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Manga is a Japanese word that roughly translates in English to “whimsical sketches” and is generally used to describe all Japanese comics.
The most obvious difference that is immediately noticeable between western comics and manga is that the panels are read right to left as that is the way that reading is done in Japanese. Most manga are also created exclusively in black and white, with only a small subset being colored.
Although manga existed in Japan since approximately the 12th century, the real modern usage of the term came about during the U.S. occupation of Japan that occurred from 1945-1952 after the end of World War II.
There are two important examples of early modern manga: Mighty Atom by Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy in North America) and Sazae-san by Machiko Hasegawa.
Tezuka pioneered the technique of making manga cinematographic, which involves creating the flow in such a way that when read it resembles a motion picture. Sazae-san dealt with many cultural issues in post-war Japan as well as with the role of women, something which would set the tone for a large portion of modern manga.
There are many different genres of manga, but there are a few formats that encompass most of the manga that is published in the modern day.
Manga are most commonly subdivided based on the demographic that they happen to be targeting. These demographic groups are as follows:
Due to the rise in popularity of manga in North America since the 1990’s, translations of many manga can be found from major publishers which include Viz Media and Dark Horse comics. They can be found most easily in the tankōbon format in most book stores and comic book stores. Some of the weekly manga publications can also be found in North America, but they are much less readily available than the tankōbon.
Manga is distributed in two major formats: weekly publications and collections (tankōbon).
The weekly publications usually include one or two chapters from many different manga. Some major examples of this include Weekly Manga Times and Weekly Shōnen Jump. In 2012 Viz Media broke new ground by releasing the translated version of Weekly Shonen Jump digitally one week after it was released in Japan.
Tankōbon, on the other hand, are collections of several chapters of a single manga into a volume format. They strongly resemble graphic novels in their format and style of presentation. If a title proves to be popular enough in a weekly publication, based on fan demand, it will likely be collected in tankōbon format.
Manga, like western comics, are an extremely rich and vast art form.
There are manga that fall into many traditional genres such as fantasy, sci-fi, or modern, while also exploring some genres more unique to their own art form such as high school manga.
One of the most compelling reasons to read manga is because there are manga genres that can suit almost any person of any age or sex who enjoys western comics, movies, or fiction in general.