A Brief History of Japanese Manga

Manga (pronounced maawng-guh) literally means “whimsical or impromptu pictures.” Typically related with otaku “nerdy” culture, it has a deep and rich history in Japanese artwork that plays a significant position in Japanese culture today.

But how did manga start? And how did it evolve to achieve the global affect it has in the present day?

Though there are clues that manga originated back to the twelfth century, we’re going to deal with hard details starting with the word “manga” itself.

The word “manga” was first coined in 1798 by Santō Kyōden’s Shiki no Yukikai (Seasonal Passers-by).

However in 1814, the artist Katsushika Hokusai (famous for ukiyo-e and butt buddies with Santō Kyōden) was the primary to make use of the word “manga” because the title for his sketchbooks titled “Hokusai Manga”.

Throughout the rise of Japanese Imperialism, the Japanese empire used manga for spreading propaganda in regards to the benefits of Japanese leadership. However after the war, everything changed.

The Turning Point

Following the end of World War II, Japan was occupied by the Allies which restricted any propaganda or Japanese militarism. This meant that Japanese artists had room to discover their inventive styles.

On the similar time, the United States brought over their comics and cartoons. This heavily influenced the fashion of manga at the time.

And with that allowed Tezuka Osamu (the God of Manga and Japanese equal to Walt Disney) to create considered one of Japan’s most iconic and influential characters — Astro Boy.

One other well-known stylistic innovator at the time was Machiko Hasegawa, creator of Sazae-san (in yonkoma format, 4-panel comic often found in newspapers).

Both Osamu Tezuka and Machiko Hasegawa’s modern strategies paved the way for shōnen (for young boys) and shōjo (for young girls) manga. The former being the preferred style manga genre today.

And so, manga’s commonity exploded and was destined to create otaku culture in the twenty first century.

Manga Right this moment

Heavily influenced by American comics and deeply scarring submit-war depression, manga pivoted from its assured, critical tone to the “kawaii” (cute) style.

Thankfully, it gave us One Piece, Dragon Ball, Pokemon, and lots of different titles which have brought pleasure to millions of people across the world.

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