What exactly is Manga?

One of our most popular classes at the studio is Manga Art. Kids love it! It really lets them get creative artistically and gives them the opportunity to create a dialog.

But what IS manga?

Manga is Japanese style art. In modern days it has become comparable to comic books. Some modern pop culture references are Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, etc.

The origin of manga comes from the basic human desire of wanting to express and record – hence referring to the origins of manga as being that as fundamental as scribbles and doodles. The 20thC great master of mangaOsamu Tezuka is recorded to have stated that ‘manga begins from scribbles’. If one goes by this theory, we can argue that the origins of manga can stem as far back as the Stone Age scribbles on the cave walls. (Japanese Gallery, London)

Although manga started as scribbles and doodles it has evolved into a highly popular and profitable art form. There are manga t.v. shows, movies, and most common is comic books.

Similar to photography and cinematography, comic books were an art form that was not known in Japan before the 19th century. Folklore and mythology often represented famous historical scenes, and the idea of a narrative told by a sequel of images followed by an appropriate text was invented in the West.

The main difference between the first Western comic strips that started appearing in newspapers around 1900 and the Japanese manga was that the later lacked any political massage or intellectual criticism, which would be considered rude and offensive in Japan of the time.

The form, however, rapidly developed in an atmosphere of intellectual creativity of the ’20s and ’30s and one of the first manga magazines to be published in Japan –Shonen Club recorded sales of 900.000 copies as early as 1931. After the WWII, whereas American comics got restricted by the new censorship laws, mangaexploded into the most productive cultural industry of Japan, marking the aesthetics and visual concepts of the new generations.

What distinguished Japanese comic books from the rest of the world was actually the rich heritage of the traditional painting and craftsmanship, as suggested by the very title of the form. Centuries of sophisticated and complex print-making tradition manifested in the modern-day comic books by the selection of subjects as well as by the specific and particular use of perspective.

Thereupon, comics in Japan were always meant for everyone and dealt equally with the topics from everyday life same as with fantastic stories, while they were offering complete visual, almost cinematographic experience, with the text being used more as means of providing special effects in the background. The reason is that Japanese artists sometimes use more than 20 pages per single scene, thus visually presenting the entire event, which again can be put into a single sentence. Therefore, comics are not merely ‘read’ but more ‘seen’, an experience which is close to the understanding of Japanese language itself, which can be a reason for the initial development of a specific artistic preferences and therefore style in the first place. Keicichi Suyama, a manga researcher, states in the “Hisory of mangaJournal : World Edition 1972″ translates the word manga as Cartoon, or caricature.

Here a few student examples from the studio to get a visual!