How manga and anime shaped Japan’s image in the eyes of world

Once almost completely unknown to the world outside Japan, manga (Japanese comics) and anime (Japanese animation) have become a global phenomenon — and their popularity is growing every day.

One can say Anime and Manga are the first formative exposure to the Japanese culture for many non-Japanese people around the world. In the eyes of many Westerners, adults reading manga on a train or at a convenience store appear peculiar, at best.

Whether you want to read about teenage athletes, serial killers, anthropomorphic cats, nuclear clean-up workers, powerful librarians, or homeless deities, you can find manga on virtually any theme.

Manga stores are in every nook and corner of Japan. Every town will have a store with aisles upon aisles of different genres and larger cities even have stores entirely dedicated to the medium over multiple floors. In fact, Convenience stores are quite happy for patrons to stand and read manga even if they are not going to buy and many waiting rooms and restaurants have bookshelves with popular serializations. Some of the most famous Japanese manga which most of the westerners might have heard about are: Astro Boy, Death Note, One Piece, Bleach, Naruto, Fullmetal Alchemist

Now imagine, as of September 2019, ‘One Piece’, written and illustrated by Japanese artist Eiichiro Oda, was the bestselling manga series in the world, having sold 454 million copies globally. In comparison, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” sold 44 million copies.

According to some sources, manga make up over forty percent of the books published in Japan and constitute a $4 billion industry, with numerous weekly and monthly magazines catering to the nation’s manga-loving public.

Anime on the other hand is the animated version of a Manga. They can be serialized or just converted in a movie but NOT every manga is fortunate enough to transform into anime. Only certain manga’s which have proven their worth by popularity goes through the progression for an animated TV series/movie to be created.

Manga and Anime both have their separate fanbase. For fans who are not interested into reading comic book style manga’s, enjoy watching the animated version of it. For them it’s an icing on cake where not only creator of the manga collaborates with animators to preserve the original theme combined with the unique style of Japanese animation which ultimately more often than not transforms into masterful storytelling experience.

One of Japan’s most famous, successful and critically acclaimed animators is Hayao Miyazaki, co-director of Studio Ghibli, which was founded in 1985. His long career has seen him create numerous original feature films in the animated form which have touched the hearts of the Japanese people as well as the rest of the world.

On a visual level, his animation style is very unique and cannot be mistaken, especially as his characters tend to have small eyes, going against the usual trend for larger eyes as mentioned earlier. Miyazaki’s works are characterized by the recurrence of themes such as family, love, feminism, nature and antiwar.

Some of Miyazaki’s most famous works include Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away, which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards.

While it is a well-known fact that manga and anime represent a simplified and distorted view of Japanese culture where aspects like kawaii (the culture of cuteness), schoolgirl themes, big eye characters or samurais saving the evil shape perceptions of other countries about Japan and leave an identifiable impression on youth.

Nevertheless, manga and anime has evolved as a form of an international language of Japan. Whether it’s a kid’s introduction to kawaii culture, a safe haven for struggling youth, lessons of love and loss for grown-ups or neo dystopian future for cyberpunks. There is slice of genre for every theme in Japan. So….. which manga or anime is your favorite?

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