Manga are Japanese comics and humorous stories that are popularly read by everyone from children to adults. Some have argued that Manga actually has roots in 12th -century Japan. Many historians, however, date Manga’s origins to the nineteenth century. Modern Manga dates to the post-WWII period of Occupation in Japan. While the occupying U.S. forces censored some Japanese art (i.e. anything that celebrated militarism), Manga was not subject to censorship policies. Today Manga is read world-wide and there are many significant markets for Manga outside of Japan in countries like the U.S., Canada, and France.
Translated, the term Manga refers to “comics” or “cartoons.” Most works tend to be in black and white but there are full-color works of Manga too. In Japan, Manga works tend to be serialized and showcased in Manga magazines. Particular works that become popular may then be republished in book form. Manga artists often work in small studios. Frequently, they are associated with commercial publishing companies and may work in conjunction with a creative editor. Some Manga characters achieve enough popularity to make the cross-over to animation and video.
In recent years, Manga has constituted nearly thirty percent of all book sales in Japan. There are even Manga cafes in Japan that serve coffee and even allow people sleep-over. The country also boasts the Kyoto International Manga Museum that maintains a substantial database listing published Manga. Japan celebrates Manga artists each year by presenting various awards associated with the art form.
Manga is often geared for either male or female readers; some readers, however, read both. In Japan, Manga is typically read from top to bottom. When published in western countries this form many be preserved, but it is often switched to a left to right format. While Manga was slow to take off in countries like the U.S., it became more popularly read as Japanese animation became more prevalent in the 1990s.
Post-WWII artists who helped foster and develop modern Manga include Osamu Tezuka and Machiko Hasegawa. Prominent female Manga artists include Moto Hagio and Keiko Takemiya. Some of the most celebrated Manga characters include Astro Boy and Sailor Moon. Some of most recent best-selling Manga works include Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto, and Detective Conan. While comic books are not typically associated with great works of literature, in Japan, these humorous works are widely respected and Manga artists are often quite revered. The Manga style of characterization (i.e. large eyed characters) has also influenced other international artists such as Frank Miller and Fred Gallagher.