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Manga Fan

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Bored of the X-Men? Wondering if the Incredible Hulk is really all that incredible? Archie and the gang's adventures becoming a bit too predictable? Well, there's another type of comic attracting lots of readers across North America. If you like comics, then you should come and check out the exciting world of manga.

Manga comics began in Japan in the late 1940s. In Japan, the word "manga" refers to comics or cartoon strips. The literal translation is "random or whimsical pictures." That's according to the website

Usually drawn in black and white, manga comics are easy to spot on the comic racks. With an explosive, energetic style, manga is often filled with exaggeration. Lots of lines indicating action and huge eyes on the characters are two manga staples.

"The manga artists use more of a masking technique, drawing highly stylized characters against rather realistic backgrounds," says manga fan Chris Walker. "American comic artists generally have very stylized everything."

Dr. Osamu Tezuka is considered the king of manga. In 1945, after watching a war film aimed at children, he was inspired to become a comic book artist. Since then, manga has become one of Japanese pop culture's biggest exports.

Manga often comes in a magazine format, with one volume holding many different comics. These magazines sometimes are longer than 800 pages.

Manga shouldn't be confused with anime. Although the styles are similar, anime is an animated cartoon in the form of a movie or television show. Manga is a printed comic. Often, people take a manga series and make it into an anime movie.

So how does manga differ from traditional North American comics? There are many differences, and manga fans will be happy to fill you in on them.

"Manga is usually about something entirely different than a traditional comic," says Sarah Middleton. She's a manga enthusiast in Kansas. "The humor is different. There are odd little side notes describing actions that go against American culture. The characters act a little strange. There are characters that seem to have no other purpose other than to be cute."

"The drawing style and the direction you read are probably the most obvious [differences]," says Ruby Henao from New York City, who reads manga comics. Most manga reads from right to left, like Japanese writing.

"There's also a sort of formula to manga. Manga usually has certain types of characters. The quiet, sad mysterious one. The brat that loves food and is totally naive and annoying. The one that seems sane, but is rather absent-minded, and keeps the group together. The one who falls for almost, or all, of the girls. There is less text and more pictures, making it faster to read and understand."

A lot of manga does cater to an older crowd, so it's important to get some tips on what titles are suitable for your age group before buying anything.

"It's actually hard to find manga that is aimed at kids, because the industry does not view them as a good expense," says Kathryn Williams. Williams is a manga artist and fan. "There are still a few out there that are good for younger audiences."

There is a bit of a darker side to some manga. But it's this emphasis on reality that makes the comics so appealing. One thing that makes manga less appealing is the price tag that is attached to many of the comics. Reading manga can be an expensive hobby. And manga fans will be the first to admit it.

"Unfortunately, yes," says Middleton. "It's rather expensive, but it's far too addicting to stay away for too long. If you're really poor, I suggest borrowing from a friend before getting your own copy. Of course, some manga owners tend to be rather possessive."

Middleton's half-joking, but there is a certain fanaticism to the manga fan base. What is it about these Japanese comics that make people become so involved in them?

"For me in particular, I fall in love with the characters," says Henao.

"I was tired of mainstream comics that never ended," says Williams. "The fact that Kitty Pryde, from old X-men comics, was 18 when I was 16 and now she is still 18 really bothered me. I needed a story with an ending."

That reality-based aspect of manga is a main drawing point. However, not everyone is so quick to say there's a huge difference between North American and Japanese comics.

"On the surface, everything [is different]," says Middleton. "But below? Nothing. It's quite similar in every way. What makes it so different, then? I think it's the simple energy on the page, created by the angles and dynamics of the characters. That's it, I suppose."

Getting Started

Apart from a bit of money to spend, you won't need anything to become a manga fan -- just a bit of spare time to immerse yourself in the worlds of the characters.

A lot of manga comics include notes from the writers to explain details that may get lost in the cultural jump from Japan to North America, so you don't have to worry about missing out on too much.

Don't forget to ask around a bit first to figure out what series of manga will be suitable for you or the person you're buying manga for. Once you've found some that interest you, get ready to immerse yourself in a whole new world of fun!


They say they're "leading the manga revolution," and they're doing a great job of it

Manga on
Information about the process of manga, interviews with artists, plus a compilation of great manga sites

This is a site focusing on shounen manga, manga for boys

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