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An Introduction to Manga – Part 3

2 May


(Continuing from Part 2)


The Genre
Conundrum

Manga has the widest variety of genre you can ever find in any media and not to mention the convenient categorization of each genre in a way that gives you an idea of the contents of the story before beginning to read it. The categorization depends on various factors too. Sometimes it depends on the target audience, at other times themes that our now considered tropes for the industry mark out the genre. Sexual orientation of the mangaka’s target audience matters. As does the type of story itself.

Based on the theme of the story, manga is categorized as

  • Shojo (Themes that appeal to girls like romance, fantasy, school life etc.)
  • Shonen (Themes that appeal to boys like action, mecha, robots etc.)
  • Seinen (Extreme gore and violence)
  • Hentai (Adult themes, usually for boys)
  • Children (Themes that appeal to little children, usually revolving around fantasy and simple action themes)
  • Josei (Drama and slice of life manga made for older or working women)

Based on Sexual orientation,

  • Straight
  • Yaoi or Shonen Ai (Gay themes)
  • Yuri or Shoujo Ai (Lesbian themes)

Based on story type

  • Drama
  • Tragedy
  • School life
  • Supernatural
  • Psychological
  • Martial Arts
  • Sports
  • Slice of Life
  • Sci fi
  • Comedy
  • Historical

One could go on forever. Keep in mind, that this listing is only a broad classification of the genres manga can touch. It is estimated that there are around 3000 professional manga artists in Japan. All of these individuals have published at least one volume of manga, but most of them make their living as assistants to famous manga artists or have some other supplementary source of income.

Only 300 of these, or ten percent of the total, are able to make an above-average living from manga alone. In addition, there are also a great number of amateur manga artists who produce small magazines intended for private circulation, called dojinshi. Ever artist strives to make his manga as unique as possible, for individual traits are what make a manga great and memorable. Thus what you have is a comic book style that ultimately defies genres outright.

I firmly believe that manga should simply be made a genre in itself and all this clutter should be done away with it. This is not a fool’s myopic viewpoint that I ask for, rather the farsight of seeing the whole picture with all its colorful details intact. Genres are after all essentially classifications. And a you can quite honestly ignore them completely if you want to. Just go from cover to cover and read the brief to see which storyline actually attracts you. Or flip through the pages until something catches your eye.

Eye is caught.

Impact.

The three largest publishing houses producing manga are Kodansha, Shogakkan, and Shueisha. In addition there are some ten odd publishing firms which come in at a close second, including Akita Shoten, Futabasha, Shonen Gahosha, Hakusensha, Nihon Bungeisha, and Kobunsha. This does not take into account the countless other small-scale publishing firms. As we can clearly see Manga is a force to be reckoned with. Its a massive industry with solid roots reaching well back into time and with each passing year it only grows.

In India, a country as far away as could be possible from the conventions and norms of Japan, a following is now slowly yet surely developing for manga. That in itself is a triumph for everyone involved. Fans come together across the globe in Comic Conventions dressed up as their favorite character. Such is its reach in the world. And the beauty of it all is, manga has nowhere near realized its full potential for growth yet.

The impact if global and the entertainment moguls of the civilized world no longer ignore this comic book juggernaut from Japan. They simply cannot afford to.

So step right up… into the world of manga, you know of it enough. Pick a series, any series you like and read it a chapter or two.

If you dont like it, pick another one,
eventually you shall find one that will surely click.

A story will be found, a story so familiar and attuned to your tastes.
A story that you will instantly love, and then you will for a moment begin to doubt,

If the author knew you, knew what you were all about.

And that is how it begins.
After all, no introduction to manga ever ends.

An Introduction to Manga – Part 2

25 Apr


(Continuing from part 1)

The Rise of Manga
Despite the rapid growth and prosperity displayed in today’s manga world, in truth, manga didn’t see significant growth until World War II. Back then Japan was still struggling under the strains of the war and was undergoing a period of economic upheaval. Disillusioned hungry masses looked to distractions. Cinema began to flourish as the talkies became an easy escape from the harshness of life. Under the influence of the great manga artist Tezuka Osamu (1928–1989), manga too began to gain not only national but also international recognition with works such as Astro Boy, Black Jack, Buddha, and many more. In the midst of a post-war economic struggle, Tezuka’s manga adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island sold 400,000 copies to become the nation’s top-seller.


During the 1960s, the generation that enjoyed reading manga as children grew up to take their place in society. They took their love for manga along. People no longer viewed manga as something to be enjoyed only by children — slowly yet surely manga was gaining a steadily growing adult fanbase. American comics at the time primarily had a huge audience of young boys idolizing superheroes who zipped out with incredible powers and saved the earth over and over again, but the Japanese community was developing its own audience. And like most things Japanese they were not about to make it simple.

Groups spawned out, social in nature yet reminiscent of the glory days of American street gangs. The fans would dress up, they would gather en masse to support their favorite shows, tickets for any movie adaptions of popular manga would go sold out thanks to these dedicated fans. And they werent all instantly accepted. How much would you have to love Nagraj to dress up in a green snakeman costume and go out to face the world tomorrow? I’m guessing unless you are a rabid Nagraj fan it wont be easy. Neither was it easy for any of these earlier cosplay pioneers. Manga fans were considered to be worthy of occupying only the fringes of society. Not implicitly illegal in nature, yet not something that was embraced and accepted. To say there was a fear of this growing culture would be an understatement, early cosplayers were treated with a mixture of horror and apprehension. But then that is the way society is, and it is the fear of the unknown that keeps society functional as a whole.

Behold society, we bring you the true face of horror: COSPLAY

They were the shadow folk of their era. And like all Shadow folk in all generations, they moved on to be a force to be reckoned. Times changed and the various styles of manga changed with them. To accomodate the ever growing fanbase artists/writers started coming out with varied and diverse manga. Encompassing every strand of life, death and society they could think of. From 1980 to 2000, manga saw not only an evolution of genre and style, but also the introduction of sophisticated techniques specifically geared toward enhancing its looks and effects. Techniques like screen tones (a series of adhesive, stylized, design patterns used to suggest color) gave new sleek looks to the finished pages. Story lines became more complex and widespread to include more audience interests, such as science fiction (mostly for males), sports, politics, religion, sex, and romance (pulling in more female readers and artists). With the rise of the Gundam era Manga’s commercial cousin the Anime was born. Movies based of popular series became instant hits and animated movies became big business. The five major production houses in Japan got into a veritable arms race. And animation studios such as Sunrise and Ghibli made gold. The eighties heralded the big boom for Japanese animation and manga. A boom that continues even today.

In the new millennium, along with the growing market appeal, scores of new artists are coming up with original ideas of their own in hopes of making it big in Japan and worldwide. At the same time, the number of talented female artists has skyrocketed; many of these artists are housewives who saw the opportunity of launching their manga career in drawing manga catering to female readers. And so the wheel turns and the circle is completed. Manga grows and grows, spiraling outwards in its scope and diversity.

This in fact brings us to many genres, sub genres that are manga. No discussion on manga can be complete without at least an attempt at classification. And indeed, nor will this one be.

But that as they say is a tale for another day.

To be continued…