There was a time when manga (Japanese comics) and anime (Japanese animation) were completely unknown to the world outside Japan. Today, however, the two have become an integral part of Japanese life and culture, and there is no way of escaping their influence, wherever you go in the country.
Without manga and anime, Japan would definitely not be the colorful and intriguing culture that it is today.
- Manga refers to all comics of Japanese origin. Anime can be thought of as manga's onscreen counterpart.
- Themes of manga and anime include romance, action adventure, science fiction.
- Some of the more popular manga and anime series are AstroBoy, Doraemon, Dragon Ball and Spirited Away.
- Some noteworthy manga and anime museums and theme parks include the Ghibli Museum and the Fujiko F. Fujiyo Museum in Tokyo, the Kyoto International Manga Museum in Kyoto, and the One Piece Tower (amusement park) in Tokyo.
- The best places to shop for manga and anime souvenirs are in Tokyo's Akihabara district, the mecca of manga and anime.
What are manga and anime
Modern-day manga is defined as comics, corresponding to a Japanese style which originated during the mid-1900s. The word 'manga' can be loosely translated as whimsical pictures. In Japan, the word refers to all comics, while elsewhere it refers exclusively to comics of Japanese origin.
Anime can be best described as manga's onscreen counterpart. Once a manga series has proved its worth by popularity, it is usually adopted into an anime, or Japanese style animation.
The popularity of both manga and anime has skyrocketed since when they were first introduced in the mid-1900s. Today, there is a huge domestic industry for manga and anime, and the two genres are becoming increasingly popular worldwide.
Themes and characteristics of manga and anime
While it's common in the West to have comics that feature superheroes who single-handedly save the world, such elements have never been very popular in Japanese comics. Many anime and manga feature realistic heroes and heroines, even if the rest of their life isn't quite as ordinary.
Based on Japanese picture book "Treasure Hunting"
Themes and settings of manga and anime are endless and include romance, action adventure, science fiction, comedy, sports, and can also venture into darker subject matter for adults, such as horror material; though the latter tends not to be acknowledged in everyday life and culture.
A comparison of a western comic or animated series to a manga or anime will reveal huge differences in style. For example, manga show detailed close-ups of faces more frequently and focus on the physical expressions of emotion. The characters might even change shape or form so as to better express their current emotional state. For example, they might grow fangs when shouting at someone (as a way to express their rage), but this doesn't necessarily affect the realism of the comic.
Featured manga and anime anthologies and series
Manga books are usually printed in black and white and cover a wide variety of subject matter aimed at both sexes and all ages, not just for young boys (to whom comics are generally marketed in the West).
Once certain manga have proved their worth by popularity, the natural progression is for an animated TV series to be created. That being said, manga is not the only source of inspiration for anime.
One of Japan's most famous, successful, and critically acclaimed animators is Hayao Miyazaki, co-director of Studio Ghibli, which was founded in 1985. Miyazaki's long career has seen him create numerous original animated films such as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and My Neighbor Totoro.
Below are a few examples of the more popular manga comics:
Created by Osamu Tezuka and first published in 1952, AstroBoy is about a world where humans and robots coexist. The protagonist, AstroBoy, is a robot who uses his superior powers to fight crime and as a result of the care and attention given to him by his owner, is able to experience human emotions.
Doraemon was created by Fujiko F. Fujiyo and was first published in 1969. It follows the adventures of a blue robotic cat that has traveled back in time from the 24th century to help a young schoolboy, Nobita Nobi, through the trials and tribulations of life.
Immensely popular worldwide, Dragon Ball was created by Akira Toriyama and was first published in 1984. The manga follows Goku and his friend Bulma as they explore a mythical Earth, learning martial arts and searching for "dragon balls" that summon a magical dragon that assists them in times of danger.
Manga and anime theme parks and museums
Manga and anime have inspired the establishment of several theme parks and museums. Some of the popular ones are:
Exhibition poster in Ghibli Museum
Located a little outside central Tokyo, near Mitake Station, the Ghibli Museum is home to iconic characters from Ghibli Studio films such as Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke.
The museum houses exclusive short films and features special animation exhibits. Visitors are advised to note, however, that advance reservations are required to visit the museum.
Fujiko F. Fujiyo Museum
Souvenir shop in the Fujiko F. Fujiyo Museum
The Fujiko F. Fujiyo Museum, also known as the Doraemon Museum, showcases the work of manga artist Fujiko F. Fujiyo, creator of the influential and long-running Doraemon series.
The museum is located in Kawasaki, next to Tokyo, and also requires advanced reservations.
One Piece Tower
Cruise history exhibition at One Piece Tower
Located inside the building at the base of Tokyo Tower, the indoor amusement park is themed after the popular One Piece manga series. It offers a variety of shows, games, and other attractions that feature the series' characters.
Kyoto International Manga Museum
Temporary exhibition at Kyoto International Manga Museum
The Kyoto International Manga Museum is located near Karasuma-Oike Subway Station and displays a massive collection of manga, available for browsing. The museum also focuses on both, the adoption and development of manga worldwide.
Manga and anime attractions and events
The popularity of manga and anime domestically has led to the establishment of several related attractions and places of interest. Some of the world's largest comic events are held every year in Tokyo.
Manga Cafes (Manga Kissa)
Manga cafes are cafes where customers can read comics from a library of manga for a specified time at a corresponding fee. Guests are free to borrow and return books as many times as they wish within the time limit. Many manga cafes also allocate individual compartments, offering guests privacy for reading pleasure.
Big cities like Tokyo and Osaka have a number of such cafes that provide a free flow of non-alcoholic drinks and double as Internet cafes. Charges are typically around 300 Yen per 30 minutes, but many offer packages such as 3 hours for about 1000 Yen.
A few manga and anime grand events are held over the course of a year. Of special interest is AnimeJapan (formerly known as Tokyo Anime Fair) that is held annually at Odaiba's Big Sight convention center. It is one of the largest animation-related events around the globe.
Another noteworthy event is Comiket, a huge comic book fair that attracts hundreds of thousands of people. It is held biannually, also at Big Sight in Tokyo.
Manga and anime shops and souvenirs
The best places to shop for manga and anime souvenirs include Tokyo's Akihabara district, the mecca of manga and anime. Below is a detailed list of locations where one can shop for manga and anime souvenirs:
Neon nightscape in Akihabara
The center of manga, anime, and gaming culture in Japan, Akihabara has electronics shops, maid cafes, and anime stores aplenty. It is a paradise for any self-proclaimed Otaku (someone obsessed with popular culture). Stores are typically open from 10 in the morning to around 8 in the evening.
Nakano Broadway is a shopping mall with a large concentration of stores, specializing in anime goods, including numerous specialized branches of the Mandarake stores. Items on offer include costumes, toys, and a wide selection of figures. Stores are usually open from noon to around 8 in the evening.
Pikachu bundle at Pokmon Center
Found in most major cities, including Tokyo, Sapporo, Sendai, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka, Pokmon Centers are stores where you can buy all things Pokmon such as trading cards, stationery, toys, and games.
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