What Exactly is a Manga, Anyway?

Manga is a type of graphic novel, written in Japanese and translated to English, that has been making a huge splash in America, and it is easy to see why! When you first thumb through one of these chunky little volumes, you might be a little overwhelmed by how different it is from standard American comics, but you'll soon see that there's a good reason why these books have become so popular.

In America, comics are typically perceived as being for children, though with the advent of such talented writers as Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and Craig Thompson, this is slowly changing. In Japan, however, manga is read by people of all ages, from very young children to professional adults. When you start taking a look at manga, it is important to see how very varied it is. Saying that you are interested in manga is like saying that you are interested in movies, with no hint at all as to whether you like comedies, dramas or action flicks.

Manga has existed in America for quite a long time, but it was only in the last fifteen or twenty years that it began achieving the popularity that it enjoys today. Though you might be familiar with the first popular manga wave that consisted of classics like Mai the Psychic Girl, The Legend of Kamui, and a little bit later, Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon, the very first manga brought to America was drawn by a Japanese art student named Yoshitaka Kiyama, who drew a now-famous manga about his life as an immigrant, called Four Immigrants.

When reading manga, you'll find that it is read in the opposite direction to American books. To an American, the books open at the back and are read in reverse, moving from the right of the page to the left. While this might seem confusing at first, you'll find that it is surprisingly easy to get the hang of. When manga first appeared in America, the pages were all reversed and mirrored to provide a reading experience closer to what Americans were used to, but this created real problems with the art. You'll also find that unlike American comics, Japanese manga titles are typically written and drawn by one person. This offers a great deal more story and art coherency,

When you start looking at individual manga, you'll find that there is a truly wide variety of topics covered. You'll find adventure stories of teens encountering forces of evil, historical manga that gives you a peek at historical eras, relationship stories, stories dealing with parenting, and that's just for a start! Manga is a great way to find out about how stories are told in another country, and after you've read a few, you'll find that even if the art differs and the pages are turned backwards, that the stories are still amazing.

There are plenty of ways for an American to check out manga, so take a look and find a series that you can really get into. This has been a brief look at a huge topic, and when you start learning about manga, you won't want to stop!

Posted on: December 6, 2012

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