Illustrated stories are an important part of Japan's historical art, as moralists, philosophers, comics and others informed their audience on scrolls with plate images depicting scenes in the story. Manga, as a distinct publishing and illustration style, began during the occupation of Japan after WWII, and the illustration of characters (many if not most manga characters are drawn with European facial features) as well as the stories themselves strongly displayed the American influence from American TV and the comic books brought to Japan by US GIs. Astro Boy, by Osamu Tezuka, was one of the first and most popular manga, and remains popular today. Throughout most of its production, Manga has targeted teen boys and young men (shonen) from 8 to 18. However, since the late 70s, manga has found fans with young girls (shojo style), and there are even genres geared towards young to middle-aged adult men (seinen), and women (josei).
The origins of manga can be traced back to the tobae (鳥羽絵), which were comical and fantastic scroll pictures made by Toba Sōjō, depicting animals frolicking as if they were human. Toba Sōjō (1053 - 1140), also known as Kakuyû, was the 47th head priest of the Enryakuji Temple. The tobae are considered to be oldest form of manga and Toba Sōjō as the very first mangaka in Japanese History.
Style and Topics
Distinctive characteristics include oversized eyes and tiny mouths and noses. A more detailed explanation of the various manga genres can be found under Anime.
Topics range from classical manga stories of space, super heroes, and robots to stories of very adult focused high school memories (Honey and Clover), slapstick high school comedies. There is even a manga about Bread Making (Yakitate Japan), Japanese Chess (Shion no Ou), and microbes (Moyshimon).
Manga in English
Manga has become popular in the United States and other English-speaking countries, and manga about almost anything can be found.
English-language manga are often printed in the original Japanese format. This means that many manga read from right to left, unlike American comics, which can be confusing to those not used to it. This is done primarily to preserve the artwork from distortion by mirroring the pictures to create a western left to right orientation.
Some manga translations, especially early ones from the 1980s and 1990s, were "flopped", meaning that the artwork was reversed, in order to read from left to right like a conventional English-language comic. However, this can cause continuity problems. For example, a right-handed character appears left-handed in a flopped manga. In recent years, as American interest in manga and anime has grown, it has become more conventional to present manga in the original right-to-left format.