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Manga Vision



Cultural and Communicative Perspectives


Glancing at Manga’s Past

Manga , or Japanese comics, are today a globally recognised art form, but they have a rather complex history. Some manga historians emphasise the cultural influence that the USA had on the form, particularly the impact of Disney cartoons and American comics and newspaper strips during the postwar occupation of Japan (see Fusanosuke, 2003; Ōtsuka & LaMarre, 2008). Other historians give more weight to the continuity of Japanese cultural and aesthetic traditions that may be observed in manga (see Schodt, 1986): we may glimpse, for example, the influence of the caricatured drawings featured in an eighth-century temple (Horyuji Temple), or in Toga’s twelfth-century ‘Animal Scrolls’ (Ito, 2005).

As Ito notes (2005), the art of the Tokugawa or Edo period (1603–1868) made for a particularly rich legacy for Japanese comic art, with the emergence of the popular and accessible otsu-e (folk-art pictures, sometimes religious and sometimes satirical in nature), and toba-e (comical scroll pictures from the Kyoto region) and the publication of early akabon, or ‘red books’, which were precursors to modern manga. According to Schodt (1991), manga may be considered a direct descendent of two other forms popularised during this period: kibyoshi, or ‘yellow-jacket books’, which grew out of children’s picture books, and ukiyo-e, or ‘pictures of the floating world’, a genre of popular folk pictures.

Katsushika Hokusai, a famous ukiyo-e artist, is credited with coining the term ‘manga’, which he used for a series of his sketchbooks, published as instructional manuals for artists in the first half of the nineteenth century. Hokusai is particularly well known for his woodblock prints depicting Mount Fuji. In 2013, one of these works, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, was reimagined for the cover of Ian Condry’s book The Soul of Anime, with Unit-01 – a cyborg from Neon Genesis Evangelion, a manga and later an animated series – striding through the great wave. Thus this image depicts a link not only between ukiyo-e and manga, but also between manga and anime. As Condry notes, around 60 per cent of anime is derived from manga. The relationship between the two forms is a theme that Rivera Rusca expands upon in chapter three of this book.

Regardless of how far back we trace manga’s roots, the medium exploded in popularity in the post-war period, largely thanks to the work of prolific manga artists, such as Tezuka Osamu, who created the manga series Astro Boy, which later became the first popular anime series, and Hasegawa Machiko, who created Sazae-san, which would also became one of the most popular animated series on Japanese television (Schodt, 1986). Manga would go on to influence animation, video games, film, the music industry, ‘character goods’, the emoji we use every day on our smart phones, and indeed, much of what belongs to the global phenomenon we now know as Cool Japan.

Viewing Manga in Japan

Manga continues to be an extremely popular medium in Japan, and is read by millions of people of all ages worldwide. A broad array of thematic genres exist, including action/adventure, comedy, history, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction, sport, suspense and even business/commerce (Gravett, 2004). Manga biographies of successful investors Warren Buffett and George Soros, by Ayano Morio (2005) and Kaoru Kurotani (2005) respectively, have been published in English. Dan Pink’s The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need (2008) has been described as ‘America’s first business book in the Japanese comic format known as manga’ (Pink, 2014) and has been translated into Japanese, among other languages. Even the works of Shakespeare have been given new life in the Manga Shakespeare series published in association with Historic Royal Palaces in England and in the Manga de dokuha literary classics series in Japan.

In addition to these thematic genres, there are also broad categories based on the age groups and genders of the target audience. In the 1950s and 1960s, the manga scene solidified into two major marketing genres (Toku, 2005), shōnen, aimed at boys, and shōjo, aimed at girls, which in part drew on Hasegawa’s focus on the daily lives and experiences of women depicted in Sazae-san (Lee, 2000; Gravett, 2004).

Manga Genres and Audiences

Shōnen manga are ostensibly aimed at boys aged ten and above, and an additional category, seinen, targets men of university age or older. However, pinning down manga audience demographics is notoriously difficult and distinctions are often blurred. Shōjo represents a more ‘female-focused’ alternative to shōnen and is generally marketed towards girls aged ten and above, but shōnen manga also has a substantial female readership. Shōjo manga, like shōnen, has an adult counterpart: josei, or ladies’ manga, is typically read by women aged fifteen to forty-four (Ito, 2003). Yet the most popular seinen manga magazine, Young Magazine, with an approximate circulation of 725,000 copies, while still not as popular as the bestselling shōnen magazine, sells approximately five times as many copies as the most popular josei manga magazines (three josei magazines claim circulation of approximately 150,000 copies) (JMPA, 2012). Sales of the top shōnen (Weekly Jump at 2,890,000 copies) and shōjo magazines (Ciao at 654,584 copies) also considerably outstrip any of the josei magazines, as outlined in Sell and Pasfield-Neofitou (see chapter fourteen).

Finally, we have kodomo manga, which is aimed at young children (often below the age of ten). It represents another important genre alongside shōnen and shōjo. Two of the most prestigious manga awards include specific awards for kodomo. The Kodansha Manga Award distributes awards according to the categories of children, shōnen, shōjo and ‘general’. Similarly, the Shogakukan Manga Award uses the categories children [jido], boys [shōnen], girls [shōjo] and general [ippan]. The ippan award was originally called the seinen award. A separate josei award appears not to have existed.

The late 1960s saw the first major group of female mangaka [manga artists] enter the Japanese comics scene. These artists became known as the Year 24 Group (for the group’s most common year of birth according to the Japanese calendar). Its artists include Yamagishi Ryoko (Arabesque), Ikeda Riyoko (The Rose of Versailles), Hagio Moto (The Poe Family) and Takemiya Keiko (Kaze to Ki no Uta) – the ‘founding mothers’ of the ‘boys’ love’ genre – and Oshima Yumiko (The Star of Cottonland), who is credited with popularising the ‘catgirl’ character type, a human female character with feline traits, such as a cat’s tail and ears.

Manga in the Japanese Media Landscape

Most manga are published initially in manga magazines that contain instalments from several series, alongside one-shot and four-panel comic strips (yonkoma). Manga magazines normally consist of a large stack of low-quality paper with monochrome printing, their hundreds of pages better resemble a bulky phonebook than a glossy magazine. After a popular series has run for a while, these stories are often collected into dedicated book-sized volumes known as tankōbon, similar to trade paperbacks or graphic novels in the USA and elsewhere. Most manga published outside of Japan take a similar format to tankōbon, although they are occasionally published in a slightly larger size.

The influence of manga can be seen not only in bookshops, but also in other institutions in Japan. The most common form of Japanese cultural institution dedicated to manga is the manga library and, of course, general libraries in Japan also frequently incorporate manga into the their collections (Toshokan Mondai Kenkyūkai, 1999, as cited in Ito, Tanigawa, Murata, & Yamanaka, 2013c). Private manga libraries are accessible in manga kissa, or manga cafés, which serve as a space for fans to read manga. Proprietors charge customers for the amount of time they spend in the café and may offer snack vending machines, beverages, Internet access and even reclining chairs and shower facilities for those who want to stay overnight. Similar establishments can be found in Korea’s manhwabang and have recently opened in Europe. In Australia, Monash University’s JSC Manga Library, modelled on the manga kissa concept, caters for both educational and entertainment needs (Taiyaki, 2007), and celebrated ten years of operation in 2012 (Sell, 2012).

A number of other cultural and scholarly institutions in Japan pay homage to manga. It is estimated that some fifty to sixty manga museums exist in Japan (Tanigawa, 2013). The Takarazuka City Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum, which opened in Takarazuka city in 1994, was a pioneer in the field. A number of cities followed its lead and established museums honouring their own homegrown talents (Tanigawa, 2013). Tanigawa identifies a second boom, which concerns expectations surrounding the notion of Cool Japan and government initiatives to further promote and enhance Japan’s soft power. The Kyoto International Manga Museum is one example of a prominent institution intended to incorporate the dual functions of library and museum, and conceived of as a facility to collect, manage and organise manga for research purposes (Ito, Tanigawa, Murata, & Yamanaka, 2013a). There are a multitude of institutions relating to manga in Japan and they deal with the medium in various ways. Some are galleries that treat manga as original artworks; some are museums that treat manga and related materials as historical artefacts; ‘manga artist memorial halls’ celebrate a particular local figure (Ito, Tanigawa, Murata, & Yamanaka, 2013a). Surveys of visitors to the Tezuka museum revealed that the museum is viewed as both a social educational facility and as a theme park of sorts (Ito, Tanigawa, Murata, & Yamanaka, 2013b).

Manga exhibitions have been staged in galleries, manga museums and even department stores in Japan. These events were more or less well established by the early 2000s, but it was perhaps not until Inoue Takehiko’s work was exhibited in the Ueno Royal Museum in Tokyo in 2008 that contemporary artists and their works were prominently featured (Tanigawa, 2013). In recent years, this specialised interest in manga has spread out from Japan (Tanigawa, 2013). In 2009, European museums featured manga in two large-scale events. London’s British Museum hosted ‘Manga: Professor Munakata’s British Museum Adventure’ (Sell and Pasfield-Neofitou elaborate on this in chapter fourteen), and Paris’s Musée de Louvre hosted ‘Cartoons: The Louvre Invites Comic-Strip Art’. To exhibit comics – viewed by many as a diversion meant for children – in such revered venues as the British Museum and the Louvre is to challenge the distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture (Tanigawa, 2013) and it demonstrates the value manga has come to hold, not only in Japan, but around the world.

Spotting Manga on a Global Scale

Over the past few decades, manga’s popularity has spread throughout Asia and to the West. Companies like MadMan Media and Viz Media distribute both translated Japanese manga and Original English Language (OEL) manga in mainstream bookstores. In Japan, the market for manga is estimated to be worth US$5.5 billion annually (Syed, 2011), and significant markets are emerging in Europe and the Middle East (combined, worth around $250 million annually), and the USA (valued at US$120 million) (Davidson, 2012). A surge of Asian interest in red wine from Bordeaux has been attributed by the New York Times international edition to a Chinese translation of The Drops of God, a Japanese manga series about the son of a famous wine critic (Vorndick, 2014). A vast manga fan culture – expressed in costume play (cosplay) events, conventions, fan fiction, fan art (including dōjinshi) and unauthorised sharing practices – has contributed to a transnational manga culture and language.

The artistic style of manga has been a significant influence on Western comic books and cartoons in recent years. American comics giant Marvel, for example, has looked at giving more creative control to local artists in Asia in recent years, given manga’s stranglehold on the medium (Syed, 2011). Hakuhodo market research cited by Syed (2011) shows that more than 60 per cent of comic books sold in Taiwan are manga, while sales of Western comics make up about 10 per cent. A recent survey of children’s programming on Australian broadcast television showed that three out of the six half-hour timeslots on one popular free-to-air channel were held by Japanese animations – Beyblade, Bakugan and Pokémon – while a fourth slot featured Redakai, a seemingly Japanese-inspired production (Pasfield-Neofitou, 2013).

According to Hyoe Narita, the president of Viz Media, the top manga titles in Europe include One Piece, Naruto, Detective Conan, Fairy Tail, Dragon Ball and Ranma ½, all similarly popular in Japan and the USA according to a CNN blog (Davidson, 2012). As the blog observes, these manga are all shōnen, or boys’ manga. While shōjo, or girls’ manga, has not been as popular as shōnen with Japanese or Western audiences, recent exhibitions such as Shojo Manga! Girl Power! in the USA and Canada, in 2007, and The World of Girls’ Manga in Australia, in 2012, have highlighted the ‘unique richness’ of shōjo manga art (Iwashita, 2011). Japanese manga’s focus on a female audience is often viewed as filling a gap in comics in Western countries (particularly in the USA). In recent years, a number of female-oriented ‘boys’ love’ titles achieved popularity in the West (see Davidson, 2012) (see also chapter five and chapter seven). Around the time of the Shojo Manga! Girl Power! exhibition, shōjo manga was described as one of the ‘fastest growing segments of publishing in the US’ (Toku, 2008, p. 15).

Comics influenced by manga exist in various parts of the world, including Taiwan, China and Hong Kong’s manhua and South Korea’s manhwa (see Zulawnik in chapter thirteen of this book). In France, La nouvelle manga has developed as a form of French bande desinée comic (Boilet, 2010).

Manga’s influence as an art form has been described as a great contributor to Japan’s soft power or ‘gross national cool’ (McGray, 2002), and is even viewed as a major contributor to many students’ desire to study the Japanese language (The Japan Foundation, 2011; see also Lee & Armour in chapter ten of this book). As a result, manga has begun to receive academic attention in recent years. However, much exploration of the links between image and language, comics and manga, ‘Japanese’ and ‘non-Japanese’ manga remains to be undertaken.

Manga under the Scholarly Microscope

In addition to our ability to appreciate manga through the library, the museum, the manga café, fan practices, translations and reinterpretations, we can also view it from an academic perspective: Manga Studies is rapidly becoming an established area of scholarly enquiry. In 2006, Kyoto Seika University established its Faculty of Manga, where many of the professors are established mangaka, or comic book artists. One of their major projects is the Genga’ (Dash) project, in collaboration with the University’s International Manga Research Centre. The artists made use of computerised fine colour adjustment and printing to create detailed reproductions of original manga artwork for public display (Takemiya, 2011). The resulting reproductions were exhibited in Shinjuku, Tokyo, in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the project in 2011, and in Melbourne, Australia, at Monash University’s JSC Manga Library in celebration of library’s tenth anniversary in 2012 (with the support of the Japanese Studies Association of Australia, The Japan Foundation and the Kyoto International Manga Museum).

In museums, galleries and universities, manga is being studied for its cultural and artistic properties. The study of manga provides a valuable context for the contemplation of fan practices (see chapters one, three and five), the nature of ‘Japaneseness’ (see chapter two), morality (see chapter four) and readers’ relationships with the manga medium (see chapters six and seven). One recent volume examines manga’s hybrid culture through a special focus on the popular manga franchise Naruto (Berndt & Kümmerling-Meibauer, 2013).

Scholars have also turned their attention to the linguistic properties of manga, including manga literacy among native speakers of Japanese (Nakazawa, 2002; 2004; 2005) and among learners (see chapter ten). As previously mentioned, the ability to better understand manga and anime in their original Japanese is a motivation frequently cited by students of Japanese. Indeed, manga is actively used as a tool for Japanese language acquisition, an idea pioneered by the journal Mangajin (Simmons, 1988–1998), and adopted by a number of subsequent books (Bernabe, 2004; Lammers, 2004). It is also used to teach English. In chapter eleven of this book, Promnitz-Hayashi examines of the use of manga to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL), in an innovative approach that locates manga firmly in the global sphere and explores international and linguistic boundaries. Similarly, Aoyama and Kennett, in chapter eight, and Robertson, in chapter nine, explore linguistic and typographic depictions of foreign languages and foreign-language speakers in manga.

Language in manga has been the subject of two other foci: the translation of manga (see chapters seven, thirteen and fourteen) and the use of manga as a source for linguistic data (see chapter twelve for an introduction, see also chapters eight and fourteen). Given manga’s globalisation, it is ideal for researching translation, and as chapter twelve demonstrates, its meticulous depiction of dialogue makes manga a potential source of language data in difficult to research circumstances like conflict. These examples demonstrate the ways in which research on manga not only contributes to our understanding of the medium, but also enriches our understanding of communication in general.

The Many Lenses of Manga Vision

Manga Vision is divided into two main themes: cultural perspectives and communicative perspectives. However, each chapter deals with both of these themes to some extent. The first section explores manga as an expansive medium through which personal identities and group cultures are expressed and developed. The section explores appropriations of Japanese manga aesthetic for personal uses by both individuals and reader fan groups, and in turn, the ownership and expansion of manga culture internationally. The chapters in section two examine linguistic expression and communication in manga, treating manga as a multi-modal medium through which to understand, learn and interact. It examines how Japanese and other languages are depicted in manga, the interplay between language and visuals, and the use of manga as a resource for teaching and research.

As well as presenting readers of this book with the perspectives of its contributing authors, a mix of international scholars and emerging researchers, on the under-explored field of manga, Manga Vision also provides readers with a unique multimedia experience. The hyperlinks and QR codes (quick response 3D printed barcodes) used throughout the volume invite you to explore a number of online components. Readers can view photographs of manga fans’ actual cosplay practices, see examples of original manga artwork commissioned especially for this volume, listen to musical compositions inspired by the popular ‘boys’ love’ genre of manga and access an extensive database of manga sound effects. Manga is a deeply intertextual medium, combining language and visuals, and Manga Vision aims to be the same.

Manga Vision is a highly international collection of scholarship, comprising chapters from authors based in Japan, Australia and Europe. The foci of the chapters are equally diverse. Several authors look at the influence of manga in Japan, while others examine its influence on Japan-Korea relations and interactions between Japanese and Western cultures (particularly Australia and North America). The international impact of manga via translation and OEL manga is another areas of focus, as is the use of manga in language learning. The authors of Manga Vision also take a number of approaches in addressing their subjects: theoretical/background (Bell; Moreno Acosta; Rivera Rusca), methodological (Aoyama & Kennett; Promnitz-Hayashi; Tanaka), empirical (Baudinette; Langsford; Turner), as well as professional and practice-based (Lee & Armour; Sell & Pasfield-Neofitou; Smith; Zulawnik;). Together, we invite you to view manga through the lenses of sociology, literary studies, journalism, ethics, ethnography, queer studies, musical composition, linguistics, education and translation.

Online Multimedia Component

Manga Vision is enhanced with a variety of online multimedia components via the Manga Studies website, including a gallery of cosplay photos, music files, teaching resources, and a sound effects glossary.

Visit or scan the below QR code. Relevant chapters with accompanying online materials will all have a QR code provided.


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Berndt, J, & Kümmerling-Meibauer, B. (Eds.). (2013). Manga’s cultural crossroads. New York: Routledge.

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Davidson, D. (2012, January 26). Manga grows in the heart of Europe. CNN. Retrieved from

Gravett, P. (2004). Manga: Sixty years of Japanese comics. London: Laurence King Publishing.

Ito, K. (2003). The world of Japanese ladies’ comics: from romantic fantasy to lustful perversion. The Journal of Popular Culture, 36, 68–85.

Ito, K. (2005). A history of manga in the context of Japanese culture and society. The Journal of Popular Culture, 38, 456–475.

Ito, Y., Tanigawa, R., Murata, M., & Yamanaka, C. (2013a). Visitor survey at the Kyoto International Manga Museum: Considering museums and popular culture. In Ryuichi Tanigawa (Ed.), Cias discussion paper no.28: Manga comics museums in Japan: Cultural sharing and local communities (pp. 15–27). (C. Sell, Trans.). Kyoto: Center for Integrated Area Studies, Kyoto University.

Ito, Y., Tanigawa, R., Murata, M., & Yamanaka, C. (2013b). Visitor survey at the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum: Do manga museums really promote regional development? In Ryuichi Tanigawa (Ed.), Cias discussion paper no.28: Manga comics museums in Japan: Cultural sharing and local communities (pp. 29–41). (C. Sell, Trans.). Kyoto: Center for Integrated Area Studies, Kyoto University.

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Manga Vision

   by Sarah Pasfield-Neofitou and Cathy Sell