The History of Manga

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This article will help you learn a little bit more about the history of manga. From the early origins of Japanese comics to the recent trend that can be observed in North America, I will try to show you the evolution of this medium through the last 200 years!

Manga is a Japanese word that means "comics" or "cartoons". 

For the last several centuries, it's been part of Japanese culture to tell stories using several images displayed in sequence. 

It's really hard to say what could have been the first manga ever. Some say that the 18th century illustrated book called kibyoshi could qualify has being the first one. 

But one thing is almost certain, the word manga has probably been used for the first time at the beginning of the 19th century.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, illustrations were made on wood block and already, they could be very detailed using various gray tones techniques. Some were using words to help describe and tell the story more efficiently.

History of manga

The World War II is a turning point in the history of manga. The defeat of Japan and the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima certainly change the soul and the vision of the world for the Japanese. 

But surprisingly, with censorship behind prohibited, creativity and originality were very present in mangas in this difficult period of time.

Manga characters are becoming more expressive and are displaying their emotions with style! An angry character will have a red head while someone crying might be able to fill a pool with tears!

Perhaps one of the most popular manga of all time (and the one that started all) was Mighty Atom (aka Astro Boy in the US) created by Osamu Tezuka around the 50s. 

He managed to create a comic strip with a three dimensional aspect, with more emotional and psychological strengh and by playing with angles and perspective. All things that previous mangas were lacking.

One of the fascinating aspects of manga cartoons in this period of time is the apparition of series for girls and adults readers. In North America, comics are often seen as "a kid thing". But in Japan, everyone can find something interesting, adults or kids, boys or girls.

Today, the influence of manga and traditional comic books one over the other is very common. A manga can be turned into a movie (see Astro Boy released in October 2009) while an American movie can be produced as a manga for the Japanese and the US market.

One of the differences between a manga and an American comic strip is that most of the time, a manga will be the vision of a single person.

US comics are more a collaboration between a writer (or several ones), an illustrator and an artist who applies ink on the cartoons. This makes the manga a more personal work of art, a single vision from a single artist.

Another difference might be that in mangas, the story very often ends with the character achieving his goal or dying (as a hero or not). 

But in any events, most of the time, a sense of closure can be observed in mangas while in US comic strips, the reader can be left in doubt with the destiny of the hero.

Mangas are a 6 billion dollars market in Japan. And no doubt that soon, North America and the western market in general will be "invaded" (in a good way!) by this very popular and fascinating media! That's it for the history of manga!


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