The popularity of Japanese popular culture among children is sometimes a source of concern for adults who are unfamiliar with manga and anime. Parents ask questions: what kind of comics are these? Are they suitable for children’s reading? Will schoolchildren stop reading books because of this hobby?
We advise you not to be afraid, but to get to know your child’s subject of interest better.
A bonus at the end of the material is a selection of manga that is suitable for children of different ages.
What is manga and how is it different from other comics
In a broad sense, manga is a comic book drawn in Japan. But today, manga is not only created by Japanese artists. There are such authors (they are called “mangaki”) even in Russia.
The first characteristic feature of manga is its own character system and aesthetics, largely developed back in the 1950s. This is a tradition of depicting the emotions of characters, physiognomic features (for example, big eyes), some established types of characters.
Secondly, manga differs from other comics in its duration. Most often, comics consist of many volumes, the number of which can reach hundreds. Several manga volumes are plot-related chapters, like a series season. Therefore, you can’t start reading manga, for example, immediately from the tenth or fifth volume: it will be incomprehensible.
The process of publishing manga in Japan also differs from the traditions of other countries. Each manga is regularly published in special magazines (all of them have their own age restrictions), one chapter in each issue. Up to 20 authors can be published in one such journal at the same time. A specific manga is published as a separate volume only after some time, when many chapters are collected. That is why manga is almost always black and white: the artist has to work on a tight deadline in order to be in time for the publication of the magazine.
How did the manga
Modern manga appeared in Japan after World War II, in the late 1950s. Then it was printed on cheap paper book “Akahon”. The artist Osamu Tezuka drew the manga “New Treasure Island”, which he released in this form. In his work, he used many techniques that were close to the methods of cinema and appealed to readers, gaining a foothold in the manga tradition.
With the rise in popularity of comics, a “manga rental” market emerged. Rental shops hired artists to draw stories for them. Such books could not be bought – they could only be borrowed for a small sum. With the spread of television in the 1960s, the first weekly manga magazines appeared. Until the mid-1960s, manga was more of a children’s entertainment – many adults considered it frivolous and harmful reading matter, it even happened that teachers burned manga in schoolyards.
Over time, the situation changed, and already in the 1970s, a new generation of manga authors appeared who drew not only for children, but also for adults. Everyone loves manga in Japan. When, for example, the final chapter of the classic historical manga The Rose of Versailles came out in the girls’ magazine Margaret, people of all ages took to the streets and cried. Reading manga has become such a profound cultural experience that people have been eager to share their emotions with others.
Manga is not serious?
Manga is a rather complex reading that is different from literature. In order for the manga to “work”, the reader fills in the gaps between the frames on the page with their imagination so that they fit into one movie. You need to get used to these features, and they can surprise a beginner. A good mangaka is not just a writer. This is an artist, psychologist and playwright who is able to correctly storyboard a story and visually show us characters that we want to empathize with. Therefore, manga art is closer to anime and cinema than literature.
Prejudices are widespread that manga is something childish and frivolous, or, on the contrary, terrible. Such stereotypes are fundamentally wrong – people are subject to them when they are not familiar with the world of manga. This kind of comics, of course, can talk about absolutely any topic. Manga can be both educational and entertaining. The main thing is that it is able to touch the heart of the reader at any age.
In Japan, the kid first reads a simple manga designed for his age. Growing up, he moves to magazines for older children. After finishing school, he starts reading seinen manga (for men) and josei manga (for women). This division into female and male manga today is very conditional: of course, people read those stories that are interesting to them, without restrictions.
The genre diversity in manga is also surprising – it is as wide as in literature and cinema. Here every reader will find something to their liking. Are you into cooking? There are many manga about food published for you. Interested in psychology or love philosophy? There is a manga that raises difficult existential questions.
A selection of manga suitable for children of all ages
For primary school age
“Chi’s Sweet Home”
A very simple story for the first acquaintance with the world of manga, besides it is completely in color. A sweet and kind manga about life with a kitten who learns about the world around him. Great for family reading.
For middle school age
“Natsume’s Book of Friends”
A story about a good-natured and sympathetic boy Natsume, who sees spirits and ghosts (mostly various creatures from Japanese folklore) and makes friends not only among people, but also among various mythical creatures.
A school romantic comedy about a cute girl of small stature, but with a very difficult and violent character, and a gloomy-looking boy, who is actually very kind and economic. A story about not judging people by their appearance, about friendship, love for yourself and those who are dear to you.
For senior school age
Science fiction is about the “janitors” of space, completely different people working together and doing, in the opinion of many, insignificant, but in fact the most important job in the universe.
Manga in the genre of autobiography. Artist Akiko Higashimura tells how she dreamed of becoming a manga author, but was too shy to tell her art teacher because she was afraid he wouldn’t understand her. The manga is about growing up, responsibility, creativity and, of course, about the manga itself and love for it.