Japanese Manga Culture

Manga is a Japanese form of comics. Manga's unique style includes exaggerated facial expressions, focus on the eyes and trailing lines that evoke the characters' swift movements.

Manga comics are read from right to left. Originally, mangas that were translated into English were reversed. However, most publishers found it much more practical to retain the right-to-left format. Manga are usually sized differently from regular books, typically measuring 5 by 7.5 centimeters.

Mangas are generally serialized for magazines. Typically, about 30 pages of a manga are printed in each installment. Once the serial is finished, the separate sections may be collected and released in book form. Popular works can be serialized for several years, ending up being published in a few dozen volumes.

Manga are distinctive from American comics, which tend to concentrate on the action depicted in the comic strip. In contrast, manga focuses on the character in the story. Through clear, precise language, the reader is drawn into the character's angst and problems, making manga a more introspective read than an American comic strip.

Manga as a whole does not target young audiences. Despite its cartoon characters, manga are written for young and old alike. Manga heroes are diverse and can include samurai warriors, teenagers in love, sushi chefs and office clerks.

Osamu Tezuka is known as the "the father of manga" or in Japanese, Manga-no-kami sama, the god of manga. Born in 1928, he studied to become a medical doctor. However, in university he started drawing manga strips, featuring characters with distinctive large eyes. He never started his medical career, and instead focused on his drawing.

Tezuka was a prolific manga writer. The Complete Manga Works of Tezuka Osamu consists of more than 400 volumes, and even this is not comprehensive. Most of his works have not been translated from the original Japanese, and as such are only accessible to Japanese speakers.

Tezuka wrote his first manga after World War II. By the late 1960s, manga had become increasingly popular in Japan. The student movements that were emerging at the time embraced this new form of media.

A particularly successful manga across all age groups was Ashita no Joe, which debuted in the Youth Magazine in 1968. It ran for six years and an animated version appeared on television in 1970. When one of the protagonists of the manga died, 600 fans gathered at the Youth Magazine's headquarters to hold a funeral. A theater group mounted a boxing ring and performed songs to the accompaniment of electric guitars. A national newspaper wrote an article about the hero.

The success of Ashita no Joe embedded the manga style deeply in Japanese popular culture. Years later, an ad campaign centered on the dead manga hero generated a flood of interest.

In the decades since its creation, manga has become so popular that it constitutes 40 percent of everything published in Japan. In 2007, the manga industry generated revenue of 406 billion yen. There are approximately 13 major weekly manga magazines, along with some 10 biweeklies and 20 monthlies. Up to one million copies of the most popular manga magazines are distributed. There is no non-manga magazine in Japan that can claim this type of readership.

Manga magazines can be purchased at bookstores, newsstands, street vending machines and convenience stores. Some businesses like beauty salons, restaurants and coffee shops provide manga magazines for their customer's enjoyment.

Since the 1980s, manga's popularity has grown beyond Japan's borders. Manga books and manga characters are popular in all areas of western culture, including films, computer games, advertising and design.

In January 2007, the Kyoto International Manga Museum was opened. Its goal is the systematic collection, preservation and dissemination of the manga art form. It also conducts and presents research on Japan's manga culture.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Far out and Mundane: The Mammoth World of Manga
Lent, John A.
Phi Kappa Phi Forum, Vol. 84, No. 3, Summer 2004
'So What Is This Mango, Anyway?' Understanding Manga, Comics and Graphic Novels
Gibson, Mel.
NATE Classroom, No. 5, Summer 2008
Are You There God? It's Me, Manga: Manga as an Extension of Young Adult Literature
Goldstein, Lisa; Phelan, Molly.
Young Adult Library Services, Vol. 7, No. 4, Summer 2009
Anime, Manga and Christianity: A Comprehensive Analysis
Barkman, Adam.
Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, Vol. 9, No. 27, Winter 2010
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
"Straight" Women, Queer Texts: Boy-Love Manga and the Rise of a Global Counterpublic
Wood, Andrea.
Women's Studies Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 1/2, Spring 2006
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Themes and Issues in Asian Cartooning: Cute, Cheap, Mad, and Sexy
John A. Lent.
Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of Japanese manga culture in multiple chapters
Spirited Away: Film of the Fantastic and Evolving Japanese Folk Symbols
Reider, Noriko T.
Film Criticism, Vol. 29, No. 3, Spring 2005
Permitted and Prohibited Desires: Mothers, Comics, and Censorship in Japan
Anne Allison.
Westview Press, 1996
Culture and Customs of Japan
Noriko Kamachi.
Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "Manga (Comics) and Animated Pictures" begins on p. 157
Shojo and Adult Women: A Linguistic Analysis of Gender Identity in Manga (Japanese Comics)
Ueno, Junko.
Women and Language, Vol. 29, No. 1, Spring 2006
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Manga and the Pirates: Unlikely Allies for Strategic Growth
Mayfield, Milton; Mayfield, Jackie; Genestre, Alain; Marcu, Magda.
SAM Advanced Management Journal, Vol. 65, No. 3, Summer 2000
Men and Masculinities in Contemporary Japan: Dislocating the Salaryman Doxa
James E. Roberson; Nobue Suzuki.
Routledge, 2003
Librarian’s tip: "The Origins of 'Beautiful Warrior Girls': Takarazuka, Shojo Manga and the Tezuka Connection" begins on p. 71
Atomic Heroes and Atomic Monsters: American and Japanese Cartoonists Confront the Onset of the Nuclear Age, 1945-80
Szasz, Ferenc M.; Takechi, Issei.
The Historian, Vol. 69, No. 4, Winter 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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