Alright everyone, it’s the post you’ve all been waiting for. Or maybe just a few of you. Depends on how many of you are anime fans like me.
To those of you unfamiliar with these terms, manga are Japanese comics and anime is Japanese cartoons. However, they aren’t exactly what you’d think of them you think of comics and cartoons in the US. For one thing, they are much more popular. For one thing, you will probably find more manga in the average bookstore than novels.
They also cover a wide range of topics and there are options for any age range, from young children to adults. They also have a distinct Japanese style that is unlike American comics. Often the characters have very large eyes and bizarrely styled or colored hair. But within manga and anime, there is also a wide range of styles. For example, compare these:
Manga and anime cover any kind of topic you can think of. There is romance, fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, drama, comedy, or anything else you can possibly think of. Manga is sold in both individual books and in monthly manga magazines, which have small parts of several different series in every issue. A few of these have made it over to America, Shonen Jump being the most well known. In America a single volume of manga can cost up to $15, but in Japan they cost about $5, or less if you buy them used. There are plenty of $1 manga in the used book shops.
When manga are popular, they are usually made into anime as well. Though there are some series that begin as anime rather than manga. In America we have been exposed to mostly kids shows like Pokemon, Digimon, YuGiOh, Sailor Moon, etc. But there are also more adult shows such as Death Note and Bleach. Even so, this is just a small taste of how much manga and anime there is in Japan. Anime voice actors are considered celebrities, and are nearly as popular as the biggest singers and bands in Japan.
You might be wondering why this is so popular. To understand the appeal of manga in Japan, one must consider the writing system. Japanese has a very difficult writing system, even for native Japanese people, since they use kanji. Kanji are very difficult because they can have different meanings and readings depending on the context and the combinations of them. Most Japanese people stop studying kanji after high school, and so they forget a lot of what they don’t use on a daily basis. Novel writers usually use very complicated kanji in their writing, so novels are difficult for Japanese people to read.
Manga has the ability to tell a complicated story without forcing the reader to read complicated writing. This is why even adults find manga so appealing. It is not uncommon to see adults reading manga on the train, and it is considered a perfectly normal thing to do.
Manga and anime have many genres, and two of the largest ones are “shonen” and “shojo”. Shonen means “boy” and shojo means “girl”, so as you can guess, these are boys manga and girls manga. However, there are plenty of girls who read shonen manga and some boys who read shojo. Shonen manga are usually centered around adventure, some examples being Naruto and One Piece. Meanwhile shojo manga are often about friendship and love.
Recently, I had the opportunity to go to a small tour of one of the largest book publishing companies in Japan. While in America we have separate companies for manga, in Japan manga is published alongside novels and magazines and such. This company, Shogakukan, is famous for publishing Doraemon, a famous children’s manga that features a robotic cat from the future.
It has also published Pokemon, Inuyasha, Ranma 1/2, and Sonic the Hedgehog. We were able to tour the shojo manga department and we spoke with the editor of a shojo magazine called “Ciao”, which is targeted toward young girls.
The editor told us a lot about her job, and explained the process that a manga goes through from the first drawing by the artist to when it hits the shelves. Each editor works with about 6-10 different artists, and brainstorms with them as they submit different drafts of the story. Sometimes the editors ask them to re-do everything, as they have a lot of power. And sometimes, editors have to come to an artist’s house and wake them up to make them finish before a deadline!
But she was very interested in hearing about why manga and anime are so popular in America. For me, though I do enjoy reading novels, I like being able to read something in comic form, and I enjoy watching animated films. Japanese anime and manga have such a wide range of stories, topics, and characters that I can enjoy these mediums while also watching something appropriate for my age, that is mentally and emotionally stimulating for me. They also tend to have stories that are very different from what Americans come up with, so I always find it interesting.
Do any of you like anime or manga? If so, what do you like about it? Does anyone dislike it, and if so, why? Is there anything you’d like to know about it that I haven’t talked about? Do you suppose it will become more popular in the US as time goes by, or less?