Manga is not printed backward

January 16, 2007|by SALLY NEWLIN


Here's what I do. Every day, I go to school with at least one or two mangas with me. No one comments, but I can hear people's thoughts on the matter: "Why is she reading a cartoon book?" "Why is she reading backward?" "Isn't that Yu-Gi-Oh or something? I got off that when I was 8."

These are but a few comments I expect when I talk about anime (Japanese-style animated videos) or read my manga (Japanese-style comic books).

Manga dates back more than 200 years ago in Japan, to stories told with a series of woodblock illustrations. The more recent style of manga, told in comic book format, evolved after World War II when a 17-year-old artist named Ozamu Tezuka drew "Diary of Ma-chan," the story of a mischievous 4-year-old boy and his friend in postwar Japan.


Manga became popular all over Japan in the 1950s and expanded to include soap opera-style stories, stories for teens and adult-oriented stories. Many manga have an ongoing story line continuing in weekly or monthly books. Manga jumped across the Pacific to America in the early 1980s and have become ubiquitous. Borders in Hagerstown has a huge section with tons of titles, such as "Black Cat" and "Zombie Powder." These stories are sold as books in a series and sometimes collected in editions called graphic novels.

Manga-style characters typically have large eyes, small mouths and brightly colored hair. Their actions and emotions are drawn in an exaggerated style.

Anime is the video version of manga. It started on Japanese TV in the early 1960s, with Ozamu Tezuka producing "AstroBoy" - about a robot boy built with superpowers by a doctor, and "Speed Racer," the story of a 17-year-old boy who races in his car, with his crew/family by his side the whole time.

One of my favorite anime stories is "Ghost in the Shell," a legend all anime fans know for its cyber-futuristic story line, cutting-edge action and beautiful graphics. The commander of the police squad in the show is especially cool.

The animation style, featuring bold characters in action-filled plots, often with futuristic or fantasy-related themes, were imported to America and found a big following.

Now enough with the technical stuff. On to why I wrote this.

First off, anime and manga are technically cartoons and comics, but they're not just for 8-year-olds. Manga is rated, like movies; some is for teens 13 and older, older teens or adults only.

And it's not just Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh out there! There are other anime and manga stories.

Here's the next beef I have. Some people think manga is written backward. It's not! The Japanese read from right to left! In America, we read from left to right, but in Japan, they read from right to left. It might seem backward to us, but it's not. That's just how Japanese manga is printed because of its origin.

When I have to tell people that, over and over, I get annoyed after a while. Can you tell?

Anime fans have been teased for what they like, but it would be better if everyone tried to understand something different rather than ridicule it.

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