Cultural Presentation:

Japanese Manga & Anime

Helene Nguyen, Wesley Rostetter, Jackie Caivano

Manga/Anime: What is it?

Manga Background

It is natural to consider the cultural background of manga. Japanese society seems to have been more lenient towards manga than other countries. Japanese manga, on the other hand, developed into different genres by working against external pressures. Emakimono, rolls of illustrations that accompany a story, developed in 12th century Japan as a means to tell a story. There has also been a tradition in popular culture of storytelling with both pictures and words. Kibyoshi, in the Edo period, is one such example. A reasonable explanation of manga development that turns to comparative culture is that Japan had a cultural tradition that was more receptive to manga. In reality, the style of manga as we know it today was influenced by American newspaper comics, with multiple frames, dialogue in balloons, and narration. These innovations were created at the beginning of the 20th century, in particular after the 1920s. It is important to realize that there are inherent dangers in claiming manga as an outgrowth of native Japanese culture. Development of manga cannot be solely explained by looking at cultural similarities and ignoring historical discontinuities.

The Characteristics of Japanese Manga

Now, I would like to turn to a different aspect of manga. The number of manga magazines published for boys or girls and for adults from 1983 to 1997, adult manga increased in the ’80s and held half the market in the ’90s. This is an outstanding characteristic of the Japanese manga market. The fact that half the manga in the market is for adults shows manga in Japan is a major form of popular entertainment much like movies.


Anime Culture

Anime and manga is not 'kid stuff,' and it's nothing like American cartoons. Most of it is produced for a teenage or adult audience. Anime series change over time; the plot is often intricate, and characters change, grow, and often die. The unpredictability and emotional depth of anime as opposed to American cartoons is part of the appeal. Many anime series such as 'Evangelion' or 'Battle Angel Alita' are quite introspective as well as action-packed, and study questions of love, trust, and other deep feelings.

To understand anime, it is fairly important to have at least a little understanding of Japanese culture itself. Anime and manga are currently produced for an exclusively Japanese audience--authors are often shocked to hear that they have American or European fans--and are thus based on cultural assumptions and references that Americans find puzzling at best.


Anime Q. + A.

What's with the big eyes? Back in the early days, shojo manga (for girls, but written by men) focused almost exclusively on emotion. The characters all had big eyes, the better to communicate with. Now that the lines have blurred, big eyes have become a trademark. They connote sensitivity; the bigger the eyes, the nicer and more sensitive the person. Usually.

Why do obviously Japanese characters look Caucasian, with brown and blond hair (not to mention pink and blue...)? Again, back in the early days of the 60's and 70's, women artists started to write shojo manga. They wanted their female characters to be strong and do interesting things, but they also had to look traditional and wholesome. So lots of stories were set in a fictional historical West. The characters looked white. Nowadays, the color of hair and eyes has no connection with race; it's just more interesting that way. But characters with black hair are usually good and trustworthy, and blondes are often sneaky or evil--suspect until proven otherwise. In 'Ranma 1/2,' boy-Ranma's black hair is a signal that he is the real Ranma, and that he's really a good person, while girl-Ranma has red hair. Actual Western characters are often denoted by freckles, a big nose, or some other distinctive feature.


What is 'super-deformed' style? 'Super-deformed' style is when anime characters are drawn short and toddler-like. It's often done for logos, funny short sequences, and ad breaks. I haven't figured out what 'regular deformed' would look like ^_^ (that's an anime-style happy face).

Isn't there an awful lot of sex and violence in anime and manga? Anime does tend to be more violent and contain more nudity than American TV is willing to show. Keep in mind, however, that most anime is for older people, that what shows up in America tends to be the violent stuff, and that it is not all sex and violence. Notice, also, that violence has consequences--characters die and stay dead, and their friends mourn them. They are often deeply changed by their experiences. It is also worth noting that Japanese society has far less actual violence than the US.


Sailor Moon Opening (English)

Cultural Impact

Every so often, anime fans will get together and have a 'con,' where they watch hours and hours of anime, buy tons of merchandise, meet authors and voice actors, have costume competitions, and generally party the night away. A big con will last all weekend, take over a large hotel, and have hundreds of otaku from near and far. There is one in the Bay Area every year, FanimeCon, that costs over $30 to attend. Here are some photographs from a con in '97--run your mouse over them to see the captions. I have to say that I don't know any of these people--they were photographed by my brother, who gave the pictures to me to use (thanks, Jimmy).

  1. Cospaly
  2. Nakkacon
  3. Comic Con


Ah My Goddess and Ramzo Cosplay: American Cosplay Artist "Jia"
Team Rockett Cosplay: Russian Cosplay Artists “Malro-Doll” and “Ryoko-Demon”
Mortal Combat Cosplay: Artists from Envisageu

Japanese Manga

There is a big difference in art styles between Manga, which is more stylized (exaggerated) and American comics, which tend to be more "realistic". There are also quite a few serious differences between the two types of comics. Some of the differences, just to mention a few of them are the cost, creation, diverse audience and genres, presentation and even size.

Manga have also gained a significant worldwide audience. In Europe and the Middle East the market is worth $250 million. In 2008, in the U.S. and Canada, the manga market was valued at $175 million. The markets in France and the United States are about the same size. Manga stories are typically printed in black and white although some full-color manga exist (e.g. Colorful). In Japan, manga are usually serialized in large manga magazines, often containing many stories, each presented in a single episode to be continued in the next issue. If the series is successful, collected chapters may be republished in paperback called tankōbon. A manga artist (mangaka in Japanese) typically works with a few assistants in a small studio and is associated with a creative editor from a commercial publishing company. If a manga series is popular enough, it may be animated after or even during its run. Sometimes manga are drawn centering on previously existing live-action or animated films.

Japanese Anime

Anime is short for animation and it is different from manga in the sense that it is no longer a written medium.

Anime can refer to and television show, internet video, or even video games, but almost all anime were adapted from the manga version.

Anime doesn’t have a few characteristics that apply to every type but some of the most common elements that you do see are large eyes, big hair, speed lines, speech bubbles, and onomatopoeic text.

Many people might think that anime is the comparable version of cartoons in Japan. This is not completely true because a good majority of animes are intended for an older audience, however there are some that are intended for children.

Anime has become very profitable today especially some of the more famous ones like Dragonball Z, Pokemon, One Piece, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Naruto.

Some titles you may Recognize:

Best Team Rocket Motto Ever!