I keep hearing about Manga and how popular it is with kids, however, this is not a format I am familiar with. Join me in discovering what Manga is, why it is so popular, why you should have it in your library and what is popular in Manga with kids today.
A short History of Manga
Seen as the origin of what is today known as Manga is sequential art such as the Choju jinbutsu Giga (Caricature of animals and people) by Buddhist monks of the 12th century.
Todays Manga was additionally influenced by American comic strips which were brought to Japan in the 19th century. The word or name Manga was first coined by artist Hokusai Katsuhika and means whimsical pictures or sketches (Brenner, 2007). The artist known as the Grandfather of Japanese Comics, Tezuka Osamu began his work in the 1950s. He pioneered the idea of the extended storyline and is the first to have adapted his work into a TV show with Astro Boy in 1963 (Brenner, 2007). It was in the 1950s that Manga aimed at the adult market began to be published, in these, men were set as the hero instead of boys and adult stories were told. Female manga creators came to the fore in the 1960-70s with more stories being written for girls and women. Manga first began to appear in the US in the 1970s and by the 1990s had a substantial fan base. It was in the 1990s that the publisher Tokyopop began publishing equal amounts of stories aimed at boys and girls (Brenner, 2007).
In finding information for this post, I found out that during my school years I watched two cartoons on TV that were Manga! I never know I had encountered Manga before. You may also know these cartoons – Kimba the White Lion (created in 1954 and known outside of the US as Jungle Emperer) and Astro Boy (created in 1952) these were both created by Tezuka Osamu.
Why is Manga so popular and why is it important to have in your Library
Manga is a style of Japanese comic books and graphic novels that are written across a number of genres appealing to both boys and girls as well as men and women. Manga written for the younger male audience are known as shonen while those written for young females is shoujo. Topics include: action-adventure, romance, sports and games, historical drama, humor, science fiction and fantasy, mystery, suspense, detective and horror among others.
Manga appeals to readers of all levels and holding a Manga collection in your library can draw reluctant readers into the library (Brenner, 2007). In talking with a teacher-librarian friend I mentioned Manga and she stated as Brenner had pointed out that having them in the library had drawn in the reluctant readers which led to them then moving on to other books. Ujiie and Krashen, 1996 (as cited in Krashen, 2005) state that “In our study, we found that middle school boys who read comic books read more in general than boys who did not read comics, read more books, and enjoyed reading more.”
Pinning down why Manga is popular has been difficult. I think it lies in the range of genres it covers and the ease with which it can be read by readers of all ability.
Brenner’s book Understanding Manga and Anime (2007) which I have used as a basis for this post is a fantastic guide to all things Manga. Manga is written in Japan for the Japanese market and based around Japanese culture, this book explains some of the terms, actions and emotions which western readers may not understand. It is a guide to the history and format of Manga and Anime books and gives information on how to determine intended audiences and information on maintaining collections. The intended audience for the book is readers new to the format, parents and librarians.
What is popular in Manga today?
Here are a few website links to popular titles in Manga today, alternatively – ask your students or local Manga bookseller what they/teens are reading at the moment.
Manga Top 100 Most Popular – Anime News Network
Manga Comics: Where to Start – The Guardian
San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Best and Worst Manga Picks – Manga Comics Manga
Brenner, R. (2007). Under standing Manga and Anime. Westport: Libraries Unlimited.
Krashen, S. (2005). The” decline” of reading in America, poverty and access to books, and the use of comics in encouraging reading. The Teachers College Record.