Manga: (1) In Japan, comics, cartoons, and animation. (2) For English speakers, Japanese comics, particularly those produced in a traditional style of drawing that dates back to the late nineteenth century. Manga, which are read by children and adults alike, encompass a wide range of subjects and target audiences. For instance, some manga are subject-specific, such as jidaimono (history), mecha (robots), and shōjo-ai or yuri (lesbian romances), whereas others are demographically oriented, such as kodomo (children), shōjo (teen girls), shōnen (teen boys), seinen (men), and josei (women). Many manga have been widely translated and have a significant readership and influence in Asia, Europe, North America, and the Middle East.

The word manga roughly means “irresponsible pictures” and is often associated with satirical caricature. Early examples include Chōjū -giga (Scrolls of Frolicking Animals), four scrolls of animal drawings often attributed to Buddhist priest Toba Sōjo but that may be the work of multiple artists from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and Toba ehon, an eighteenth-century book depicting the lives of ordinary people. The word manga itself was apparently first used in 1798 by Santō Kyōden, a writer and artist, then adopted by Aikawa Minwa and Katsuhika Hokusai in their respective works Manga hyakujo (100 Girl Cartoons) (1814) and Hokusai Manga (1814—34). The first manga magazine, Eshinbun Nipponchi (Picture Newspaper JaPonchi), was published in 1874 by Kanagaki Robun and Kanawabe Kyōsai. Two Westerners had a significant influence on the genre, however: British cartoonist Charles Wirgman, who founded Japan Punch in 1862 and introduced the concept of word balloons to Japan; and Frenchman Georges Bigot, who founded the satirical magazine Toba e in 1887 and arranged panels to tell a story.

Modern manga developed in the wake of World War II, during and after the American occupation of Japan, blending American cultural influences, including comics and Disney movies, with Japanese traditions. Manga were initially most popular with boys and young men and often addressed science fiction, sports, and technology. Classic examples include Osamu Tezuka’s science-fiction Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy) series (1951—81) and Machiko Hasegawa’s Sazae-san (1946—74), a lighthearted depiction of a liberated Japanese woman and her family and neighbors. Beginning in 1969, a group of female mangaka (manga artists) known as the Year 24 Group revolutionized shōjo manga, addressing subjects such as gender and sexuality and developing innovations in the layout of manga panels.

Manga are typically first published in manga magazines, which contain serialized comics by a number of authors. Successful series may then be published separately in book-length volumes, called tankōbon, that collect the various episodes or installments of an individual series. Particularly popular manga may be made into animated cartoons, called anime. Traditional Japanese manga read from top to bottom and right to left in terms of both the pages of a work and the panels on any given page. Manga published for Westerners may follow the traditional right-to-left style or be “flipped,” which can generate visual confusion (e.g., people shaking hands with their left hands rather than their right) or even discord between the artwork and the text (e.g., people pointing in the opposite direction from what the text indicates).

Manga also feature a specific style of art, often called manga style, which uses very simple lines and shapes and is often printed in black and white. Perhaps most notable is the appearance of manga characters, who are typically drawn very dynamically, with large eyes, small noses, pointed chins, and prominent hair. Lines are used to show both emotions and movements, and emotions are depicted in an exaggerated, cartoonish way (e.g., buckets of tears, anger with steam). However, some mangakas use the darker, grittier, more realistic gekiga style, as illustrated by Sanpei Shirato’s Ninja bugeichō (Chronicles of a Ninja’s Military Accomplishments) (1959—62).

For further reading on manga, see Helen McCarthy’s A Brief History of Manga (2014).

FURTHER EXAMPLES: Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen (1973—74), a loosely autobiographical story of surviving the bombing of Hiroshima; Kazuo Koike and Gozeki Kojima’s epic cult classic about samurai culture, Lone Wolf and Cub (1970—76); Katsuhiro Otomo’s postapocalyptic, cyberpunk epic Akira (1982—90), which brought American attention to manga; Hayao Miyazaki’s sci-fi fantasy Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1982—94); Masamune Shirow’s cyberpunk Ghost in the Shell (1989—90); Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball (1984—95), inspired by Journey to the West, a classical Chinese novel; and Naoko Takeuchi’s superheroine manga Sailor Moon (1992—97).

More recent examples include Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Death Note series (2003—06); Tomoko Ninomiya’s Nodame cantabile (2001—09); Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist (2001—10); Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto (1999—2015); Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece (1997— ); and Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket (2015— ).