An Introduction to Manga – Part 1

18 Apr
As part of our initiative for promotion of comics across the world, sometimes dubbed an evil agenda even, we would like to present here for your consideration an introduction to the world of Manga. To say that this article is the most comprehensive article on the subject with unmatched research to back it up would be completely untrue. This article is not so much a history of manga, as it is a perspective. It allows for the reader to try and understand why the Japanese comic book industry is now a worldwide giant. It is the first in a three part introduction to manga. The introduction will be followed by other manga articles written to introduce the reader to few of the many genres that comprise manga.

Many thanks to Mayank for his unmatched research that helped create this article.

In Char we Trust.
An Introduction to Manga Genre
Today, within the comic reading world the word, Manga is ubiquitous. You cannot be a fan of comics without at least having heard of it. Kids talk less of Mickey Mouse and more of Naruto, while Beyblade toys are ruling the roost. To most adult comic book fans Manga sounds like an exotic disease come out from the orient slowly yet steadily infecting the minds of all around them. Of course the truth is far less glamorous. And yet far more entertaining.
So what exactly is a MANGA ?
The word Manga literally means “Whimsical drawings”. To put it simply, however, Manga is a Japanese comic. Now, the word comic has some preconceived notions attached to it, chiefly amongst which is the stigma that comics are for kids. Well, I am here to tell you that not all comics are for kids, and this is especially true for Manga. Manga is an art form, which has embedded itself into the Japanese consciousness and now slowly, but surely, taking over the rest of the comic reading world. This can be seen from the various translations, movies, video games , animations and movies they have spawned and continue to do so. They have created a whole culture and a way of living within the comic reader fraternity.
Manga and its eventual offshoot Anime are big, big business in Japan. And now internationally too. Lately the Manga industry has spawned into more than 50 billion yen in Japan. Yearly sales of manga throughout the 1990’s have been in the neighborhood of 600 billion yen, including 350 billion in magazine sales and 250 billion in paperbacks. It is stated that on an average, a Japanese spends approximately 2,000 yen per year on manga in one form or another. These facts are startling enough, and even more startling is the fact that these are just the figures of sales in JAPAN! The rest of the world with soaring international sales and fever pitch fandoms contributes heavily to this figure. In totalum nearly doubling it.
And thus it becomes apparent that at least in Japan, the manga industry. A comic book industry rules the roost when it comes to producer’s choice. More producers will be willing to put in their money into animated movies and their ilk today than there would be to finance live action films. To give you an idea of what this entails, imagine DC comics being badgered by all the film producers to allow movies to be made out their characters while James Cameroon sulked in the corner with an original script.
That is how big it is.
Manga – The Art form
However manga as in all things, has its own humble origins. The typical art form of manga that is seen today was invented by Osamu Tezuka, who, apparently was inspired by the American or especially the Disney form of cartoon drawing. Since Tezuka was more or less like the first professional mangaka ever, his style was picked up by everyone else, making it a firm base for the manga style. This style, through years, changed and morphed into better styles depending on the style of the mangaka ranging from the usual cute looks or the fierce battle looks. Even though manga style of narrating the story on short comic for or in the form of simple pictures, ever since Tezuka began the new style of drawing, it has remained as the basic style upon which others have been stylized.
Some features that have persisted over the years. Features such as the cartoonishly large eyes, disproportionate body structures have now become staples for the manga industry. The art on the whole as evolved beyond anything that could have been a part of Disney’s imagination. The artform in today’s manga is experimental, almost radical and most definitely captivating. Indeed for many it is the art that hooks them first.
Fluid, flowing motions, effortlessly drawn actions, it is truly remarkable how many colors can exist even in the black and white world of manga. However, Art though central to Manga is but one aspect of a whole. And art without a good story to back it up will not carry.
As with most things, there is more to manga than meets the eye.
To be continued…
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