“Manga” is the term used for Japanese comics, graphic novels, sequential art, and whatever other terms we would use for story telling in which images are central to the telling. “Anime” involves similar characters and plot lines but it is the word used when these stories become animated.
Manga is not limited to children and teenagers as it is often thought to be here in the United States. In Japanese culture, people from all ages and in all walks of life often partake in these stories. It is better considered as a medium than a genre itself.
From what I have seen so far, manga appears to be much more character driven than plot driven. It seems that the mangaka, or manga artist, creates a character and allows things to simply happen to his characters rather than thinking of a story he wants to tell and creating characters and situations in which to tell that particular story. This seems to me to be the key to understanding the popularity of the art form. There are characters that all sorts of people can truly relate to (or into whose lives they can escape).
In beginning this project, I sat down and made a list of different literary genres. I planned to put manga I encountered in my research into one or more of those categories and create a guide which listed “The Best of Superhero Manga” or “The Best of Romance Manga” or “The Best Coming-of-Age Manga”. Now I’ve realized this approach will not work because there is so much cross over in what the characters of each series do. After all isn’t there a time in all of our lives where we come-of-age, get involved in a romance, and act like a superhero?!
My new approach is instead to make my list, and the headings of my bibliography, based on the characters. “Boy’s Manga”, “Girl’s Manga”, “Men’s Manga”, “Women’s Manga” are headings I would never have thought to use but it seems that within the manga industry that is how they are differentiated so I think it only makes sense to use them as my main headings. Of course, there are also other characteristics which the writers focus on and can help attract the audience who will identify best with their characters. There is “Magical Girl Manga”, “Robot Manga”, and “Naughty Manga” all aimed at different audiences as subsets within these general categories. So I too will use those subcategories in creating my reading list!
Problem #1: How to organize my information…solved! 🙂
Now to begin the search for all the subsets in existence! I’m sure that I will be able to find every one that exists, how hard could it be?! Oh, and just one more thing to make this task even harder…they are of course, all Japanese terms…meaning the transliteration sometimes results in multiple spellings.