S is for “Shonen” - On Manga
Katie here, and it's my turn for nerdy post for Mom’s blog. Those of you that know me are probably aware of my long-standing obsession with manga. But what is manga?
The term ‘manga’ generally refers to comics made in Japan. The word translates to “whimsical drawings.” Manga as we know it today got its start roughly around WWII, but early forms of it have been seen as far back as the eleventh century.
Comics and cartoons are viewed very differently in Japan than in America. In America, comics are primarily for children. Not so in Japan. Manga is a large part of Japanese culture and is read by all ages. It’s not uncommon to see a grown businessman catching up on his favorite series on his way to work. Anime (animated cartoons based off the manga style.) takes prime time spots on major television networks.
Format and Publishing
In Japan, writing actually read right to left, so manga is of course formatted that way, too. It takes some getting used to for us westerners. Some English publishers do occasionally flip them over, but many argue that this disrupts the overall flow of the comic. (Besides, read enough manga, you may accidentally find yourself reading western comics this way, too. I know I have.)
In addition to reading format, manga differs drastically in the creation process than most American comics. In the U.S., comics are made by a team of artists, and multiple writers, for any given issue. But with manga, it’s usually just the one guy, with one or two assistants working in the background. He’s often the one writing the story, too.
Most manga is published in magazine anthologies, one chapter at a time, on a weekly or monthly basis. Chapters typically run 20-40 pages each in a given issue. These chapters are then gathered in to a collection, called tankoban volumes.
Manga is known for having in depth, complex plots and, most especially, three dimensional characters. You can find a series for pretty much any genre: Fantasy, sci-fi, slice of life, romance, mystery, horror, sports, and the list goes on. I believe there’s even one about cooking…
In addition to many different genres, there are also several different types of manga:
Shonen: (Boys manga.) These stories tend revolve around action or sports. But series of other genres do quite well.
|Fullmetal Alchemist is my personal favorite.|
Seinen: (Manga for men) Like shonen, stories are often action or sports related, but tends to cover far more mature themes.
Josei: (Manga for Women) Often features more realistic (and mature) romance than the whimsical plots in shojo. But a few of the more recent titles have been mistakenly labeled as shone.
Kodomo: (manga for children) Most of these works have a moralistic theme to them as they try to teach children how to be a good person.
Probably the most recognizable feature of the manga style is the large expressive eyes of the characters. Manga artist typically employ various artistic symbols to make emotions more pronounced. For example, a sweat drop on the head is used to signal annoyance or tiredness.
Most manga is not drawn in full color, but in black ink and hard, clean lines and added “screentones” for the shading.
|Lots of screentones here.|
|Lots of speed lines are used in action scenes.|
Well, that’s manga in a nutshell. I hope this was helpful.