Anime and Manga In Japan and America
In America, the words Anime and Manga refer to two separate and
distinct, but interrelated things. The word Anime is used to describe
Animation of Japan, similar to the animation made popular in America, by
companies like Walt Disney. The word Manga is used to describe the Comic
Books of Japan, similar to the comic books made popular in America, by
companies like Marvel and D.C. There are two types of Manga common in
Japan, the Manga magazine and the Tokoban.
The Manga magazine of Japan is very different from the comic books in
America. A Manga magazine is roughly as thick as a phonebook, but
smaller in length and height. The paper of the Manga magazine is also very
similar to the paper found in a phone book, except slightly thicker. The
Manga magazine contains different stories from different artists and
each story is printed on different color paper. A typical story is about
20 to 24 pages long and is continued in the next issue of the Manga. The Manga
magazine itself is typically 300 to 500 pages and might be published
weekly, bi-weekly or monthly depending on the title.
There are roughly 250 Manga magazine titles completing for the
roughly 150 million people in Japan. Since there are over 2.3 billion
Manga magazines sold a year, that comes to well over 15 Manga magazines per
person. These figures do not even reflect Manga magazines that are being
passed around between family and friends.
One Manga magazine typically sells 5 million to 6 million copies
every week. Compare these numbers to the sales of a translated Manga title
in America, where 13,000 books a month is typical. How can the Japanese
achieve such high sales, because the young to the middle-aged, male
and female often purchase Manga magazines. There are many different types
of Manga magazines aimed at the different demographics. Also, this phone
book sized Manga magazine only costs around $4.00. To keep costs down,
only the covers are printed in color, everything else is in black and
white. One might wonder how the Japanese find time to read so much Manga.
Typically Manga is read on the commute to work or school. Also, the
Japanese read their Manga at an extremely fast rate, one page every
4 seconds. The Manga magazines are made from cheap, thin, recycled paper
and are often thrown away after they have been read, which take roughly
20 minutes. Due to space constraints, Manga magazines are rarely collected.
Even though a Manga magazine can sell 5 to 6 million copies a week,
the publisher makes very little profit from this. Profits are derived
from re-issusing popular Manga stories into a number of small books (Tokoban)
which contains a reprint of a single title from a popular artist. Tokoban
are similar to the graphic novels/trade paperbacks of the American Comic
Industry. These are typically what Americans puchase when they buy
Manga (in the original Japanese). Tokoban are printed on higher quality
paper and are designed to be collected.
Anime and Manga are closely interrelated since it is often the
most popular stories in Manga that become Anime. Typically an Anime is made
for the sole purpose of increasing the sales of Tokoban. This is where
the true profits for the Artist and the Publishers occur. It is rare for
Anime to be watched/purchased by anyone in Japan, except by teenaged males. In
America, anime is popular with males from teenagers to middle-age.
Because Anime is used to drive the sales of Tokoban in Japan, it
would be rare in Japan if the people who watch an anime title had not also
read the Manga for that title. This is just the opposite of what occurs in
the United States. This is why the storyline of some Anime titles tend to be
less focused or less likely to reach a conclusion, they are just depicting
the highlights in the Manga title. Anime titles translated into English are
very common through both commercial and fansubs releases, but translations of
Manga titles into English is rare and for a Manga title to get translated in
it's entirety into English is almost non-existant.
The word Anime, like the words Manga and Tokoban are both singular
and plural forms, so that an "S" is not required when referring
to more than one.
Categories of Japanese Animation
In Japan, Animation tends to be divided into 3 catagories, theatrical
(movies), Original Animation Videos or Original Video Animations (OAVs
or OVAs), and Television Series (TV Series). A Theatrical release is
when a movie is shown in a theater to people who pay money to watch the
anime projected onto a large movie screen. A less common definition
of movie, but becoming more common all the time, is the movie that is shown
only on TV (TV Movie or TV Special). It is designated as a movie only
because it's length is longer than the typical TV Series. It is very
common that these TV Movies are special showings of a popular TV Series. Original
Animation Videos (OAVs) are Anime released directly to videotape, laserdisc
or DVD. The laserdisc is the medium of choice for the personal collector
of Anime or any other video in America and Japan. This is mainly because
of the superior image and sound quality and the stabilty of the medium.
A laserdisc purchased from Japan can be played in an American laserdisc
player without any modifications. Videotapes are mainly used only for video
rental from a video store and recording off of the TV. A videotape purchased
from Japan can be played in an American videotape player without any modifications.
DVD is gaining ground both in America and Japan. A DVD purchased from
Japan can not be played in an American DVD player because America and Japan
are in different lock-out regions. The DVD players are designed to play
DVDs of a particular region although regionless DVD players do exsist. A TV
Series is when an anime is regularly shown on TV, typically on a weekly basis.
The typical length of a Japanese TV series is 13 episodes or multiples thereof.
Knowing whether an anime is a movie, OAV, or TV series could possibly
provide valuable information about the anime itself. Here are a few
things that you might be able to determine:
TV Series & TV Specials: Since this type of anime is
to be viewed by the largest number of people, the content is catered to appeal to
a mass market. This means that excessive sexual and violent content are
rarely found, since one can never tell how old the people watching are.
What little sex and violence there is typically varies based on the
time slot the anime airs at. There was recently created a late night time
slot where mature anime is starting to find a niche.
Movies: Movies can increase the level of sex and violence
since they can control to some extent the demographics of their audience. Since
the success of a movie requires that you get the largest number of people
to come to watch your movie, you can't afford to alienate your audience
with excessive sexual and violent content.
OAVs: Here, the content of your OAV determines your audience.
Excessive sexual and violent content can work to your advantage, since
a person selects the anime based on their personal preferences. This is
not to say that all OAVs are excessively sexual and violent, but this is
about the only category which provides an adequate format for this type of
Movies: Most movies that play in the theaters run at least
70 minutes to slightly longer than 2 hours.
OAVs: Because they are designed for a small targeted segment
of the population, they can be any length, from a few minutes (promotional
videos) to roughly 2 hours (about the longest amount of time that a
single laserdisc will hold). Commonly they are 30, 45 or 60 minutes.
TV Series: Most TV series in Japan are roughly 25 minutes
so as to fit in a 30 minute time slot including commercials.
TV Specials: Typically 60 minutes with commericals.
Movies: Movies tend to have the highest quality since they
tend to have the highest budgets. Also, watching the Anime on film also improves
the quality since the movie screen has a higher resolution than a TV
OAVs & TV Specials: tend to have lower quality than a
theatrical movie which has a higher budget, but better quality than a TV Series
which has a tight time frame.
TV Series: tend to have the lowest quality since they tend
to be rushed so as to conform to the hectic time frame and limited budgets
of the television environment.
Movies & TV Specials: Movies and TV Specials tend to be
either one shots of a very popular Manga or Novel or a very elaborate production
of a very popular TV Series. It is rare to risk the large sums of money involved
in a making a movie on an unknown or unproven concept.
OAVs: Tend to be not well known or unproven concepts. You
make one episode and if it is popular you continue the series, otherwise try
a different concept for your next attempt.
TV Series: The Television station is committed to at least
13 episodes, more if you are renewed for another season.
Japanese vs American Comics
Knowing that the typical Japanese reader only spends 4 seconds
per page while reading your Manga story must have a profund effect on the
way the Manga Artist creates their story and their visuals. Four seconds
a page isn't a lot of time for a typical reader to admire the artwork,
so can the artist get by with the minimalist of detail per page? The answer
is yes, but some of them create highly elaborate illustrations that rival
anything the best comic artists of any nation have to offer. Why again
would they go through all the trouble, keep in mind, it is the tokoban
where they make all their money. Good writing and memorable art increases
the sale of tokobans.
Part of the reason the Japanese are able to read Manga magazines
as fast as they do is that very little text is used. Another reason is
the pacing of the stories is very slow and drawn out. Several issues might
be used to convey emotions that might be summed up in 3 or 4 wordy panels
in an American comic. The Japanese have a very elaborate use of standard
imagery to convey emotions. A large sweat drop on the back of the head
displays embarrassment, driving rain represents a character's sorrow,
a breeze blowing flower petals from one person to another (I tend to refer
to this as the "winds of love") symbolizes love, when water
drops fall from the eyes of robots, statues, or animals (I tend to refer to this
as "vicarious tears"), typically due to the fact that it is raining,
you know that an action has occurred that is so sad that even inanimate objects
are moved to tears. All these things the Japanese read with a glance as
their eyes zip along the page. What makes or breaks the greatest of Manga
artists, proper page layout. The entire page has to flow; the symbols
have to be clear; the words have to be sparse; the entire context of that
page has to be completely understood in 4 seconds.
So if we were to step back and and be blunt, saying how does Manga
differ from American Comics, you might get the following answers:
Symbols: I am sure it takes years of reading thousands of Manga
to fully comprehend all of the symbolic images representing emotions,
seasons, etc., like the cross on the forehead that represents a swollen
vein that pops out of your head when you are angry. Americans use words
to convey emotions.
Black & White: A stretch of green that a character in an American
comic is standing on can convey the idea of grass. Not so in Japan.
The lack of color requires the Japanese to render in greater detail background
items and individual characters so that you can tell them apart. Also
the use of shading is more highly developed. Before you feel to sorry for
the poor Manga Artist, you should know that many Manga Artists hire a large
number of assistants so that all or very little of a page might have been drawn
by your favorite Manga artist.
Page Layout: For the Manga Artist the layout of the page is very
important since the reader has to get through that page in 4 seconds.
The images have to flow into each other. Text and sound effects are
illustrated right into the page. Often there is a large detailed image
right in the center of the page that contains the main action of that page.
The smaller panels around the image help clarify what the main image portrays.
Pacing: Since the Manga Artist knows that if his story is successful,
it might continue for years, there is no need to rush the story line.
Images replace words, and the artist tries to create a feeling through
the images. Action scenes are drawn out over several pages to increase the
tension and intensity.
Uniqueness/Diversity: A Manga Artist doesn't feel confined to create
one genre of storyline that will appeal to the comic buying public.
The Japanese comic market has readers of all ages, sexes and education.
There are also hundreds of different Manga magazines in which to publish your
story. Because the Manga magazine contains several stories from different
Artists, a publisher does not have to feel that every single story has
to be a hit and can allow more unique storylines to be published. The reader
gets to sample many different stories just because that is what is in the
Manga magazine they purchased. Diverity is one thing that attracts a majority
of the Americans to Manga and Anime titles.
Mature Themes: Since the Japanese comic market has readers of all
ages, sexes and education, the market is mature enough to handle
storylines of an adult nature. This attracts a large number of Americans
to Manga and Anime titles.
Volume: With the sheer number of titles produced, there is bound
to be something that you will enjoy.
Japanese vs American Animation
Almost everything that was stated for Japanese Manga vs American
Comics applies with the animation as well except the black & white
issue vs color. It is a strange phenomenon that almost all animation by Americans
are musicals. Rousing musical numbers designed to excite the senses
in a multimedia experience. Isn't in odd that hardly any other popular medium
except animation, has made a successful musical in the last 20 years.
Animation in America is strictly for kids. No one dies, no one gets
hurt. The evil villian's plans are defeated, but the villian himself escapes
to hatch new villiany in the next episode. One great difference between
Japanese and American TV Series is that the Japanese TV Series are designed
to last only one or two seasons, 13 or 26 episodes and then come to
a climactic and definite ending.
All information about the Manga habits of the Japanese was interpreted
by me after reading Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics by Fredrick
L. Schodt, this book was written some time ago, so that the numbers are
off if you were to compare them to Japan today.