The History of manga.... What is manga?

The word "manga" today is becoming a common term for comic book or style of film in many western cultures. In reality, it's origin as Japanese cartoon drawings come from as far as 800 years in history begining in temples.

Early in the 13th century illutrations of animals and the afterlife began to appear on temple walls. These crude and exagerrated representations bare a similar look to manga today. These practices carried over centuries cover many subjects, yet the style remained intact.

In the 1600's these illustrations moved from temple walls and onto woodblocks in a medium known as Edo. Because of this the work became more of a centered interest and attraction for the first time. The subjects were less religious and often became graphically erotic, and moved on the various subjects such as satire. Around this time the first use of the word manga arose to describe the artistic style. The pictures were generally monochromatic with simple outlines and blocks of color to represent shading. The subject took lead over the method of representation.

"In 1702, Shumboko Ono, an early celebrity manga artist, made a book out of prints of these pictures with captions, although it was a collection of pictures rather than a progressive story." The method of creating books of visual prints evolved over hindreds of years in which paragraphs and illustrations combined to tell stories. Th art became just as sequential as the narrative to compse a story. "The tradtion of Toba-e, as these comics were called, grew over the next century until the were the main form of literature for most of Japanese society."

Animated film began to grown in Eurpoe and in the Unitd States in the 20th century, but after 1940, over 40% of Japan's film output was in the form of manga films, or more commonly known as "anime". "I the Western worl cartoons have always (primarily) been seen as a child's phenomenon, but in Japan, manga has always been the method of art for all age groups.

Japan's export of manga often come directed towrds children or in target audience anime films, but in Japan printed manga id often the most primary form. Not all manga is for entertainment either. Often times educational roles such as econmics and science are used. The popular manga and now animated series by Ken Aramatsu called Love Hina (targeted at college age readers) had been re-printed as graphic-novels (100 or so page comics in volumes) in Japanese and English to help the avergae Japanese citizen learn English.

"Manga films like the classic Akira, which are aimed at an older audience, have a very different style, using intricate backgrounds to set the story, and complex animation to give the illusion of reality while being able to manipulate characters and physics more easily than would be possible on real film, while retaining the empathy with characters. The most significant difference tends to be in the shading, while western animation uses two tones per surface and keeps the movement of colour consistent with the general stillness of the animation, manga animation tends to be shaded with three tones which contrast more with each other, and to allow this shading to fluctuate between frames, giving an illusion of constant movement and realistic unpredictability both in the light and the actions of the characters it illuminates. "

Anime and manga become more popular everyday with gain exposure all over the world.


Examples of modern manga/anime: click to view large

Right to Left:
Card Captor Sakura by CLAMP
Peach Girl by Miwa Ueda
Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo

Princess Kushinata (illustration) by Masamune Shirow


Resource: A History of manga by PageWise, Inc.