The term manga is used to refer to cartoons and comics created and published originally in Japan. They have a complicated and drawn out pre history and are popular among people of all age groups. They include literally all the genres, be it romance, horror, fiction, suspense, comedy – you name it and it’s there. There have been several translations of manga into other languages, particularly English, thus resulting in a huge audience worldwide. Manga are often seen in manga magazines in Japan, with many stories and presented as a series, continued in subsequent issues. Accordingly, depending on how popular they get, they are printed as separate books or even animated later.
This word has been coined using two Japanese words – ‘man’ which means impromptu and ‘ga’ for pictures. These comics were shaped by two major and almost complementary processes, one being the U.S. Occupation of Japan and what the influence of U.S. culture was while the other being the continuity of cultural and art traditions of Japan. There was a pretty big explosion of creativity in the manga artists, during the period following the war. Black and white colours were commonly used in these cartoons and there was a further increase in its popularity and readership when two separate genres, shonen and shojo were introduced for boys and girls.
The first readers of these stories were males and manga got categorized for them on the basis of age appropriate content. Surprisingly, superheroes like the good old Batman, Superman etc didn’t gain much popularity through manga whereas themes like sports, technology, science fiction and supernatural stories came to be widely appreciated. Later, as censorship was relaxed there, sexual themes came up too, mainly for the male gender though. These comics and cartoons have now come to constitute a sizeable portion of Japan’s economy and a relatively high percentage of the overall book sales as well.
The art on their covers and where they are placed in stores is primarily decided by the gender and age group of the target audience. Manga stories traditionally flow from right to left, though often Western publishers change it outside to the customary left to right direction (called flipping) so as to not create ambiguity among readers in foreign lands. Flipping is sometimes said to contradict what was originally intended by the creator but such issues are trivial if such a practice makes reading easier. To name a few, the well known and much loved Doraemon, Naruto and Dragon Ball are manga series.