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 expression.



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 screen.

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.



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