(ed. This is an introduction to a recurring series in which Jenna will write micro-reviews of various Manga titles.)
Manga? What’s that?
For people who grew up with Pokémon, Digimon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Sailor Moon, and other animated series imported from Japan, it isn’t much of a step to take to go from enjoying adventures of animated heroes to reading the graphic novels these series are often based on. For those less familiar with the particular style of art, common tropes, and faced with what seems like a backwards book, manga can seem a little intimidating to get into.
Manga (pronounced mahn-gah) are graphic novels created in Japan, or graphic novels using the same style. Typically, manga read right to left and contain dynamic paneling that encourage quick reading. Manga as an art form is descended from traditional arts of woodblock prints, picture books, and sequential scrolls, as well as a mixing of cultural influences from the West after WWII. Manga has been gaining in popularity in the West largely due to the importing of anime (Japanese animation) as far back as the 1960’s with series like Astro Boy and Speed Racer, up to its boom in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s with series like Pokémon, Sailor Moon, and Dragon Ball Z. As anime proved popular, the manga these series were based on were released, soon followed by other similar series of more and more genres.
So where to start? The good news is, there are a lot of genres of manga to choose from and decades of series to find one that fits your taste! The most common genre split is between shounen (boys’ manga) and shoujo (girls’ manga). Shounen manga tend to be higher in action sequences, have teenage male protagonists, and be goal driven, often with intense rivalries. Shoujo series tend to have teenage female protagonists, more emotional based plotlines, and more focused on relationships (romantic or otherwise). These are not hard and fast rules for either genre, more a trend in themes chosen to appeal to their target audiences, young men or women. If you really have an urge to read about high school boys pursuing their goal to make it to nationals in baseball, then shounen is the genre for you. Same goes for if you want to read about sword fights or someone aiming to be the best ninja. If the dramas of teen romance are more your speed, then shoujo is the way to go. (Though shoujo can also cover series where characters are trying to defeat threats to humanity or work through the psychological suspense of unfolding the mysteries and enemies of a past life, so shoujo is not synonymous with romance.) From those two main genre splits, series can then be narrowed down by what sort of things you might feel like reading.
To learn more about manga or find a good series for you, check out one of these titles available at our library system:
Read On– Graphic Novels: Reading Lists for Every Taste by Abby Alpert
One Thousand Years of Manga by Brigitte Koyama-Richard
Manga: the Complete Guide by Jason Thompson
Other titles on Clevenet:
A Brief History of Manga by Helen McCarthy
100 Manga Artists by TASCHEN Publishing
Mostly Manga by Elizabeth F.S. Kalen
500 Manga Heroes & Villains by Helen McCarthy
Jenna Mansfield is a shelver at the Middlefield Branch. She is currently reading Princess Jellyfish manga by Akiko Higashimura.
Available in the following formats: