What makes a Manga a Manga?

Characteristic of a Japanese manga 

As mention earlier from Osamu Tezuka section, one of many the things that signifies Manga from other comic book types is that it follows a very creative and extremely unorthodox approach to story telling as well as a profound unique style in character and setting design. The other characteristics that make Manga is very distinctive from other comic book styles are such as:

  • Artwork “Character and Setting Design”
  • Storytelling
  • Panel Order
  • Visual Language or Iconography

Iconography plays a huge role in illustrating the significance of Manga. Manga artists use realistic yet cartoonish iconography for expressing emotion and other internal character status.

With regards to appearances, Manga fine art demonstrates characters that just about come to have exegerated eyes size, little mouths, different physical make-ups, and anomalous hairdo and shading. The characters feelings and outward appearances are flawlessly outlined by a one of a kind style in iconography where this style has helped with molding the one of a kind aesthetic traditions that aided in forming the personality of Manga.



Characters in Manga are usually known to show over exaggerated emotions.

Examples when characters cry, they usually pour out in buckets, when they laugh, their faces seems engulfed by the size of their mouths and their eyes become slits. An angry character will have a popping vein, rosy cheeks and steam rolling from around its body. Sometimes these expressions are accompanied with impressionistic backgrounds that best suit the expression they display at that particular scene.



Examples of manga iconography 


Here are some examples of the most common artistic conventions that are used in modern Manga:

  • Pain is denoted with a white cross-shaped bandage symbol.
  • When fighting or glaring at one another, sparks literally fly between the
  • Intense joy or sadness is indicated with tear drops everywhere or forming a fountain.
  • A comical representation of depression or mortification is with a wavy ghost coming out of the mouth.
  • Sleeping people may be indicated by having a bubble coming out of the nose indicates a person sleeping at an inappropriate moment (e.g. during class, at work, outside, in public, in an unusual pose or location, etc.).



Super Deformed Style or Chibi

Further distortion of a character is done in a style known as the Super Deformed Style or Chibi. This style showcases exaggeratedly drawn characters, more often than not with little, tubby, thickset appendages and larger than usual heads. Usually utilized as a part of Manga to sum things up additions to demonstrate an overstated feeling that would be hard to depict or unfitting for that specific character if communicated on a more reasonable face. Intended to be adorable and are frequently utilized as a part of clever redirections from the storyline.


Manga has dependably to a great extent concentrate on character advancement while remote story funnies have a tendency to be subject driven. The perusers can encounter the subject through a procedure of mental recognizable proof with the heroes as in Japanese manga the topic is made clear through the words and activities of the characters.



Japanese Manga is uniquely known to be read from right to left, opposite of Western. This is due to the traditional Japanese writing method which is read and written from right to left. The pages aren’t the only thing to be read from right to left, but you also read the panels and sequences too.

Abroad in foreign countries, the pages are mirrored horizontally before printing the translation, changing the reading direction to a more “Western” left to right, so as not to confuse foreign readers.

Unlike western comics, Manga is usually much smaller in size and are collected in small volumes. In Japan, Manga is first published in Manga magazines that collect different stories. If certain ones get really popular, then the stories are collected and published in a new volume which can be serialized over several years and run into hundreds of chapters when they are released as a standalone book or series or in Japanese term Tankōbons.

Another significant difference between Manga and foreign comics is that manga is mainly printed in black and white due to the reason that printing in colour costs too much and also the fact that Manga issues are published on a weekly basis, thus making it impossible to release a full colour issue in time and maintaining the standard of work. Manga artists usually work in small groups or even alone thus the production rate depends on how fast they can finish their work and the addition of colour would take up a lot of time to meet the weekly basis where in the US, comics are released monthly. Also US comics are known to be graphic novels rather than comics where more emphasis on the art is given attention to.



Examples of Japanese Manga layouts

Layouts in terms of panel structure and order, Japanese Manga layouts has differ significantly from other comic book.



While in foreign countries comic are usually aimed towards a specific target audience, Manga is very different in the sense of them being one of the most diverse in the world of comics where they cover all genres possible and available. Some of these manga are as the following:


Shōnen (少年)


  • Shōnen is the most popular type of Manga in the world.
  • Targeted towards boys between 10 to 18 but is read by all ages and gender.
  • Stories come with a great deal of action and humour.


Shōjo (少女)


  • Shōjo is the sister to Shōnen.
  • Aimed towards girls between 10 and 18.
  • Opposite of Shōnen Manga which tends to be boisterous and action packed.
  • Shōjo is a little slower, tending to focus more on relationships.
  • Have a distinct style that differs from shonen manga such as finer pen lines and complex screen tones.


Seinen (青年)


  • Aimed towards older, more mature audiences and directed towards men.
  • Features characters and story lines that have more realistic properties.


Josei (女性)


  • Aimed towards older, more mature audiences and directed towards women.
  • Josei tend to be more realistic than Shōjo, portraying less idealized romance and more to the day to day life of women.


Kodomomuke “Kodomo” (子供向け)


  • Aimed towards children between 7 to 10.
  • The stories that are often moralistic in order to teach children on how to behave while helping them to stay on the right path in life.




Different Genres of manga

Along with the demographics, genres can easily help you to decide what Manga one would desire. Some of the most common Genres in Japanese manga are Mecha where it involves robots and futuristic settings, Yuri and Yaoi which is the same gender relationship-themed story. As we more forward in time, more genres are introduced to meet the ever demanding demands of manga readers.

Reference and further reading:

Richard Eisenbeis, 2014.How to Identify Anime and Manga Genres. [ONLINE] Available at:http://kotaku.com/how-to-identify-anime-and-manga-genres-1591748882. [Accessed 24 June 2016].


What makes a Manga a Manga?

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