Everything You Wanted to Know About Manga But Was Afraid To Ask

  • Many people have heard of manga, but the misconception is that manga is just like the Western comic strips, for children and read left to right. These are both incorrect, manga in Japan is not just produced for children, in fact there are manga series that children are not allowed to read! If you haven’t read any manga yet and would like to try here are some tips on enjoying manga.

    How to read it

    Manga is produced in the same format as written Japanese language. In English we write from top left to bottom right where at the end of each line of text we return to the left side of the paper. In Japan they write from top right to bottom left vertically, rather than horizontally. This is reflected in the way that manga is drawn. To start off you open the book on the back (if you are used to UK/US books) so that the unread pages are in your left hand. Start each page in the top right-hand corner and move down each panel then left onto the next and so on. See the diagram above on how to read a manga page. Many Japanese manga have been translated into English, but are still kept in their original format. Therefore even if you are reading an English print of a manga still follow the Japanese reading format, unless it is stated otherwise.

    Types of manga

    There are literally thousands of manga published in Japan, and across the world, from widely celebrated stories to home drawn manga shared at specific meets across Japan. Manga covers a broad range of topics, from everyday life, to science fiction to breaking news. Popular manga are published at set intervals, i.e. weekly or monthly, in large volumes. In Japan there are two main genres of manga; Shonon manga for boys and shojo manga for girls. Shojo manga are mainly aimed at girls and young women, and generally written and produced by women as well. These shojo manga are usually published in shojo magazines, such as Shueisha, there is even an American publication Shojo Beat that publish these manga too. Shonen manga has two sub-categories which are done by age where shonen is typically for boys to the age of 18 and seinen manga for 18+. Again they have their own dedicated publications such as Shonen Jump. If a manga is very popular all the chapters originally published in magazines will be put together into book form and sold separately. These will usually include extras, such as colour pages or pull out sections.

    Outside of Japan

    Recently more and more manga are being translated and sold outside of Japan, although there tend to be a bit of a delay in publications. This means that if you live outside of Japan or cannot read Japanese you can still enjoy manga and support the writers (mangaka). As above, Shojo Beat is an America magazine which features shojo manga. Shonen Jump is also published outside of Japan by Viz media, and offers online access to all the popular manga series.

    Some popular translated manga include;

    Naruto: One of the most successful manga in Japan, about ninjas in a magical world
    One Piece: hugely successful manga about kind hearted pirates
    Nana: A music based manga following two girls with the same name
    Death Note: A human is given the powers of a shinigami (God of death)

    Manga comics are not purely picture books or standard comics, they have rich stories that can really involve you with the characters lives. Why not try and read manga and see what you think?