The Manga Factor: Lessons from Mangakas

The Manga Factor: Lessons from Mangakas

Manga, whichoriginated in Japan in the late 18th century, refers to any form of cartoons, comics or pictorial storytelling. The original versions were whimsical drawings depicting the prevalent Japanese culture and its history in a fanciful and amusing way. Research has traced these whimsical drawings to as far back as the 10th century, and they were found to be predominantly based on animals with imaginary human-like behavior patterns. It later moved on to more serious topics like religion, god, and spirits with lesser scope of humor.

The Manga were initially seen in the daily newspapers, but due to rationing during the Second World War, lost their fame. Post-war scenario saw its resurgence in the form of printed cards and rental books.

Unlike Western countries, Japan has a larger population of comic-book readers, ranging from school going kids to adults. The Manga comics feature adult related topics like business, politics, culture, history and social taboos like gambling, among others. Manga books like “ShukanShonenJump” and “One Piece” have sold more than 2.79 million and 2.5 million copies respectively inside Japan. These are also pretty popular overseas and have got many followers in foreign countries.

Till 2007, the scenario was pretty stable with respect to the popularity and demand of these Manga magazines and comics. But with the shift in the medium of entertainment from comics to TV, video games, and smartphones, these comics saw a steady decrease in sales of more than 22% in late 2008. Research points the slump in sales and popularity to many reasons like the decrease in magazine readers, ending of more popular manga series like Dragon Ball, and the inability of the senior comic-reading generation to pass on the habit and interest to the younger generation. Other reasons like the content being too adult oriented and the lack of interesting comics’ strips to attract the younger crowd has also led to the fall in sales of these comics and magazines in recent times.

So what makes Manga so important?

It is a form of art in Japan which is deemed very powerful for its ability to depict serious and grim situations of life in a humorous way. It helps people across the globe in understanding the culture and values of Japan. They convey strong and thought-provoking messages on friendship, the way of life and love, hard work and chasing one’s dreams. The Mangakas,or the Manga artists,leverage on the popularity of these comic strips and spread ethical lessons and teach the value of life in a light and non-overbearing way. Most of the Mangakasget into the readers’ mind and twist and turn their plot to stay popular.

The most common learning from a Manga strip is to go behind one’s dreams and to strive hard in achieving your goals.This speaks a lot about the culture and the values that Japanese hold dear to them. It enables us to appreciate the struggles and hardships from which Japan, as a whole, has emerged.

Life of a Mangaka

An actively engaged Mangaka has a stressful work life with long hours of work and low pay. The pay is so low that most of them can’t afford an assistant to help them with their targets. The average working hours range from 16-20hrs, 20-25 days a month.This would mean very less or no social life for many of them and lesser sleep hours. They have to work constantly on their deadlines and client targets to ensure a stable payout at the end of the month.But this art form is still thriving, thanks to the passion for drawings and cultures these Mangakas share.

Manga’s evolution into an Anime

Though we often hear people use Anime and Manga interchangeably, these two art formats are not the same. While Manga refers to the comic strips and drawings one sees in Manga books, Anime is more of animation and cartoon TV or movie shows. The difference doesn’t just end there.

  • While Manga dates back to as far back as the 12th century, Anime is in comparison more recent and came into production post 20th It took a lot of struggle for Anime to find a foothold and gain popularity amidst the animation giants like Disney.
  • Mangas are usually done by a single Mangaka and do not require a huge team to develop, whereas the Anime production studio has a huge group consisting of directors, producers, writers, voice actors, etc.
  • The Mangakas have more control and creative hold on their Mangas than the creators of Anime. The main reason behind this is the number of stakeholders and interested parties involved in the creation and execution of an Anime. One also needs to consider the TRP ratings and viewers’ interest in addition to other factors.
  • The Mangas are original stories, and the scripts are usually self-published. Most of the Mangakas get supported by a publisher after a series of successfulscripts and self-published Mangas. With a few exceptions, these Mangasare not adaptations of other work.Anime, on the other hand, are mostly adapted stories as it is expensive and risky to delve into new storyline and unfamiliar subjects. Adaptations are a safer approach to commercial gain. These anime are also less explorative and experimental as compared to Mangas.
  • Though both these story-telling formsfocus on narrating a single story, Manga storylines are generally longer, and last a decade in some cases. In contrast, Anime are shorter and usually end within 30-40 episodes, maximum.This isdue to the fact that Anime involves a lot of production cost and is more expensive to produce than a Manga. Also, it would be very difficult to have a re-run of same episodes if the storyline is too long. Distribution of these in the form of DVDs would also not be cost effective, if they are too long. There are exceptions to this case when the studio decides to adapt a very popular but lengthy Manga series.
  • The creation of a Manga series is quicker than theproduction of an episode of Anime. The amount of effort and work that goes into the creation of an Anime is huge,as compared to a Manga.

At the end, it’s all about the interest level of the viewers or readers. Both these forms are rich in Japanese culture and are here for a long time. Who can ever grow up out of loving Doremon or Pikachu?

Also read about an initiative which aims at saving orphan children and getting them adopted.