It’s Japanese comics isn’t it? Manga can be translated as ‘comic books’ that’s certainly what they look like at first glance. Unfortunately the term “comic books” is often based on what is commonly available in the UK either American style superhero comics or humorous strip cartoons. Manga is a format and just about every subject imaginable appears in this format: form “serious literature” to science fiction, romance, mysteries, crime, political thrillers, and humour. Just to complicate things many ‘manga’ now are Korean in origin (manhwa) – see below. The subject and themes remain broadly the same and the origin of the material whether Korean or Japanese is generally given in the author notes in each volume.
The front is the back?
Probably the first thing you notice about manga books in the UK is that you start at the “back” of the book and turn the pages from left to right. The Panels start at the top right and are usually read from the top right across and down to the bottom left. Many of the books include this information for western readers. This way is the closet to how Japanese readers read manga. Some companies do “flip” the artwork to suit western readers right to left habit but most don’t. Not all manga artists like this done to their artwork and obviously it is more expensive to do this. Interestingly, reading left to right doesn’t seem to put off western readers, if anything it add sot the fun and makes the experience more memorable.
The artwork looks quite simple compared with superhero comics
Compared with the illustrative-based work of the west the artwork in manga can look quite basic at first glance. There are several reasons for this:
· Manga are generally published in very cheap magazine editions.
· Popular stories are only later collected in book format.
· As these original stories are produced in serial fashion they need to be produced quickly.
· A second look at manga artwork will reveal an astonishing skill with monochrome.
· There is less detail in manga panels because they need to carry a story very quickly.