More Manga

April 15, 2008 at 9:49 pm (Manga)

So last time I talked about the main types of manga. It gets more complicated than that though because manga is just a format, so there are plenty of genres and themes and so forth. Most manga that you can get from say, Tokyopop, will have one or two genres listed on the cover – “drama,” “fantasy,” “romance,” “comedy,” etc. There are also commonly occurring archetypes, like “young girl discovers she has magical powers,” and “young man becomes the pilot of a giant robot.” These archetypes will show up in every genre, so there are young magical girls who get into romantic entanglements, and there are young magical girls who save the world in a dramatic fantasy. Likewise, there are fantasy worlds where young men pilot giant robots, and there are dramas where young men pilot giant robots. Of course, there are young women who pilot giant robots, too, and young men who discover they have hidden powers. Depending on how much action, violence, romance, etc. these stories could be either shojo or shonen.

Whew! Is that complex enough? It’s not as bad as it sounds. Just because these two ideas seem to be a part of dozens of manga series doesn’t mean they’re all clones of each other. Some titles stand out as being quintessential for one genre or another, but there are hundreds of titles and series that are quite good and unique and interesting.

As far as finding titles that appeal to teens (which as you might recall, is one of the reasons I’m thinking so much about this) there are some issues.

First of all, Japanese culture is different from American culture. I know, I know, hard to imagine, right? đŸ™‚ The places where our cultures are different can cause a little confusion and consternation with readers and also with their parents. For example, non-sexual nudity is not uncommon in shonen and shojo manga. Generally, it’s not peppered throughout the book, more often it’s just one scene or another. By non-sexual I mean partial nudity that occurs during the regular circumstances of living, like someone climbs out of bed and changes clothes. Many times, there is a comedy element, where someone is trying to get a peek at something they shouldn’t, and gets in trouble for it, or accidentally gets a peak at something and feels embarrassed.

Aside from different tolerances for nudity, violence, sexual discussion/situations, there are a lot of elements to the art that might take some getting used to. Many times, a character’s state of mind or emotions will be shown through symbols, or by some form of extreme caricature.
Something else to bear in mind about manga is that the artist drawing the manga is responsible for the pages where the story is being told. The artist generally doesn’t make their own cover. Also, sometimes the first page or two can be a full page drawing of one of the characters, and often this isn’t the work of the main artist either. I mention it because sometimes the cover and first page of a manga can give you the impression that the manga is going to have more of something in it then it actually does. For example, .hack//Legend Of Twilight has a pretty tame cover, but has a partially naked character as the first picture, in the bath. Then the rest of the manga is just a normal story, with no nudity and no one taking a bath. Strange, but I think it has to do with selling the book.

Oh, let’s mention the way that manga gets to America.

First, almost all manga starts out serialized in manga magazines, like Shonen Jump, or Shojo Beat. Japan has many hundreds of manga magazines, serializing thousands of manga storylines every week or two or every month. Some of the magazines cater to niche markets, others just publish what’s popular. When a manga series becomes popular enough, it will often be repackaged in book form. At some point, someone decides which of these series might sell in America. The series is then translated and republished for an American market. In some cases, the American publication of a manga series isn’t very far behind the Japanese, but in most cases it seems like the American version of a manga is a few years behind. For example, a manga called “Spiral,” was published in Japan in 2000. The American version came out in 2006.

In Japan, if a manga is popular it will often be made into an anime, or cartoon. The anime will usually borrow from the manga, but isn’t generally a direct remake of it. Most anime series have a set length, like 13 or 26 episodes. Anime creators take bits and pieces of the manga and build a set of stories, usually with one overarching theme. So, the anime can end up being quite a bit different from the manga. Anime can also be in the form of movies. If a manga is popular, a feature length anime might be made out of it. Or, if an anime tv show is popular, a movie might be made. Because a movie is on 90 minutes or so in length, huge liberties are sometimes taken with the original manga stories and characters, and the movie might look nothing like the original manga.

Other places where manga comes from: Popular video games might get a manga. Or, a popular manga might get a video game. Sometimes an anime will get made that has no manga equivalent. In that case, usually a manga is made to help promote the show.

Manga is generally considered a Japanese made item. Other countries have artists who are creating manga-like stories, with manga-like art and formatted like a manga. Whether or not these should be called manga is up for debate, and some people probably feel pretty strong about what is and isn’t true manga. For example, South Korea has produced some great manhwa series. Also, some artists in the United States have embraced the medium and are now producing manga-influenced comics, which look a lot like other manga.

Thats all for now.


1 Comment

  1. volpeculus said,

    Again, quite informative. I tend to be both ardently intellectual and an earnest Christian (despite my slip-ups). It’s ironic, though, how when I encounter sexual or violent content in manga or anime, it usually seems to be handled in a more honest, perhaps even more truthful way than cynical Western products. I dunno, just my opinion…

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