A publishing company used to be required in order to produce and print a manga book, with trucks having to deliver them to stores. It is now possible, because of the Internet, to produce manga directly online, bypassing all of the brick-and-mortar steps that used to be required. The Japanese publishers have figured this out; they realized all they need is an editor, copywriter, and translator.
Manga, anime, cartoons, and comics have all been traditionally looked down upon as low culture; indeed the word "comics" implies a format incapable of any kind of high expression.
The most common graphic novel that is used to rebut these claims is the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman, a graphic novel published in 1986, with the sequel published in 1991, that tells the story of Spiegelman's father and his experiences surviving the Holocaust. This graphic novel was the only one to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1992, which helped to gain some legitimacy for the format of the graphic novel.
(click on the image to purchase)
One of the biggest problems in gaining legitimacy for the format is the very word comics. Most of what we read in comics and manga are not comical or humorous. The word "comic" is associated with standup comedians, slapstick comedy, and lowbrow humor.
But "comics", as a form of storytelling, goes back a very long way, all the way back to cave man days.
As language was developed, and manuscripts in ancient books were written, illustration continued to be a very important part of communication.
Examples of this include key drawings by Neanderthal cave men and illustrations found in Incan and Mayan cultures. These illustrations told the story of heroes, battles, and gods, and they were told in sequence in order to tell very deep meaningful stories. These were in effect comic books, but for them, they were the highest form of literature and storytelling.
Above left: One of the most common Mayan art themes painted on Maya vases is the royal audience. The ahau, seated characteristically with legs folded, receives visitors. (image credit www.lost-civilizations.net/mayan-art.html)
Above Right:The Nativity; Harley 2876 courtesy of the British Library (image credit: medieval-manuscripts.blogspot.com)
The appreciation of high art depended on educated taste, intelligence, and social standing. High art was supposed to be respected by everyone, but only the rich and educated were supposed to be able to understand and fully appreciate it. If it was too popular, it must be bad.
If it was popular, it must not be very good, because the masses were not educated like the upper crust of society were, or so the logic went.
The Rise of Pop Culture
The best example of this was the artist Andy Warhol, who deliberately chose to mass-produce silk screened prints of such generic items as Campbell's soup cans, to make the statement that low art, or pop culture, was just as valid as high art such as paintings of the Mona Lisa.
The comic strips created by underground cartoonist Robert Crumb (below) have also been hung in museums and galleries. Ironically, some of these pop-culture pieces are now hanging on the walls of museums, and are valued at millions of dollars.
In short, the people who know the least about art are the ones who make this high art-low art distinction. Like any format, there is bad literature and good literature, but the format of comics and manga is not what defines that.
How many times have you read about someone seeing the face of Jesus or the Madonna on a slice of toast?
A perfect example is Charlie Brown, which has a bare minimum of facial features, but is a character that almost everyone identifies with. The simpler the illustration, the more symbolic it is, and the more meaning that we give it.
The three things which determine facial expression are the eyebrows the eyes and the mouth, because they move. The nose, chin, shape of the head...they do not move, and you cannot tell a person's expression by them.
People often assign emotions to a face where no such emotion exists, because our brain is wired to do just that.
Manga has an extreme level of detail in the backgrounds, but manga faces tend to be extremely simple. The faces have been stripped down to the bare features on purpose. This allows the reader to fill in the blanks on their own. Our brains take in a little bit of information, and fill in the rest.
(image credit: Love-An-Cafe)
They are standing outside. How can you tell? Those scratch marks in the background. What are those? They could be anything.
Our brains tell us the scratch marks represent grass, and our brain fills in the rest. We see an empty lot, or a field.
Manga artists deliberately make their characters symbolic, so that you instantly know who a character is, or what kind of character you're looking at. In manga, the character must be instantly recognizable. For example a shojo heroine has instantly recognizable features, such as big bright eyes, a demure face, a particular type of body and posture, and hardly any nose. The word shojo refers to a young woman approximately 7 to 18 years old.
If you saw an actual human being with a tiny to almost nonexistent nose, they would look like a freak. But in the world of manga it looks perfectly acceptable.
The large eyes in manga and animation have become a fixture since the 1960s, when Osamu Tezuka began drawing them in this way. Tezuka, considered by many to be the godfather of anime, is responsible for such famous anime works as Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and Black Jack. Osamu Tezuka's prolific output, pioneering techniques, and innovative redefinitions of genres earned him such titles as "the father of manga", "the god of comics"and kamisama of manga . Learn more about him HERE.
Research has shown that large, childlike eyes increase the attractiveness of a character, and manga artists use childlike eyes to increase the appeal of their protagonists. In manga eyes you see the eye reflection that exaggerated, regardless of the surrounding lighting.
The lighting of characters who are dead or who have died is darker, and does not have a reflection. People with large eyes in manga are considered more trustworthy, where as the narrower, stereotypical “beady eyes” are associated with distrustful and dishonest characters, such as burglars.
Below is a list of all of various anime and manga genres. as you can see, manga has genres targeting both genders, in all age groups.
The short answer is yes, but be careful of the following:
- Nudity (either sexual or just characters unclothed)
- Sexual humor or situations
- Permanent character deaths - in some storylines, a main character may be killed off, sometimes brutally, without warning and early in the storyline. These characters are not revived to make a happy ending. Such plot points could be upsetting
- Dark or gray areas of morality - Unlike western stories, where main characters are generally either good or evil, some anime have characters that do good deeds but also have less-than-honorable motives as well. A character may help people for a fee, for example, but allow a town of innocent people to get slaughtered because his fee was not paid
- Watch it. Most anime can be found on-line
- Check the back of the DVD case for the age-based rating
- Read reviews of the anime in question
- Ask around, ant anime-based conventions, clubs, on-line forums, comic book stores