From being a niche hobby in Japan, the manga industry has grown to become a worldwide phenomenon! It’s easy to see why so many people have been getting into manga. The stories are cool and entertaining, spanning a wide range of genres. Among the manga genres and subgenres, there are five main types.
Without further ado, we present our ultimate guide to Japanese manga!
What is a Manga?
What is manga, in the first place? Manga is an umbrella term for a huge variety of graphic novels and comic books that are produced and published in Japan. Except for special editions, they are usually drawn and printed completely in black and white.
Unlike Western graphic novels or webcomics, manga read from right to left, mimicking the natural way of writing in Japanese. Even translated manga usually follow a reversed format, with speech bubbles following a top-bottom, right-left flow across panels.
In Japan, manga are usually released weekly or monthly, chapter-by-chapter. Many manga are still serialized in print and published in popular manga magazines like Weekly Shonen Jump or variety media. Manga magazines are usually separated by genre as well, focusing on age groups or topics. Once a series gets popular enough, its chapters are collected and published in separate volumes.
The Different Types Of Manga
As mentioned, there are tons of different genres within manga! But among all of those, manga can be classified into 5 main genres. Each genre offers something different to the reader, and although the categories represent age and gender demographics, fans of each come from all walks of life. The top are:
Up first is undoubtedly the most popular genre on this list. Shonen refers to manga that specifically targets young or adolescent boys. Most popular shonen titles feature a male protagonist going on a journey for self-improvement, action-packed scenes, themes of friendship, and some gag-comedy. These publications are the most similar to a classic hero’s journey in many cases, making them especially popular among western fans as translated works.
Shonen manga also encompass a variety of other subgenres including comedy, romance, slice of life, sports, fantasy, and more. While the genre was initially established for young male readers, anyone and everyone can enjoy a good shonen!
In Japan, shonen manga are typically published in magazines completely dedicated to the genre. The most popular shonen magazine is 500-page, Weekly Shonen Jump, which has been running the likes of Dragon Ball, Naruto, and My Hero Academia for over 50 years!
Read More: The Best Shonen Manga
Next up we have shonen’s female-leaning counterpart, shoujo! This genre mainly focuses on themes young girls would like. Its staple themes emphasize emotions and human relationships, friendship, first loves, coming of age, and more.
Shoujo manga typically have young female protagonists or feature couples heavily. This genre actually originated around the 1950s, established by male artists like Atom Boy’s Osamu Tezuka. However, by the 1960s and 1970s, more female artists emerged to dominate the scene, establishing the tropes and shoujo identity we know today. Boys over Flowers is the world’s best-selling shojo manga, adapted into dramas and anime in Japan as well as overseas.
The most iconic shojo overseas is likely Sailor Moon, one of the founding members of the magical girl subgenre. As with every other demographic, shojo has plenty of its own subgenres and unique themes.
Read More: Your Ultimate Guide To Shoujo Manga
In Japan, manga is such a cultural staple that it’s not just aimed at kids or teenagers. As a respected art form and legitimate reading material, even adults enjoy manga written just for them. The broad category for these manga is called seinen. Seinen appeals to men from around the age of 18 to 40 years old.
These manga tend to deal with heavier or more mature topics, naturally. The art style is also noticeably different from most shonen manga, which feature naturalistic details dramatic lighting and artistic treatments. Gore and violence are no rare sight, nor are nudity or other “mature themes” like smoking or drinking.
Seinen manga features complex main characters who are not always heroes and explore darker, more philosophical, or existential themes. Some credit Akira’s film adaptation as one of the major pieces of media that opened the West to Japan’s cultural exports. Seinen paved the way for the rise of manga and anime through die-hard adult male fans with purchasing power.
Check This Out: The Best Seinen Manga of All Time
Josei manga targets young adult and adult women. This genre is like a more mature version of shoujo. While love is still a common theme, these manga handle the topic in a more adult manner and may feature explicit, intimate scenes.
While shoujo almost always features a young girl as the protagonist, both male and female protagonists are common in josei manga. Josei tackles themes like sexuality, forbidden love, navigating adulthood, and more.
Josei manga first became popular in the 1980s. It is traditionally published in manga magazines focusing on specific subgenres like romance, drama, and hot, steamy reads! Some toe the line with erotic comics in much the same way as a Western romance novel. They also explore domestic and office life with more of a soap opera bent than shoujo.
You May Also Like: 27 Must-Read Romance Mangas
Kodomo manga is aimed at young readers. With bright and memorable characters that usually involve animals and supernatural creatures, kodomo manga have become some of the most popular mangas worldwide!
Just think of the Pokemon series or worldwide hit Doraemon. While technically kodomo manga, they have become global phenomenons beloved by kids and adults alike.
Kodomo manga began in the late 19th century and was designed to promote literacy among young Japanese kids. Kodomo manga teaches moral lessons. They can help introduce simple education concepts, all while entertaining the reader!
The Differences Between Mangas And Anime?
Both are popular Japanese pop culture items that have now become international hits, but what is the difference between the two? Anime is short for animation, so it’s only natural that anime covers cartoons, animated shows and movies, and the like. Manga is synonymous with comics in English, from 4-panel strip manga that mimic newspaper comic strips to full-on comic books.
Anime is an umbrella term for all kinds of animation created and shown in Japan. Like manga, it also spans a wide variety of genres. It is not uncommon for popular manga to become anime. For some manga-ka (manga artists), this is the ultimate goal. Many classics like Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, Naruto, and more are best known for their anime. In some cases, the opposite happens. If an anime becomes super popular, then it might get a manga adaptation, as was the case for Kill la Kill.
We hope you liked our guide on Japanese mangas! Which genre is your favorite? Tell us in the comments!
Manga has grown into a global phenomenon, with readers from every age range, gender, and country. With such a huge selection to choose from, there’s definitely a manga out there for everybody.