What is Manga?

Educational Manga books are graphic novels meant to teach a specific subject. Having originated in Japan in 12th century, Manga is immensely popular in US.

Centuries-old origins

Manga is Japanese for “Comic” and its origins can be traced back to the 12th century. There are two schools of thought for the existence of the modern day Manga. Some scholars believe that Manga was  created by the Japanese to preserve and ensure continuity of Japanese culture. Others believe that Manga was primarily influenced by the US occupation of Japan, during which time US comics and cartoons were introduced into Japanese culture by American troops. 

Reiji Aki publishes the first Manga for education in 1950

Reiji Aki, a retired Geography teacher is credited with creating the first Manga for educational purpose. It was titled, “Benkyo Manga”, which means “Study Manga”. The book enjoyed phenomenal success, and libraries were packed with enthusiastic kids, eager to read! Witnessing this success, more publishers started creating Manga for various educational topics. Despite the value Manga was creating, it wasn’t devoid of controversies. Just as with any popular trend, Manga was being created for TV and had content that was inappropriate for kids. Angry mothers took to streets and burned Manga Comics. A “Youth Protection Act” was subsequently passed which  made sure that Manga for kids contained appropriate textual and graphic content.

Manga in Western culture

After enjoying immense popularity in Japanese society, Manga made inroads into Western culture. In Europe, France is responsible for 40% of all the Manga comics sold. In Germany, Manga accounted for close to 70% of all the comic books sold in 2007. Even though, the US has comparatively lesser publishers of Manga, it is increasing in popularity. With Amazon and Barnes & Nobles having a special category for Manga, we can say that Manga is here to stay. Manga comics however differ a bit from their American counterparts, Manga is more visual in nature and is supposed to be scanned quickly, rather than being thoroughly read. Manga conveys most of the concepts via images rather than text. With the exception of the first chapter, most Manga books are black and white. Finally, unlike American comics that are primarily geared towards kids, Manga is created for readers of all ages. 

Manga and Education in West

According to Dr. Jacqueline Berndt, a scholar of Japanese literature, the day is not too far when Manga will play a vital role in Western education. To read her interview, click here.