Manga refers to an Asian style of trade paperback graphic novel that has recently reached new heights of popularity in the United States.
While often digest-sized and usually printed in black & white, Manga (which is the Japanese word for “comic book”) is currently one of the biggest trends in the publishing industry. Because most manga represents translated editions of books from Japan, Korea and China, English-language versions attempt to retain the title’s authenticity by printing it in a reading format that matches the original printing. Since Japanese graphic novels are printed so that they read from right-to-left, the English translations are also printed from right-to-left. Korean graphic novels are originally printed so that they read from left to right, and the English translations are the same.
Most manga titles are part of a series containing several volumes. Dark Horse’s Lone Wolf & Cub, for example, tells a complete story over 7,000 pages and 28 volumes!
Additionally, there are many terms affiliated with manga that are important to discern: the term manhwa is most identified with Korean graphic novels. Original English Language (OEL) or Original English Manga (OEM) manga refers to original manga stories created by North American writers and artists rather than the typical manga that is translated.
Manga also contains several genres that are marketed to very specific types of readers. Shojo (also spelled Shoujo) is a genre typically aimed at young teenage girls, usually involving drama and romance. Shonen refers to manga primarily intended for boys and features humorous stories and high levels of action. The most recent manga genre to gain popularity in America is yaoi. Intended for mature readers, yaoi refers to romantic stories featuring gay male protagonists and aimed at a female audience.
While the above represent the most popular and frequently sought-out manga genres in the United States, curious readers will be able to find translated titles to suit all tastes, from sweet children’s stories to edgy alternative titles to serious autobiography and historical accounts for adults. Please see our Reference Resources section to find some excellent books on the history, scope and variety of manga.