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What is a Manga?

What is a Manga?

Definition of Manga

There are four main definitions of cartoons

  1. Visual information is presented as pictures (not written descriptions).
  2. Pictures dynamically depict the development of the story and constitute an essential part of the information (different from illustrations).
  3. Auditory information is presented in the form of characters’ lines as letters and sounds as onomatopoeia. Music, however, is often expressed not as onomatopoeia, but as a kind of line space between pictures or panels.
  4. It has a unique format such as panels and speech bubbles.

Japanese manga have become popular around the world in recent years. The reasons for this are said to be the careful and easy to understand panel layout, the inclusion and diversity of genres and Japanese elements. Sailor suits, ninjas, samurai, and manga that reflect Japanese history are particularly popular, probably because there are not many manga that include such content overseas. Although many Japanese manga are set in foreign countries, myths and histories from around the world were originally popular in Japan. Chinese and European history are especially popular. Perhaps it is a characteristic of the Japanese, but they seem to be good at taking foreign cultures and arranging them. This can also be said for food, and this characteristic of the Japanese is strongly reflected in manga as well. Also, since it is common for even adults to read manga, the variety of manga and the development of tools for drawing manga have improved Japanese manga technology.

History of Manga

The history of manga dates back to the Heian period (794-1185) in Japan, and is said to be the “Birds and Beasts Caricatures”(鳥獣戯画、CHojugiga in japanese).
In “Fukutomi-zoshi,” dialogue is written next to the characters, and manga-like expressions have been used since this time.
In the Edo period, there is a collection of sketches by Katsushika Hokusai, a famous ukiyoe artist, called “Hokusai Manga”.
However, this is different from the current meaning of “manga,” which refers to “rambling drawings”.

"Birds and Beasts Caricatures"(鳥獣戯画、CHojugiga in japanese)
"Hokusai Manga"

The original Japanese manga as we know it today is said to be a manga magazine called “Japan Punch,” which was launched in 1862. It was created by “Charles Wirgman,” who came to Japan as an illustrator for the British newspaper “The Illustrated London News. Around this time, printing technology was also introduced, which made meticulous printing possible.
Based on this “Japan Punch,” a variety of newspapers with pictures and text were launched one after another.


In the 1900s, cartoons for children and women were also launched, but they were not popular at all at that time and soon ceased publication.
In the 1950s, with the end of WW2, manga magazines for children based on Japanese picture story shows were launched. These were not sold in bookstores, but in candy stores. (A candy shop is a place where children gather to buy inexpensive snacks.) ) Famous works from this period include “Suzunosuke Akamodo” and “Astro Boy.

"Japan Punch"

In the 1950s, “rental book manga” became popular. It became popular among children because it was cheaper to borrow books than to buy them. Tokiwaso,” a gathering of famous manga artists, also took place during this period. Shonen Magazine” and “Shonen Sunday,” which are still around today, were also launched during this period, but the trend was opposite to the “rental manga” mentioned above. While “rental manga” were complete in a single issue, “weekly manga” were long stories that were published little by little each week in order to gain popularity. However, this forced the cartoonist to continue to draw a cartoon every week, and if the cartoon was not popular, it was censored, which was a very tough job for a cartoonist. For this reason, it is said that the life span of a cartoonist is short. (Even during this period, some cartoonists died suddenly.)

In 1960, the trend was completely toward “weekly manga. From this point on, shoujo manga (girls’ manga) and other types of manga also began to be published. TV dramas, TV animations, and radio dramas also began to be made, and tie-ups with media began to take place. Shonen Jump,” famous for Dragon Ball, Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece, was first published in 1968. Yoshiharu Tsuge, also famous overseas, published “Nejishiki” around this time. In Japan, the “student movement” was taking place during this period, in which students engaged in armed struggles and strikes against the government and society. The “Kamui Den” and other works were used as the bible for this movement, which led to the expansion of shōnen manga into the youth and adult markets.

In the 1970s, amateur coterie magazine sales events such as the “Japan Manga Convention” and the “Comic Market” began. There is a famous saying that goes, “At Comic Market, every person is a staff member.” This is because the purpose is not to make a profit like a corporation, but to have fun among friends. Manga artists who became famous through these doujinshis include CLAMP, Rumiko Takahashi, and Kazuhiko Shimamoto.

From the 1980s onward, with the establishment of convenience stores throughout Japan, the number of stores selling shōnen manga increased, and the manga boom grew even larger. In addition, “Dragon Ball” and “Slam Dunk” were released around this time, and they developed into social phenomena. This trend continued until around 2000.

After 2000, many manga rental shops and manga cafes began to appear, allowing people to read manga without buying it.
This trend led to a decline in manga sales and the demise of unpopular manga magazines, and the trend of renting manga was also a factor in the popularity of manga since the 1980s.

Around 2010, the digitalization of manga began to progress, and social networking sites also became popular, leading to the popularity of many web manga.
However, this has also led to a trend of allowing manga piracy, which has resulted in a lack of income for the authors.