What is manga ? Japanese comics and more...

what is manga

A manga is a Japanese comic book that is popular throughout the world. Manga drawings are inspired by today's Japanese society but also by Shinto myths and legends or Japanese folklore. This Japanese art form has been developing since the Second World War the manga industry has not stopped developing.

Today the most famous manga are followed by millions of fans on the planet.

From life lessons to scientific-futuristic fictions to teenage heart stories, how has the art of manga integrated the various strata of Japanese society? Manga still help to introduce Japanese culture around the world, especially in France where Japanese culture is finding more and more fans.

In fact, with the help of anime, cosplay kawaii, conventions or even derivative products the art of Japanese manga is democratized in France and remains very strongly popular among young French otaku or within the "gaming" communities. Collectors of objects derived from the most famous Japanese works are more and more numerous in the hexagon. 

What is manga ? 

adult-manga

A manga, which can be translated as sketch in French or unfinished drawing, is a relatively general term that defines all works (comics or graphic novels) published in Japan. These paper works usually result in the creation of an anime i.e. an adaptation of the work into an animated version.

Manga are written by so-called mangaka, the most famous of whom are true stars in Japan. The mangaka publish pieces of their stories on a weekly basis in specialized magazines. The bound volumes come out once the plot of the moment has passed. 

Generally only the first few plates (one or two pages) are published in color, the rest being, for economic reasons, published in black and white. Contrary to the Western reading direction, manga is read from right to left, and respects very specific narrative codes.

Indeed, the art of Japanese manga has evolved and developed along with the Japanese archipelago. Japanese literary codes have also been turned upside down over the decades. 

What are the different types of manga?

manga-types

The styles or categories of manga are ultimately not so different from classic literary genres. In fact, like Western novels or comics, the same elements can be found in these works.

In short, the objectives related to the narrative are identical namely in a work of fantasy you will most certainly find magic, in a scientific work or one that deals with a period of history you will most certainly find the same characters or the same environments.

Manga art holds its difference in the target of these works. Indeed, the different types or genres of manga are defined according to the target that the mangaka wants to reach with his work.

The manga art is different from other art forms.

After this brief introduction let's begin. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the different types of manga that we will see:

  • Manga Shonen
  • Manga Seinen
  • Manga Shojo
  • Manga Josei
  • Manga Yuri
  • Manga Yaoi

shonen

The most famous genre of manga is Shonen. This type of manga features a central character who evolves over the course of the story as he tries to become stronger in order to achieve the goal he has set. He and his comrades try to achieve their goals, chaining all kinds of adventures.

This type of manga usually features male characters where friendship, camaraderie and family are at the heart of the story. In these works there is, quite often, a lot of action, and the main target of shonen manga are young teenage boys from 12 to 25 years. 

Dragon Ball : when talking about the shonen genre, we are obliged to mention Dragon Ball because it is one of the works that popularized this genre all over the world. With over 300 million manga sold worldwide, Dragon Ball is the shonen manga definition.

Written by Akira Toriyama and launched in 1980, the story follows a little boy as he tries to collect the seven crystal balls called Dragon Ball that once collected can grant any wish. 

Naruto: The story takes place in a half-modern, half-feudal world where ninjas are at the heart of the narrative. Naruto is an orphan rejected by all the inhabitants of his village because of the demon he has in him. In this manga Naruto tries to become Hokage, the best ninja of the whole village so that its inhabitants are forced to recognize his value.

Between secret techniques, perilous missions and fierce battles, this story follows the evolution of this young ninja until he achieves his dream.

Hunter x Hunter: Gon, the main protagonist of the work, is twelve years old, and tries to become a Hunter. Hunters are people who are allowed to do anything they want by presenting their "hunter" card. Gon's father, named Ging, whom he does not know directly, is considered by his peers to be one of the best hunters of all time.

Gon tries to approach the hunter world to try to find his father, and also to achieve his dream of becoming a professional hunter.

Bleach: Ichigo is a 15-year-old high school student unlike any other. Indeed, since he was very small, the latter is able to touch and see the souls of the people he meets or he is next to. One day, something will upset his routine. A hollow (an evil creature) came to take the souls of his family. That day intervenes a shinigami, literally a god of death who tries to save him and his family.

During the confrontation the shinigami will be injured and ichigo will be forced to take his powers and become a shinigami himself to protect his family from the hollow's assault. Following this event, Ichigo begins a hunt for the hollow by protecting human souls.

Seinen : young adult manga

seinen

Seinen are manga for young adult boys. The audience age range for this kind of work is 20-35 years old. These works have a more serious, adult background, and deal with generally much deeper subjects. True young adult fiction, the plots are more mature, pragmatic and serious compared to shonen.

In addition, the themes addressed generally echo the history of the Nipponese archipelago or the real world (wars, conflicts, geopolitical issues) This genre is opposed to the josei manga that we will see shortly. 

Btooom: Ryota Sakamoto is a young video game enthusiast and more specifically a game called Btooom. Indeed, he is one of the ten best players in the world. However, from one day to the next, he is kidnapped and his kidnappers drop him off on a deserted island.

Lost in the middle of nowhere, Ryota tries to survive this ordeal, when he understands that in order to get out of this ordeal he must follow the same rules as those of his favorite game. Kill or be killed, the young man is in the midst of a battle royale that carries a tremendous amount of risk. 

Berserk: Berserk is a particularly raw manga. It deals with very dark themes but unfortunately present in our current societies. Pedophilia, rape, incest, infanticide, mass murder are all part of the work.

Berserk is judged by observers or the many experts in manga and Japanese literature, as a masterpiece that any manga fan must read or watch. The manga and the series are set in a world considered medieval with a hint of fantasy all the same.

Shingeki no kyojin or Attack of the Titans: Like Berserk this work makes the link with many evils present in our modern societies. Indeed, the mangaka namely, Hajime Isayama, talks about the scourge of the various armed conflicts that spread and last over time. Japan is a warlike people who has done a lot of evil (Ex: invasion of China) and suffered a lot of misfortune in the past (Ex: nuclear bomb).

At the beginning of the work, the audience places and supports the very controversial character Eren Yäger. However, the more the narrative progresses, the more the audience has trouble knowing who is the villain of the story. Who started it? Who is responsible for the conflict? Should we forget the past or honor the memory of the deceased? These are the themes addressed in this celebrated manga with national and international appeal.

Lone wolf and cub: This manga deals with violence in the samurai world. The story is about a father-son duo who seek revenge for the father of an unfounded disgrace. Relatively violent and faithful to the reality of the time, this manga is known and recognized for its straightforward representation of violence. Fighting, assassination and murder under the guise of a sense of honor this work is a true reference of the seinen type. 

Shojo : best manga for teenage girl

shojo-manga

A shojo manga is literally a manga for girls. Therefore, this genre is opposed to shonen and the target is mainly teenage girls. This kind of work tries to explore the complexity of social relationships as a whole and calling these works has manga of romances seems reductive.

Shojo also deals with the different emotions one experiences when interacting with others. Whether it is friendship, empathy or affection, shojo therefore plays with emotions. Again, it is important to remember that genres and types of manga are different things.

You can find horror shojo works or crime shojo works. Just keep in mind that the targets related to this type of manga are mainly teenage girls.  

Nana: Nana is the first name of the two main protagonists of the story. Indeed, Nana Osaki and Nana Komatsu are two young women in their 20s, who meet on the train on their way to Tokyo.

They get separated when the train arrives, but later meet again when they are both looking for an apartment in the Japanese capital. To do this, they will share a flat, and will form a close friendship and support each other in their various trials that they will have to go through. 

Vampire knight: This is the story of Yuki, a young woman who is attacked by a vampire during a winter night. During her attack, she is rescued by another vampire named Kaname. 10 years later, Yuki, has grown up well and is a guardian of the Cross Academy, a vampire academy.

She has been taken in by the principal of the academy and is in love with her savior, the handsome Kaname. However, the men and the vampires of do not appreciate and the hard-won peace of the academy director is about to break.  

Maid sama: The story takes place in a high school where the enrollment in the various classes is mostly male. Ayuzawa Misaki is the class representative and the main protagonist of the story. She makes reign a military discipline within the premises. Both feared by the boys and much loved by the girls, Ayuzawa has only one rival Usui Takumi: the perennial class leader.

Despite her energy, beauty, and kindness, Ayuzawa is hiding even a secret. She is poor and lives in a dilapidated house. To cope with this situation, she works in addition to classes at a cafe and tries as best she can to hide her double life when Usui catches her at work... ! 

Josei : manga for young women

josei-manga

Like shonen and seinen, josei is manga intended for an adult female audience. Indeed, the readership of manga known as josei is older than that of shojo. Working women or even married the audience of these works is inserted in the Japanese society.

Themes covered are very varied, so it is difficult for this genre to properly define these boundaries. The narrative is more mature, the josei represents relationships that are more true to reality, in short less overdone.

Free: Haruka Nanase is a young man with a passion for swimming. With his various friends, most of whom he met in elementary school, he participates in a swimming tournament, which he easily wins. However, at the end of the year, the four friends split up. Years pass and Makoto, Nagisa and Haruka, find themselves in the same high school.

But Rin the 4th buddy, who incidentally had gone to live on the other side of the planet, resurfaces and challenges Haruka to a swimming race. Afterwards, his two friends propose to the main protagonist to found the Iwatobi swimming club. The goal being to see Rin again, who has joined the rival swimming school.

Paradise kiss: Yukari Hayasaka, is a high school student who is constantly studying for college entrance exams. She is not the type to take time to relax or have fun. After a meltdown, Yukari finds herself in a workshop where several Yaz'Art students are trying to create a clothing collection.

To her surprise, the students ask her to represent their brand ParaKiss and be their model for a fashion show. At first reluctant, Yukari accepts. Her attraction for George, the stylist of the band, does not leave her indifferent. This mysterious protagonist will later make her discover what it is to live with passion.

Kids on the slope: In the 1960s, because of his father's job, high school student Kaoru Nishimi moves to live with relatives on the island of Kyushu.

Until now, Kaoru has been rather lonely, but upon arriving at his new high school, and after meeting his new classmate Sentarou Kawabuchi, a notorious thug, he changes. The story makes us discover that underneath his bully looks, Sentarou Kawabuchi is in fact a jazz enthusiast and makes Kaoru discover the joys of this art! 

Yuri : girls love manga

yuri-manga

In Japan, the relationship to sexuality is not the same as in the West. Indeed, in Japanese society it is easier to address these themes especially in the various literary genres of the archipelago. This is why the type of Yuri manga finds a wide audience in Japan.

Yuri manga deals with homosexuality between female protagonists. We must not confuse yuri and yaoi with manga known as "hentai" which are very clearly works of charms see pornographic. We find in these works relations called homoromantic, between the different characters of female gender. 

Citrus: Yuri manga stories take place mainly in high school. This is also found in Citrus. Indeed,the story begins after the remarriage of Yuzu's mother, the main protagonist of the work.

The latter likes to have fun and is sent to a mainly female high school. In this high school, Yuzu struggles to fit into a traditional student body. Arguments are frequent especially with her new half-sister who is none other than the student council president.

The story becomes more complicated when Yuzu begins to have feelings for her half-sister.

Sweet blue flowers: Like Citrus, the story of sweet blue flowers also takes place in a high school. Indeed, on his first day in high school, Akira finds his childhood best friend named Fumi. Fumi is delighted and satisfied to renew a friendship with Akira.

However, she is also very disappointed because her childhood love has just gotten married. So she is facing several feelings all stronger than each other. It's hard enough as it is, but she also struggles with the fact that her first love was a woman. As the title suggests, this is a very sweet and poignant manga.

Yaoi : boys love manga

yaoi-manga

In Japanese culture the Yaoi is opposed to the Yuri. You will have understood it thus these works of fiction are mainly concentrated on the sentimental relations and  sexual between various male characters.

As we mentioned for the part on the types of Yuri manga, we find this kind of work in Japanese literature as a whole, but also in movies or television.

The target audience of this kind of work is therefore of young men generally homosexual. This type of manga also finds its readership among young women. 

10 count: This manga has had a major following in Japan among the Yaoi readership. The story begins with Shirotani, a young man suffering from mysophobia (fear of being contaminated whatever the germ or disease). 

The head of the company he works for is the victim of an accident. Shocked Shirotani, then meets Kurose, a man who advises him to cure his syndrome. A few days later, Shirotani goes to the clinic and soon realizes that Kurose is one of the psychiatrists working there.

The two young men will from then on form a relationship that will surely go beyond the doctor-patient setting.

Junjo Romantica: Misaki is desperately trying to get into a major university. In order to do so, he wants to improve his grades. Misaki manages as best he can to convince an acquaintance of his older brother, the famous author Akihiko Usami, to tutor him.

But this eccentric man, a true genius adored by his peers, lives alone in a gigantic apartment. Very quickly, he proves to be enterprising. Misaki then discovers the other side of her private teacher, that of a caring and romantic man. 


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