History of Manga
Manga (漫画) means “random or whimsical pictures” when literally translated. Its history in the modern era stems from woodblock printed books. Notable periods in its history included the rise of militarism in the 1930’s, where the tone of manga produced was highly nationalistic. Post World War II saw the rise of Osamu Tezuka, father of manga. In the 1970s, we witnessed the crossing over of manga to animated form i.e. anime. This was the response to an underdeveloped live action industry in Japan, with Osamu Tezuka again at the forefront.
Manga vs Comics
To understand manga, one way of looking at it would be to compare it to American style comics. In general, manga are printed not so much for collection but for reading. The magazines are much thicker and often compared to telephone books, while the emphasis is not on keeping them for future increases in value, but are often read and thrown away (after sharing it with friends). In spite of being several times thicker, pricing is still very low. First of all, printing is done on cheap, recycled paper. Secondly, the comics are often in black and white and not in color, further saving on printing costs.
In addition, these magazines often have a large variety of manga in each edition. What makes the manga industry unique is the easy ability for readers to provide feedback on which manga they liked the best. In a sense, this is the world’s largest focus group. With such large amounts of consumer input, the industry is able to pick and choose the most popular ones to serialize into books, where they can make even more money at little cost.
Another unique factor is manga’s “simpler” drawing style. While American comics often have tremendous detail in each panel, manga usually has plainer pictures with simpler designs – the focus is not so much on the detail of each panel but on the actions. Each panel is akin to a camera shot and hence comes together to form a very lively action sequence with a strong kinetic quality.
Last but not least, anyone can be an anime artist. Stories abound of people drawing their own manga to publish and sell, while several famous artists have their roots in massivc manga exhibitions, where they hawked their own manga. The result with this manga obsession in Japan is that over 1.3 billion manga are published every year, or about 30% of all books published in Japan every year.
Naming the most popular manga/anime is an exhausting process in some ways. First of all, there are hundreds of them to discuss, far more than can be discussed in detail. Furthermore, the popularities of the top anime change ever year, depending on what is the latest hit. Nonetheless, TV Asahi publishes an annual list of Japan’s 100 most popular TV anime.
The second unique thing is that the 3 entertainment platforms, manga, anime and video games are inextricably linked. Popular manga end up crossing over to anime and then to video games, or vice versa. Listed below are some of the manga/anime we featured in class:
• First published in Shonen Jump (1999)
• Ranked Japan’s 17th favorite anime
• Ninja with demon trapped within him
Ghost in the Shell
• Ranked Japan’s 45th favorite anime
• Inspired The Matrix
• First appeared on Manga in 1969, Anime in 1973
• Spread throughout Asia
• 31st most popular Anime in Japan
• Robotic cat that travels back in time
• First appeared in Shonen Jump (1984)
• Manga/Anime/ Games
• 12th most popular
• Monkey-tailed boy who fights many battles
Full Metal Alchemist
• Since February 2002
• Most popular Anime in Japan
• 2 brothers in fictional world hoping to become alchemists
• Started off as computer game (1995)
• 43rd most popular
• 2nd best selling video game franchise ever
• Based on insect collecting
• Anime follows Pokemon Master Ash
A word about video games. It is evident that the art was inspired by manga/anime. Take the classic computer game, Super Mario Brothers. The damsel in distress, Princess Peach, looks like she could come straight out of a manga cartoon.
Similarly, it could be said that the popular role-playing video game series Final Fantasy is really an interactive anime. With their funky, colored hair and big eyes, the characters out of the series won’t look out of place in manga or anime.
Osamu Tezuka (1928 – 1989)
Known as the “father of manga,” Osamu Tezuka is credited for 150,000 pages drawn, 400 paperbacks and 500 titles of all works. He is known for having a unique star system, where certain characters will constantly reappear in numerous comics. He is also credited for introducing the large eye style, while his comics have been known to have a philosophical side to it, as is the case with Phoenix.
The Simba/Kimba Controversy
In 1994, Disney released The Lion King, a story about Simba, a lion born to the king of the jungle. In many ways, it was similar to Osamu Tezuka’s Kimba the White Lion. First of all, both had coming of age plots about young lions who were seeking to take their rightful places as king of the jungle. There were also similar villains and wise baboons. Most importantly, they had strikingly similar visuals. Most of the visuals that I pulled out for the presentation can be found here.
The site itself also has other examples where Disney referred to Kimba in spite of claims that they had never head of it before. Most of them however are much harder to substantiate, so I stuck to the visuals.
Also, below you can find links to the opening sequences of Kimba the White Lion and The Lion King, so you can see some more of the striking similarities.
The conclusion we can draw seems to be that Disney in all likelihood knew about Kimba. The incidents and visuals are too uncanny to be attributed to pure coincidence. Schodt pointed out the differences in copyright enforcement in Japan and America, and this could probably explain Disney’s hardball attitude towards acknowledging their inspiration.
– Brian O