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What Is Manga? A Beginner’s Guide

Hussain Ali

What is manga? It is a simple question but one with a great deal of potential nuance in the answer. All the same, it’s one we hope to answer today, at least enough so newcomers can better understand this fascinating genre of fiction (and occasional non-fiction).

Join us for an approachable, beginner-friendly look at manga!

The Basics

The history of manga is long, with the artistic foundations of what would become manga being set by at least 1200 AD in Japan. Manga as we would recognize it came later, around the 19th century.

On a basic level, manga books could be called the Japanese equivalent of Western comic books and graphic novels. This is doubly true in recent years, as communication becomes globalized and cultural works from the West influence Japanese creators and vice versa.

Manga works share many artistic and narrative similarities with western comics, although certain types of story structures are much more popular in manga than Western comics and graphic novels. 

As an example, shōjo (often romanized as shojo or shoujo) manga is a very popular genre of manga aimed at teen girls, usually with a strong emphasis on romance and emotional drama. While there are equivalent works in the West, they are less common.

As manga grows in popularity in the West, a huge variety of these stories have been translated into Western languages, especially English. Two popular series include Dragon Ball and One Piece.

Something for Everyone

One of the more interesting topics to discuss regarding manga is how diverse the medium is. Culturally, manga tends to be viewed in a different light than comics and graphic novels are in the West.

There are manga works aimed at almost any audience one might imagine. A manga store will carry works about romance, horror, extreme violence, and more can be readily found. If a genre of fiction exists, one can likely find a fair amount of manga works that touch the topic.

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It is again notable that Western graphic novels also touch on these topics. However, graphic novels aimed at adults in the West tend to be rarer. Culturally, Japanese adults tend to hold more respect for the medium of manga than Western adults do for graphic novels.

To see the many stories the medium offers, check out AsakuraScans. There you can see both popular and obscure manga works of all kinds, letting you see what manga most appeals to you.

If were to give newcomers some manga tips, we’d recommend checking out more than just action-heavy shonen works. Explore what the medium offers, taking a look at a wide variety of genres and styles. 

What is Manga to You?

Asking “What is manga?” is in many ways so broad a question that it is impossible to fully answer. It is not unlike asking “What is a book?” 

If you found the above interesting, we recommend you explore the medium and see what appeals to you. Then you can look up manga guides and reading lists based on those likes to find even more content similar to what you love.

Meanwhile, you can also explore our site for more cool content like this. We offer a huge library of informative, fun articles for those looking to expand their minds in an easy, approachable way.


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