga first appeared in the 20th century. Manga found its origins a few centuries back, in the Heian era. Experts consider it is an upgraded version of emakimono (picture scroll). Those were horizontally illustrated narratives that combine text and image, be it painted, drawn, or made of stamps. Emakimono would represent battles, love stories, stories of the supernatural world.

Manga stories are read from top to bottom and left to right. Still, this is not at all surprising. In fact, that is how the Japanese traditionally wrote.

The first versions of manga most similar to the ones we know today appeared in the postwar period. The American occupation of Japan highly contributed to the evolution of manga. Truly, Americans have brought their own comic books with them. Among the popular titles from that time are the Disney creations: Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, Bambi.

The “God” of manga

Among the first and most successful manga artists, famous to this day is Osamu Tezuka. He created the famous Astro Boy (1952). He introduces the big, prominent eyes of manga and anime characters. At last, this becomes a distinctive feature of the two categories. On the whole, Tezuka gained the title of “God” of both manga, and anime (specific Japanese animations).

Genres of manga

As of 1950, manga grows in popularity. There are tens of manga categories nowadays. But, Japanese comic books were initially of five kinds:

1.Shonen (少年): the target audience being young boys and teenagers, it focuses on action, comedy, and friendship (Akira Toriyama-Dragon Ball, Masashi Kishimoto-Naruto).

2.Shojo (少女): the target audience being teenage girls, it concentrates on love stories typical to teenagehood. There is a tendency to idealize love (Naoko Takeuchi-Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, a.k.a. Sailor Moon, Fruits Basket).

3.Seinen (青年): with men for the target audience (18+). What sets apart the category is action and violence, sexual content, and vulgar language (Kentarō Miura-Berserk).

4.Josei (女性): the target audience is adult women and it scouts romantic stories and contains explicit sexual illustrations (18+), (Loveless, Paradise Kiss).

5.Kodomomuke (子供向け): with the target audience represented by children  (<10), focuses on adorable characters in stories that are fun and have moral teachings to pass on (Pokemon).

I hope you enjoyed this small introduction to Japanese culture through manga!


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