Manga 101

Hey everybody!

Since I’m going to blog about manga and anime, I thought it was fun to start with a ‘101’ about manga. This time I will introduce you to the world of manga, the next time I will do a 101 about anime, and in the future I plan to do 101’s about genres, visual novels, dating sims and many other aspects of Japanese visual culture.

The word ‘manga’ literary means ‘whimsical drawings’. But in common use it just means ‘Japanese comics’. There is more to it than you might think, because it is really important that that the comic is made in Japan and/or by a Japanese artist. So comics made in China (Manhua) or Korea (manhwa) are not manga. Comics that have the drawing style of manga (see later in this blog) but are made in the US or Europe or any other place are not manga. But if a Japanese artist is coincidentally is in a foreign country while he is drawing a few pages for his story, it is a manga. There even is an US artist who moved to Japan and learned the language because he wanted to make manga (Peepo Choo by Felipe Smith). But comics such as W.I.T.C.H. (which was very popular in the early 2000’s) is not manga because it is made in Italy.

The left one is manga, the right is not.

Like a said before, manga (the plural of manga is manga, and not manga’s) have a very distinctive style. Although there are no rules for style and there are tons of exceptions, you can recognize most manga by a few features: characters have long legs, big eyes, hair in unusual colours, and backgrounds are very detailed. Except for style, there are also a few fundamental differences with western comics. First of all, you read manga from right to left (although some official translators flip the pages), and second, manga are printed in black and white on a cheap but sturdy kind of paper. Why? Time and money. In Japan, manga is read by everybody. It’s not exclusive for nerds and geeks, but it’s for businessmen, housewives, children, teens, elderly, ect. There are manga for all kinds of demographic groups and there is a huge amount of genres (which I will focus on in a future 101). Artists (which are called mangaka) sometimes only have one week to finish a new chapter, so there is no time to colour the pages and it’s too expensive for publishers to colourprint such large quantities on high quality paper.

Typical manga-styled characters with a detailed background and reading order


Manga is usually released in chapters varying from 15-30 pages. They are published in weekly or monthly magazines (monthly chapters tend to be longer than weekly) such as Weekly Shonen Jump. Every five chapters, they are bundled in a tankobon, a small thick booklet which contains five chapters of the same series, with a coloured cover, and most of the time a few coloured pages and some extra’s.  Scanlators (fans who scan ‘raws’ (original Japanese chapters), translate them in English and publish them online) usually scanlate each new chapter as soon as it comes out, so we don’t have to wait until it’s translated in English. And most of the series never even make it to an English release. But there are plenty of manga which are officially translated in English, Spanish, French, German, Dutch, ect., which are released in tankobon-format. The only disadvantage is that it’s usually waaaay behind on the Japanese releases.

Dragon Ball Tankobon (not my own pic)

Most manga are original stories or based on a light novel, but there are manga that are based on visual novels and anime. If you want more information about those, read the next 101!

F.Y.I.: I’m not only going to do 101’s! I’m also going to do reviews, blogs, and top 10’s!

Until next time!


About Tekira

26 year old psychologist, on the quest of finding a job, loves anime and games.

4 thoughts on “Manga 101

  1. Ilana says:

    Great plan to do a Manga 101! Thank you! Arigatou!
    I have a question. I understood from other sources that first the manga comes out, then if it’s popular, they will make graphic novels, then they will make anime out of it (common), and if it still holds, they may make a dorama out of it (rare).
    You are saying that maga are sometimes a retelling of anime. That clashes with what I know. Can you send me to some source on that info please? Thanks!
    Also – there are manga and anime based on heavy Japanese Literature. They are called Japan’s Manga Classics. I’ve seen Tale of Heike and Tale of Genji, and there are more. Of course it’s very picturesque to make manga out of Japan’s Classics – a samurai and women in kimono will always look good! 🙂
    – A Japanese culture fan.

    • Tekira says:


      It’s true that the usual order is: manga –> anime –> live action/drama, but it’s not always the case. For instance, Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni (When they Cry) and Steins;Gate started off as graphic novels, but got adapted into an anime and manga later. There are also anime that are based on (light) novels, such as No.6 and Shin Sekai Yori (they got adapted into a manga around the same time as the production of the anime, but two different teams were working on them, so they turned out really different). And there are manga that are based on games, such as the Zelda manga and the Mega Man manga. These are only a few examples that I have read and watched myself, but there are plenty of others. Basically, any order is possible, but original anime are indeed quite rare. I hope I answered you question! And I’ll look for those Japan’s Manga Classics! Sounds intresting 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s