Yomiuri Newspaper Discusses History's First Manga

posted on by Egan Loo
Resident otaku on staff analyzes different theories of manga origins

Kanta Ishida, a staff writer of the Yomiuri Shimbun paper in Japan and a self-described otaku, analyzes the different theories on the origin of manga and discusses which work — if any — can be called the first manga in history. In an English-translated essay published in the Daily Yomiuri newspaper, Ishida reports that 133,000 people came to see the Chōjū-Jinbutsu-Giga Emaki ("Scrolls of Cartoons of Birds, Animals, and People" or "Chōjū Giga" for short) exhibition in the SUNTORY Museum of Art late last year. Many visitors came after hearing a theory that these scrolls from the 12th and 13th centuries are the first examples of manga. However, Ishida points out that manga creator Seiki Hosokibara identified another scroll, the Shigisan ENGI Emaki, as the first manga.

Ishida notes that the famed Studio Ghibli co-founder and director Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, Only Yesterday) analyzed still other examples of scrolls in his book titled Jūni Seiki no Animation: Kokuhō Emakini Miru Eiga-teki, Anime-teki Naru Mono (12th-Century Animation: The Elements Seen in the National Treasure Scrolls that Evolved into Movies and Anime). However, instead of directly identifying these scrolls as the origin of manga, Takahata just gave his analysis on them from the perspective of a modern animator. Ishida contends that "there is no connection between the traditions of Chōjū Giga and contemporary manga, including the domestic works we are familiar with in our daily lives and the foreign works that have increased with the growing number of manga fans worldwide." Instead, he argues that these scrolls should be treated as masterpieces in their own right, and not be cubby-holed as just the origin of manga.

Scroll image: National Treasure Chōjū-Jinbutsu-Giga Emaki (Scroll 1), Heian Era, Kōzanji Collection

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