To many Westerners, one of the hardest things to understand about
the Japanese is their voracious appetite for manga or comics
(though the recent launch of an English version of Shonen Jump manga
in the US was hugely succesful).
In particular, the fact that middle-aged men can
sit with their heads buried in comic books on rush-hour trains
without any sense of embarrassment. While in the West mainstream
comics are almost entirely for children, in Japan there many types
of manga and some of them are very definitely NOT suitable for
children. Graphic violence and sex (but with restrictions on the
visibilty of actual organs) have been commonplace in manga for
years. A law introduced to curb child pornography (most of the
world's supply being from Japan) for some reason excluded manga
- probably something to do with it being a ¥500-billion-a-year
Manga come in two main forms: weekly, twice-monthly
and monthly magazine style manga and paperback books, usually
in a series. These series often spin off from the magazines and
in turn are made into TV shows or movies. For some examples, see
the sections on Animated movies and
Mangajin was a classic magazine that used manga as a fun and effective way to learn Japanese. Published
between 1990-97, it also included interesting features on various aspects of Japanese culture. It's now
out of print, but back issues are still available from Wasabi Brothers. Your support might even help them
in their efforts to revive one of the best magazines to come out of Japan.
Many manga carry full-color advertisements for muscle-building
devices and pheromone sprays. As you might have guessed, most
manga are geared toward shonen (young guys). But there are also
shojo (young girl) manga. They deal mainly with science-fiction, sports
and romance and tend to portray male characters as stereotypically
as the guy's manga do with female characters. A popular girl's
manga is Sailor Moon, which also became a successful TV show and several movies. Naturally,
they're popular with girls but also with a certain number of boys
and young men. This and the popularity of animated porn is, I'm
afraid, beyond my understanding. Suffice to say that the world
of manga and anime (animation) is huge in Japan and beyond and there are countless
Web sites dedicated to it.
Margaret (left) and Sailor Moon (right) are popular shojo manga.
Evangelion (above) was hugely popular in 1997.
Most weekly manga are the thickness of a telephone book. Even
though they are printed on recycled paper, the price of around
200 yen seems ridiculously cheap. But with weekly sales in some
cases of over five million copies and the most popular stories
going on to become paperback collections, TV cartoons or dramas
and even full-length movies, manga are very big business. Just
two examples are given below.
One of the pioneers of the fat shukan manga (weeklies), along with
Shonen Sunday, Shonen Magazine debuted in 1959 and is still one of the most
popular boy's manga (shonen means young boy). With over 200 pages
and a cover price of 230 yen, it seems like pretty good value.
All the stories use kana (phonic)
characters next to the kanji (Chinese
characters), which makes them readable for the younger
or less literate Japanese and useful for students of the language.
As well as the manga stories and advertisements, the magazine
has full-color photo spreads of a couple of teenage bimbos, usually
in bikinis and with a contact address for fan-mail. The October
27th, 1999 issue (right) includes the mangas GTO (Great
Teacher Onizuka), which has been made into a TV drama
and a movie, and Psychometora EIJI, made into a TV
psycho-drama starring heartthrob Matsuoka Masahiro.
Other subjects include soccer, fishing and sushi, while with some
of the manga it's hard to tell what exactly they're about.
The magazine is published by Kodansha, who also publish a variety of other magazines in six categories:
General/Men; Women; Children; Literature/Arts; Comics for Men;
Comics for Women.
Click for larger format (87k)
Shukan Shonen Jump
Launched in 1968, Jump tried to do things differently from the
start. In order to compete with the already successful Shonen
Magazine and Shonen Sunday, Jump concentrated on hiring and hanging
onto talented but as yet undiscovered cartoonists and keeping
a close eye on what its readers wanted, through surveys and polls.
This approach helped Jump become by far the biggest manga in Japan
with sales as high as six million copies a week. Its most successful
series have been spun off to create TV cartoons, movies and video
games including Dragonball Z and Dragon Quest which have been hugely popular both in Japan and abroad. Other
huge domestic hits include Kinnikuman (Muscle Man) and Slam Dunk, which capitalized on the NBA craze of the early and mid-90's.
The publisher of the manga, Shueisha has dozens of other publications, including Ultra Jump, Business
Jump, Young Jump, Monthly Jump etc and women's manga like Margaret,
Young You and Ribbon and magazines such as the Japanese editions
of Cosmopolitan and Playboy.
Click for larger format (24k)
Check out our background info on anime,anime movies, TV anime and selection of Japanese movie posters.