the Little Red Reviewer

Let’s talk about manga.

Posted on: August 25, 2010

It gets an entire aisle at Barnes & Noble.  You can get themed stuff at Hot Topic. Kids dress like their favorite characters for Halloween. It’s Manga, and it’s worth looking into.

Manga has been hot in America for about a decade now, but a lot of people still don’t know what it is, or shy away from it because “it’s just comic books”. 

I’ve got a nice collection of manga at home (to the tune of a few hundred bucks over six or eight years), and would like to talk about some of my favorite series on this blog. And then I realized, a lot of people don’t really know what this manga stuff is all about. So it’s time for a super basic Manga Primer.

First things first, manga is a form, not a genre. It’s got just as many genres as regular non-comic form books – scifi/fantasy, romance, action, contemporary drama, steampunk, historical drama, comedy, coming of age, etc. Manga is almost always written in chapter form, usually having been first printed serially in a specialty magazine, then bound a half dozen chapters or so in a volume. Many public libraries have growing manga/graphic novel collections, and this is a great way to test out some series.

The most basic genre-type breakdowns that most Mangaka (Manga artists) stick is to is Shonen (manga designed with a male audience in mind) and Shojo (manga designed with a female audience in mind). A gross generalization is that Shonen is more in the way of action oriented, and Shojo is more in the way of coming of age and romance oriented.  From there, the idea of genre is more a suggestion than a rule. Your action/coming of age manga starring a magician on Mars might also be slapstick comedy in a historical setting with spaceships and demons.

Examples of Shonen include Deathnote by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, Bleach by Tite Kubo,  and Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa.

Examples of Shojo include Nana by Ai Yazawa, XXXholic by CLAMP, Honey and Clover by Chika Umino, and Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino.

Manga is more than just Shonen and Shojo, action and or romance or both, and many titles defy catorigization. This is just a super basic intro, but I hope you’ve been inspired to flip through some volumes next time you are at the bookstore or the library. Remember, manga is like any other type of book – there are good ones and not so good ones, it might take a bit of looking to find authors and stories that you like.

I need to take a photo of my nearly two full shelves of Manga. we’re talking Fullmetal Alchemist, Nana, Paradise Kiss, some CLAMP, Ludwig II, Read of Die, Blame!, St. Lunatic High, and some random others.


12 Responses to "Let’s talk about manga."

I would love to see your manga reviews! There is some awesome stuff out there, and more people need to be reading it 🙂


I hope to start with some Ai Yazawa, she’s my fave. You’re right, there’s a ton out there, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not know where to start.


Ai Yazawa is a great place to start – she is one of my favorites as well.

Part of problem with manga, I think, are series with high volume counts. For someone who wants to sample a series, high volume runs can get intimidating.


You’re right, it’s easy to get intimidating when you get interested in a series only to find there are 25+ volumes to catch up on, and volumes 7 through 18 are currently out of print (Nana, I’m staring at you!!).

that said, I know plenty of people who have every Philippa Gregory book, every Babysitters Club book, every Jim Butcher book, every Star Wars book, and those are ongoing series as well.


i have to say i was expecting to see a mention of Naruto or One Piece.

And you gave an nice explanation of what Manga is.


I’m curious about Manga, thanks for writing about it. I have a bunch of questions if you feel inclined to elaborate more.

Isn’t Manga more culturally specific than what we call in general “graphic novels”? Is there a recognizable style to the artwork? I thought that pornography (what we’d call pornography) accounted for a large portion of Manga publishing in Japan, is that true about what’s translated and marketed here?

What do you think about the idealized, generic, sexualized representations of young girls, that appeal to Japanese men? I’ve heard that this kind of soft-porn (even hard-core porn) pubescent feminine cartoon imagery isn’t really popular in the U.S. Maybe it’s even illegal here?

Is there anything else unique and recognizable about the feminine form of Manga, besides the themes?

Is Manga is becoming more popular in the U.S.? Which types of Manga are translated and sold here, and which aren’t?

I’m curious about this topic because Japanese culture is interesting and strange to me. But maybe the Manga that’s being produced and sold in the U.S. bears very little relationship to its Japanese origins?


Opally, great questions!! Some of them I know the answers to right off the bat, and some I’ll need to look into. If it’s OK w/you, I’ll devote an entire post to these questions and others. . . but it’s gonna take me a few days to get it all together.

Japanese culture is fascinating, and yes, a little strange sometimes. In some ways they are far more conservative than us Americans, and in some ways they are far more liberal. But I bet they think we are pretty weird too!


that said, feel free to post more questions in this post, or use contact form in the About Me section. We’ll make it a nice little meme for the weekend.


[…] Manga post last week garnered some lovely comments along with plenty of questions, so here you go, […]


[…] to Manga? Check out Manga 101: Let’s talk about Manga and Manga […]


great blog just found it, really hope to hear more. Anime is my favorite and i wish to go to japan one day and having blogs like this really makes me excited to visit soon. Great work, learned allot and cant wait and great job with the blog!


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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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