The term manga
was created by the artist Hokusai, a prolific artist who lived from
1760-1849 and left over 30,000 works. He was the creator of the
woodblock The Great Wave, his most famous picture and the
one most closely identified with traditional Japanese art. His new
term for some of his artwork was made of the words "man,"
meaning "in spite of oneself," "lax" or "whimsical,"
The first examples
of what might be called "manga" were picture scrolls created
during the 6th and 7th centuries by Buddhist monks. The scrolls
ran continually, using common symbols such as cherry blossoms and
red leaves to indicate the passage of time.The most famous of these
works is Choujuugiga, meaning "animal scrolls",
a work that depicted animals behaving like humans and satirized
In the early
17th century, woodblock prints gained popularity. The most popular
ones were called ukiyo-e, portraits of the "floating world."
These illustrations were generally salacious images of scenes from
the red-light district, though they also depicted the age's pleasures,
such as the latest outfits and the most popular places to visit.
In the late
18th century, kibyoushi, or "yellow-covers," gained popularity.
These were stories for adults where the dialogue and text were placed
around illustrations. They contained a wide variety of subjects
and were frequently contriversal - more than one kibyoushi was banned
for satirizing the authorities.
was opened to the outside world, European artists introduced shading,
perspective and anatomy. They also introduced word balloons and
separate sequences. Also, new printing techniques were introduced
at this time that were more efficent than woodblock prints. Under
European influence, Japanese started making humor magazines similar
to Punch, the most famous of which was Marumaru Chimbun
At the end
of 19th century, the first comic strips appeared in John Pulitzer's
New York World. Comics of this type appeared in Japanese
newspapers soon after and quickly became extremely popular, and
Japanese comic artists flourished. But during the late 1920s and
early 1930s, the Japanese government started intimidating artists
and publishers. Many magazines either closed or started censoring
themselves harshly; magazines who did neither frequently had their
editors arrested. These types of arrests happened so often that
magazines would sometimes pick an employee to be a "jail editor"
who would have the honor of taking the punishment and saving his
World War II
brought this sort of treatment to its logical conclusion. Some cartoonists
already believed in what the government were doing; many were forced
into tenkou, or a sort of forced conversion. Those who cooperated
were greatly rewarded, and those who didn't cooperate were punished
with detentions, ostracized and forbidden to write. Artists who
had spent their entire careers criticizing the government suddenly
changed their tune. During the war, cartoonists would produce three
basic types of strips: single-panel strips about Japan's enemies,
family comic strips that portrayed home life during a war, and propaganda.
War II, cartoons flourished. The publishers who had been powerful
before the war were now in shambles, which allowed many tiny new
companies to grow. These tiny companies published extremely cheap
comics called "red books." One of the red book artists
was a medical student named Tezuka Osamu.
comic was called Shintakarajima, or New Treasure Island.
He would later write that he felt that "existing comics were
so I began to use cinematic techniques." The
results were novel and exciting, as well as extremely popular. He
experimented with all sorts of genres, creating classics like Tetsuwan
Atomu, or "mighty atom" (known as Astro
the United States) in 1952, and Ribon
or Princess Knight, in 1953, which is generally regarded
as the first modern girls' comic. Other artists, inspired by him,
started telling their own stories through manga. The first weekly
magazine completely devoted to comics was Shounen Magazine,
which debuted in 1959. By the mid-1960s the manga industry started
settling in its present form, with magazines catering to all types
In 1956, Toei
Animation was founded. Its president, Hiroshi Okawa, wanted to create
a Japanese film studio comparable to Disney. Its first film, The
Tale of the White Serpent, was released in 1958. It, and the
next few films the studio released, paved the way for more mature
animation. Shortly after, Tezuka Osamu founded his own animation
company, focused on creating movies and series for TV. His Tetsuwan
Atomu became the first real animated series for Japanese television.
those early Japanese artists think of today's manga industry? What
would they think of the lavish movies and television series made
out of them? Would they be dazzled by the giant robots, or confused
by salaryman heroes? Perhaps, instead, they would feel completely
at home among these "whimsical pictures."
Frederik L. Schodt, Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics, Kodansha America, LTD, NY, NY 1983
Gilles Poitras, The Anime Companion, Stone Bridge Press, Berkeley, CA 1999
Andreas Ramos, Hokusai and Japanese Art, 2000, http://www.andreas.com/hokusai.html
Matt Thrn, A History Of Manga (Part 1), 1996, http://www.ky.xaxon.ne.jp/~matt/history1.html
Howard Hibbett, The Floating World in Japanese Fiction, Books for Libraries Press, Freeport, NY 1959
Manga et cetera, 1999, http://www.anthy.com/lumina/manga/index.html
Punch was a Western-style humor magazine published from
1862 to 1887.
Atomu, or Astroboy as it was called in the United
by Tezuka Osamu