: 漫画 【まんが】
(n.) comic; cartoon.

Literally, "manga" means "whimsical pictures":
漫 (man) means "whimsical" or "desultory" or "involuntary" or "irresponsible" or "immoral"
画 (ga) means "picture" or "brush-stroke"

Although the term 漫 (man) suffers in translation, one thing is sure: it implies something that does not have a very high literary quality. "Manga" was coined by woodblock artist Katsushika Hokusai in 1814 to describe a book of black & white sketches he made. However, images have been used to tell stories for much longer. The oldest case of this is believed to be the Choujuugiga drawn in the 12th century by a Buddhist monk named Toba.

Manga has come a long way since these days and the stories now told in those "whimsical pictures" cover an extremely broad range of topics, from adventure and sports to fantasy, love stories, science fiction, politics... anything. In Japan the word manga refers to all forms of comics, be they Japanese, European or American. But in Europe and America the word manga is used to refer specifically to Japanese comics. Apart from the wide range of topics, these comics distinguish themselves from their European and American cousins by their sophisticated storylines, intricate linework and textures, and in many cases the trademark Japanese drawing style common with anime.

The Japanese anime industry is a spin-off of the manga industry. This explains in part the difference between Japanese and Western animation. In Japan animation is considered as a "moving manga", whereas in Europe and North America it is considered as a "drawn movie", with all the expectations that this entails. Originally most anime was based on already existing and successful manga, however in recent years leaps in the Japanese animation industry have led to manga being based on successful original anime.

See also: World Manga, Man Hua, Manhwa, Sequential Art

return to lexicon