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Comics: Japanese Manga vs American Comics

What are the main differences between Japanese manga (comics) and American comics?

There is a big difference in artistic styles between manga, which is more stylized (exaggerated), and American comics, which tend to be more “realistic.” There are also quite a few serious differences between the two types of comics. Some of the differences, just to mention a few of them, are cost, creation, diversity of audiences and genres, presentation, and even size.

Manga’s creation, as well as its presentation, is quite different from American Comics. Manga is printed in black and white format, while American comics are most of the time in full color. Also, when you look at a Graphic Novel or Manga you will notice a difference in size. The manga is typically smaller than traditional American comics, generally the size of an abstract and about one-half to one-third the size of American comics. But where American comics are generally thin like a small magazine, at about 32 pages, Manga comics are thick and can be hundreds of pages long.

In page count, Manga is quite similar to graphic novels, which are often just collections of the ongoing American comics. But unlike American graphic novels, which are generally just a collection of monthly comics in a single unified story or story arc, Manga books are often part of an even larger story, and an entire Manga story can occupy thousands of pages.

Another difference between traditional American comics is that mainstream American comics are often created on some kind of assembly line. They have a writer (short story), a cartoonist (initial sketch), an inker (uses a pen to ink the sketch), a marker (adds dialogue), and a colourist (colors the inked sketch). Most Manga books are made by a single creator, who combines all those tasks (except coloring).

Also, Manga stories generally move at a much faster pace. Due to the high number of pages, one reads a Manga book at a fast pace. Manga books almost always have fewer panels and less dialogue (ramblings) per page than American comics. The price of Manga is also more than the average for a comic and a bit more than a standard paperback novel, the small size of the Manga and the printing in black and white instead of full color keep the cost low. The lack of color is compensated when you consider the development of the story you will have with the number of pages you have.

In Japan, manga is not considered just for children, unlike the American stereotype. There is practically a Manga for everyone. That said, there are three main genres in Japanese manga: Shonen Manga (comics for boys), Shojo Manga (comics for girls), and Hentai (comics for adults).

Shonen Manga is more or less comics that are primarily action and / or adventure oriented. If you want to see some examples of that genre, I recommend “Bleach” and / or “Full Metal Alchemist”. Shojo Manga is for the opposite sex; they are often about relationships and / or love interests. Note that while a particular genre is aimed at a certain audience, it is not limited to just that audience (unless otherwise noted). Finally, Hentai Manga, I won’t go too deep into this as it is primarily for adults and NOT suitable for children (just to be safe in case a child is reading this). Regardless, Hentai Manga is sometimes sexually explicit and / or adult-themed. In other words, don’t buy this for your child.

The next time someone asks you what is the difference between Manga and [American] comics, you can surprise them with your knowledge.

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