Rummanah Aasi

   I've been inspired by Small Review's Tips and Tricks feature and thought I could do something similar for readers who have questions about manga. This week's question has to do with terminology that many readers and reviewers have thrown around:

What is the difference between manga, anime and graphic novels?

First of all, thank you for the awesome question! There are ongoing debates in how these terms are defined. Below are the definitions that most scholars agree on. I defined graphic novel first since the forms the basis for manga and anime.

Graphic novels:  Graphic novel is a relatively new term popularized by Will Eisner when he presented his stand-alone long work, A Contract with God, as a 'graphic novel'. What Eisner meant was that his work  is a bound narrative that tell a story through sequential art with or without text. These comics may have been conceived originally as novel-length works or be compilations of previously serialized stories. Graphic novels can range in length from 50 pages to thousands, but they are always intent on telling a longer story arc. They may be collected from serials (as are most superhero stories, for example, and most manga) but they may also be created as a graphic novel. Many people may be involved in creating a graphic novel, or it may be done by one creator who both writes and illustrates the story. Most people think that since novel is implied that all graphic novels are fiction, which is completely wrong.

Still confused? Let's try a visual example. The first image you see is an excerpt from Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis which chronicles her childhood under the Iranian Revolution. As you can see the image below doesn't tell the whole story and you would need several images to find out what happens next.

Here is a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip where the story begins and ends in the same line. You don't need another image to tell you what happens next.

Manga: Manga is the Japanese word for whimsical or humorous comics. Outside of Japan, the term is usually interpreted as comics or graphic novels that were originally published in Japan. It is either read in serialized form in monthly magazines or in volumes. Manga come in many different genres and are created for every audience, age range, and sensibility, so there are comics intended for kids as well as comics intended for adults. Like many other books and graphic novels, manga comes in a variety of genres and merge illustrations with text. The illustrations are mostly black and white, although there are very few in color. Manga is read differently than your usual graphic novel. For one thing, it is read right to left, which means you start at the back of the book. There are other things associated with manga too, particularly the "big-eyed" Japanese art style, the giant robots, the fangirly-like schoolgirls, etc.

Anime: Anime from the English word animation which was then adopted into Japanese as animeshon or Japanimation (what we called it in the U.S.), which was then shortened to the term anime. Anime is basically any animation that is produced in Japan, from feature films (Spirited Away, Princess Monoke) to manga adaptations (Fruit Basket and several others ) to direct-to-video releases know as OAVs (R.O.D. Read or Die, Voices of a Distant Star.) Most kids and teens today are familiar with TV show anime (i.e. Pokemon, etc that appear on the cartoon network) and a few of the feature films (Howl's Moving Castle.) The Japanese animate for many different audiences and have a larger demand for them than we currently do in the US. Just do a quick search on Hulu and you will find pages and pages of examples. As note, many anime are based on manga series, particularly if the manga become best sellers, but not all. A few manga are produced from anime stories.  Below are a trailer for Spirited Away (which you'll see has been dubbed in English) and the opening and ending credits of Vampire Knight Season 1:

Wow, I never thought I had to think so hard on a Monday morning! Hopefully, this post makes sense and I haven't completely failed. If not, please let me know.

Do you have a question about manga? All you have to do is simply fill out this form. The form is completely confidential so please don't feel shy in submitting a question and remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question.

5 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Made sense to me Rummanah! You definitely did not fail:) This is going to be a fun feature, I'm looking forward to more questions and answers! Also, I used to watch Pokemon all the time, loved that show:)

  2. So cool! This clarifies a lot for me. Thank Rummanah!

  3. Thank you Rummanah! That was my question and I finally understand. Especially the difference between graphic novels and manga.


  4. This was such a helpful post, Rummanah. I can finally tell the difference between graphic novels, manga and anime! I always thought they were the same thing and people just preferred saying one of those words over another.

  5. This is a great comparison. I usually think of the difference between graphic novels and manga in the drawing style.

    Also, I loved Persepolis.

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