The History of Manga: All you need to know.

Manga is one of those unique comics available in the market which stands out from the rest. Many of the comics have similar qualities and patterns, whereas manga follows its own unique rules. The history of Manga is a very interesting subject which we will go through in this article.

These Manga then go on to get animated if they gain enough popularity. But it wasn’t always like that. You can find it out on our History of Anime article. Also, did you know, Manga also went on to influence another famous artform that has been growing rapidly right now. Yes, I’m talking about webtoons. But they are drastically different from each other, to understand how, read out Manga vs Manhwa Article. Throughout the history of anime, there are several characters that stand out. White-haired characters stand out a lot, check out our list of top ten best White Hair Anime Characters.

Japanese comics flows from right to left and top to bottom. Most foreign publishers keep it in this format, while some mirrors the pages horizontal before printing the translation. We know this process as ‘Flipping’ and it’s very important to be careful while adapting the translation. This is because the image has to flow and the flipping image might cause problems.

At first, many manga creators such as Akira Toriyama (creator of “Dragon Ball”) did not approve of the modification of their work in this way. But because of the market expansion and fan demand, the left-to-right formatting has become commonplace abroad. 

The History of Manga  DBZ
The history of Manga
Dragon Balls (c) Akira Toriyama

If you have read my previous article about The History of Anime: A short Lesson, means you have learnt what the first anime was. Or how they came to be and who was the first creator of anime, etc. We all know that anime won’t exist without ‘Manga’, but do you know what was the first manga? If not, you will find out in this article.

Let us learn together the history and the growth of Manga. 


A Brief on The History Of Manga And Its Growth.

Mangas are Japanese graphic novels or Japanese comics. Manga comprises two characters, namely “Man” which means “Whimsical” and “Ga” meaning “Picture”. In Japan, ‘manga’ literally means cartoons or comics. And for those who speak English, as soon as we hear the word ‘manga’ we understand it means ‘Japanese Comics’. Manga originated in Japan around the 12th Century. They wrote it in a scroll from right to left style, which is just like the manga of today’s generation. During the Edo Period (1603-1867), there are picture drawings which people call Toba Ehon. These became the predecessors of this concept and image of manga.  

The History of Manga Buddhist manga
The history of Manga
Buddhist manga

But when we say picture books, the 6th and 7th century saw Buddhist monk creating picture scrolls. The modern manga and these picture scrolls have some similarities. Things like Cherry Blossoms and red leaves are input in the drawing to show the seasons. The most famous work was “Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga” or “Animal Scroll”. 

Origins of the Term Manga

The term Manga was created by Katshushika Hokusai, a Japanese artist during the Edo period. He was a Ukiyo-e painter and printmaker during that time. He created over 30,000 works and his famous Woodblock print series was “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”. Woodblock print became popular during the early 17th century with the most popular Ukiyo-e portrait of the “Floating World”. This illustration is of the Red-Light District, which was one of the popular places to visit.

The History of Manga Katshushika Hokusai
The History of Anime
(c) Katshushika Hokusai

In the late 18th century, ‘Kibyoshi’ a genre of Japanese picture book ‘Kusazoshi’ produced during the middle of Edo period, from 1775 to the early 19th century. The year 1784 publishes over 92 titles of these early manga. ‘Kibyoshi’ produced the first major “Kinkin Sensei Eiga No Yume” by Koikawa Harumachi, 1775. Alot of people believe these were the world’s first comic books. The artists print and illustrate them during the Japanese Edo period (1603-1867) and early Meiji Period.

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But the word manga only became popular starting from the late 18th Century when Santo Kyoden’s picture book “Shiki No Yukikai” publicized in the year 1798. This, however, changes during the Occupation of Japan (1945-52) when U.S. brought Comics and Disney Cartoons in to the country. The U.S. cultural influence really helped manga develop as an art form. This also led to the burgeoning publishing industry that helped create a consumer-oriented society in publishing giants. Companies like Kodansha then shaped popular taste of the general public. 

The History of Manga Katshushika Hokusai
The history of Manga
Floating World (c) Katshushika Hokusai

Manga became a major publishing industry in the 50s, and through the years, it became a world-wide phenomenon. To push for the international market, they began publishing in many languages other than Japanese. And when Manga first opened to the world, European artist introduce shading, and sequences as well as new techniques. Under the European influences, they started making humour magazines like “Marumaru Chimbun”, 1977 which became famous during the time. The influence of manga on the comics market has increased significantly in the last two decades. But it also had an aesthetic effect on comic artists around the globe.

19th century

During the time, comics for western expatriate introduced western style comics to Japan in the late 19th century. This new publication became popular by the end of 1890s, in which the American style newspaper comics as well as American comic strips began in Japan. In 1902, Rakuten Kitazawa started the first modern Japanese comic strip. By 1930s, numerous monthly magazines publish comic strips and they circulate around various readers. 


By the 19th century, Japanese comics and artist flourished. But during the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Japanese government started to subdue artist and publishers. Magazines either closed down or expurgate themselves. The government quickly arrests those who remain on the surface. These types of apprehend happened so often that the magazine would have to recruit employees. Their jobs are to just be a ‘jail editor’ who would have the honour of taking the punishment and saving his company. 

The History of Manga Propaganda manga
The History of Manga
Propaganda Manga

Due to the impact of the 2nd World War, they considered any kind of criticism towards the government as treason. Some artist willingly follow the government while the rest follow by force. For those who cooperate with the Japanese government, rewards and honour were given by the government. While for those who deny and spend their career criticizing the government, received punishment such as detention, shun from society, or even forbidden to write. During the war, there are three basic types of comic strips. These are ‘Single Panel Strip’ about Japan’s enemies, family comic strips portraying about the war, and propaganda.

The History of Manga Propaganda manga
The History of Manga
Propaganda Manga

Post World War II

After World War II, artists flourished and many publishers who were living in the underground during the war. They finally got back on track, which gave rise to many new found companies. These small companies publish cheap comics called ‘Red Book’. One of these artists happens to be a certain medical student we now know as Osamu Tezuka. As time passed by, artist made improvements in their work and created a wide span of categories within these comics. During the Allied occupation of Japan (1945-52) and Post occupation (1952 – early 1960s), the Americans brought their own comics and cartoons. They’re famous titles such as Disney works, Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop and Bambi. These comics gave great inspiration to the Japanese artists, who then started drawing their own versions and style. Thus leaving a great impression on the artists.

The History of Manga Osamu Tezuka
Osamu Tezuka (c) Tezuka Productions

Over the years, Manga began to reflect changes in Japanese society with the influence of Western culture. This mix of both cultures gave birth to what we know now as Japanese Manga. What started with a comic strip in newspapers and magazines slowly became too big for them. Soon enough, they publish them weekly and monthly comic magazines. 

Pioneers of Manga

Osamu Tezuka who people know as “The Father of Manga” made great strides in this field. In his first manga “Dairy of Ma-Chan” 1947, he was still 17 years old when he started.

The History of Manga Dairy of Ma-chan
The History of Manga
Dairy of Ma-Chan manga (c) Osamu Tezuka

Another of his famous work in which he works together with Sakai Shichima, was “Shin Takarajima” (based on the novel Treasure Island, R. L Stevenson, 1883). They publish both this and Tezuka’s first manga in “Tankobon From” in 1947. “Shin Takarajima” overnight success began the Golden Age of Manga. Though Tezuka real major success was “Kimba The White Lion” published in Manga Shonen in 1950-1954. He went on to make “Ambassador Atom”, the first appearance of “Astro Boy” which became popular rapidly in Japan and other countries. (Tezuka drawn 150,000 pages in 40 years and sold some 100 million books in his lifetime).

Astro Boy
The History of Manga
Astroboy (c) Osamu Tezuka

Like Tezuka we have Machiko Hasegawa one of the first female manga artist and quite popular and successful during her time her most successful work “Sazae-San” published in 1946 it is also one of the world longest running T.V. animation running since 1969 till present.

She also won the 8th “Bungeishunju Manga Award” for “Sazae-San” in the year 1962. Hasegawa was the first female manga artist who received the Medal of Honour with purple Ribbon in 1982. She received the 4th Tokyo Cultural Award in the year 1988, the Order of the Precious Crown, Fourth Class in 1990. “Sazae-San” was awarded at the 20th Japan Cartoonists Association Award, 1991 by the Minister of Education. Received 10th People’s Horner Award, 1992 and also won a special prize at the 24th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prizes, 2020. Most of Hasegawa’s work base women’s daily life as the main topic which later became known as ‘Shojo Manga’. Between 1950 and 1969, Japan’s two main marketing genre was ‘Shonen Manga’ and ‘Shojo Manga’ .  

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Sazae San
The History of Manga
Sazae-San (c) Machiko Hasegawa

Formation of “Magnificent 24” and its place in The History of Manga

In 1969, female manga artists came together and formed a group which was known as ‘Year of 24 Group’ or ‘Magnificent 24’. This group includes names like Moto Hagio who people know as “Founding Mother” of modern ‘Shojo Manga’ and ‘Shonen-Ai’. In the 1970s, she became an eminent female artist as a member of the ‘Year of 24 Group’ . People describe her as “The most beloved Shojo Manga artist of all time”. Her most remarkable works are “The Poe Clan, 1972-76”, “The Heart of Thomas, 1974”, They Were Eleven, 1975″ and “A Cruel God Reign, 1993-2001”. She won many awards for her works, in 1976, “Poe No Ichizoku” and “They were Eleven” got the 21st Shogakukan Manga Award.

Moto Hagio
Moto Hagio: Founding mother of Shojo manga in The History of Manga

“Zankokuna Kami Ga Shihai Suru” was awarded 1st Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize (Award of Excellence) in 1997. In 2012 she was ‘The First Shojo Manga Artist’ Japan’s Medal of Honour With Purple Ribbon. It is in honour of Academic Or Artistic Achievement. 2016, Asahi Prize for innovative expression in comics and creative for many years. 2019, Person of Cultural Merit. Apart from these, there are several awards and works done by her. Over the years, female artist grew in number and usually base their works on ‘Shojo Manga’. This genre is now a staple in today’s day and age and continues to grow. 

Genres Throughout The History of Manga

The contemporary manga with the varieties of genre is all thanks to the experimental manga from the previous years. Manga features many genres like action, Fantasy, Romance, slice of life, etc.

Most of the manga artists portray their character with wide eyes. This goes way back to the‘Shojo’ magazine illustrations during the 19t century. ‘Shojo’ was heavily influenced by famous ‘Shojo’ artist such as Moto Hagio and Riyoko Ikeda. Apart from female ‘Shojo’ artist, the two male artists who were popular with their ‘Shojo’ manga were Tezuka’s “Ribon No Kishi” 1953-1956 and Mitsuteru Yokoyama “Mahotsukai Sarii” 1966. In the modern days ‘Shojo’ Manga is mostly based on Romance genre. ‘Shojo’ manga slowly became a world-wide phenomenon. Manga like “Fruit Basket” by Natsuki Takaya became the most popular ‘Shojo’ manga in the United States. By the 21st century, manga for women and girls represents a wide range of medium. Both for pre and early teenagers to adults. 

Claudine Riyoko Ikeda
The History of Manga
Claudine (c) Riyoko Ikeda

Mangas are also based for boys (‘Shonen’) under the age of 18 and young men (‘Seinin’) between 18-30 years of age in which the genre are most preferably action, adventure or superheroes, where the protagonist is a male character. Among the other popular Japanese manga genres, we also have ‘Yōji’, for children aged 1-4, followed by ‘Kodomo (or Jidō)’, for kids just learning to read. ‘Josie’ for older teenagers and adult women.

In the 1950s, ‘Shonen’ manga focused on the concept of robots, space-travel, action-adventure, sci-fi, sports, supernatural, etc. Some resemble characters, such as Superman and Batman. Some of the oldest robots manga are Tezuka’s “Astro Boy” 1952-1968 and Fujiko. F. Fujio’s “Doraemon” 1969. Since the many years robots genres have evolved to later ones. Sports is also a very popular genre for male readers. One of the most famous till date “Slam Dunk”, 1990 by Takehiko Inoue is still read by many. Action-adventure, superheroes genre are also popular among the ‘Shonen’ and ‘Seinin’ genre. They include from “Hunter x Hunter”,1998 by Yoshihiri Togashi to “Fairy Tail: 100 Year Quest”,2018 by Hiro Mashima. 

Manga going international

Manga went international during the late 1970s in Europe and mid-1980s in America. Japanese comic have largely established itself around the world during this time and period. They are becomming easily accessible to those who love reading them. However, the true blossoming of international manga wasn’t until the late 1990s with the wide popularity of “Sailor Moon”, “Pokémon” and “Dragon Ball”. It went on a hit as soon as popular shows such as these went world-wide in T.V. programmes.

Manga is a global phenomenon becoming a multimillion-dollar market in the U.S and parts of Europe. Especially with its translations and world-wide accessibility as we speak. Manga is the largest comic industry in the world since 1984, with around 1.4 billion copies sold in that year. In the year 2000, manga had generated sales of 5.4 billion yen ($43 million) per annum.

Sailor Moon Naeko Takeuchi
The History of Manga
Sailor moon (c) Naoko Takeuchi

In 2002  the first edition print of a single volume manga series “One Piece” was 2.6 million. ‘Shonen Jump’ that reached its peak in 1995 at 6.5 million and readers reached approximately 20 million. “One Piece” was the top selling manga in the year 2015 (Obvious) which issued around 14,102,521. And it’s still an ongoing series and no one can deny the fact that it’s only growing in popularity.

By 21st century Manga series such as “Edens Zero”, “Jujutsu Kaisen”,Attack on Titan”, “Chainsaw Man”, “Demon Slayer” and numerous series have climbed up the international Comic community and Japan Comic Culture and it won’t be fading any time soon. They are also the top selling manga of the year 2021 till mid of August.


Manga are unique and intriguing as they come in ‘Black and White’ unlike any other comics we see. Why it is black and white? We will learn in the brief description below:

Cost Efficiency

Basically, manga is Black and White due to the cost and work pressure of the mangakas (a person creating manga). Black ink cost less, so they can save up more on their budget. As they have to publish manga on a weekly basis, they have little time in completing their work. And adding colour will just take most of their time. Although, lack of colour and low cost does not mean cheap manga product. The printing is in a pocket-size book and they release it every week for all range of ages. From elementary school kids to adults, which is why manga have a decent and affordable price for all. Manga are usually around 2.5 cm to 5 cm and are thicker than western comic books.


As mentioned that manga are published weekly, mangakas have a deadline for their work. So most of them do their work daily and none have ever missed their deadline or extend the date. We can say they are very disciplined when it comes to their work.

They also designed manga for speed read at around 3.75 seconds per page much faster than any other comic or novel to be precise. 

Tradition of The History of Manga

Printing black and white manga is also like a tradition to the Japanese artist. As we have learned that manga originates during the Edo Period and at that time, there was no colour printing. So manga became the primary black and white comic, and it makes it stand out more than western comic or Manhwa. During the World War II, many soldiers are fond of reading manga while on the battlefield. So artist published their art in black and white so it could reach the soldiers swiftly.

Traditional Manga

Choice of style

Mangakas can show their art skills perfectly and in details even though they only draw in black and white. While others argue coloured comics are better artistically, but mangas proved that colourless comics also can stand out artistically. Even with no colour, they can bring out the needed vibe for the reader while reading their manga. Sometimes we see mangas in colour but usually, these coloured pages meant that the chapter has a significant role in the whole story line.

As for the visuals, mangakas mostly concentrate on well define art with less text compared to western comics. This makes the story longer than western comics and the actions are more refined, which takes the scene deeper and can last over 20 pages long. Stories like “Kozure Okami” 1970 by Kojima Goseki were over 8,400 pages and 28 volumes.

Kozare Okami
“Kozure Okami” 1970 (c) Kojima Goseki

Having no colour does not make the art lifeless, mangakas usually draw filters to create the mood while reading. Like heart shapes when in love, or bubbles or floral to lighten up the mood or to show one’s emoticons. Yet again, we can say they are very talented as they can create  all sorts of excitements and expression and the surroundings with just two simple colours.

Disadvantages throughout The History of Manga

There are some disadvantages in colourless manga like identifying the gender of the character. Since artist cannot put colour in their panel, they have to use shades of black to show their tones and texture. 

Not just the characters we find it hard to identify, but also the time of the day. The artists have to mention which time of the day it is as is it noon or night. Night is quite easy as there will be a moon or stars, but what about daytime? So narration is very important in order to pinpoint all these small yet important details. Like the coloured artist who have to do colour testing for their comics, the mangakas also do the same for their coloured panels. But they mostly concentrate on their black and white panels rather than coloured. 

The Call of the Night
Call of the night (c) Kotoyama

Average artist somehow finds it easier to draw with just two colours as they do not have to waste their time in choosing colours and it makes their work east and fast. But for a mangaka who is an expert, he can show his/her skills by adding more effects to the character and making them look more appealing if he/she could. 

The Art of Cliff hanging

Another interesting part about manga is that the artist has perfected the leave-you-in-a-cliff-hanger style. This will make the readers want to read more and eagerly waiting for its release. Manga like “Attack on Titan”, “Full Metal Alchemist” and “My Hero Academia” have the outstanding mangakas and cliff-hangers. Such an event makes the reader keen on the story and makes them want to come for more, which means more sales.

Full Metal Alchemist Manga
FMA (c)  Hiromu Arakawa

Conclusion on The History of Manga

To conclude as a whole, manga is famous for its many genres that we can choose from. You may not like every manga, but there will always be a manga which makes you feel like it is made for you. We read some comics or manga just for time pass. While there are others, we develop a deep passion and wanting to explore for more. Manga and anime have become an important aspect of Japan’s cultural identity and the pillar of its economy. It is the major publishing industry in Japan and represents the sturdy market. 

Having a hefty fan base and increasing further interest in the Japanese culture, manga helped the country become one of the planet’s largest exporters of cultural products. This is the reason it became the cornerstone of the Japanese economy and culture.

Log Horizon
Log Horizon (c) Mamare Touno

Due to the current global development of manga and anime, cultural scholars are suggesting that Japan could be considered as another centre of globalization. The influence of manga in the Southeast Asian societies can be ascribed to cultural proximity, but the penetration of manga in Europe and North America is interesting to study.

Manga is either for entertainment or educational purposes like ‘Komodo’ genre is specially for children to help them learn how to read. The character personality development helps us learn how we should also build a good relationship with others. Be it at school or work or even personal relationships like families. There are even stories that carry spiritual or philosophical messages.

Some of us even became obsessed with them which are often called “Otaku”. This is a term used for people who are not just into manga but also anime watchers, cosplayers, gamers, etc. Though this term is considered a negative undertone in Japan, so be careful when using this word while in Japan. Some of us are obsessed to the point where we imitate our favourite characters in our daily life, like quoting their ideal lines.

With all these improvements since the starting of comic industry in Japan till today, we hope that the mangakas from the early age will be content with these drastic changes and we will look forward in to the future manga.

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Sources: Britannica, Wikipedia, Osamu Tezuka, Machiko Hasegawa, Year 24 Group, Moto Hagio

3 Comments on “The History of Manga: All you need to know.”

  1. Manga is an original Japanese comic book that has a solid niche of followers from all around the world. Japanese manga creators conform to a particular style of artwork creation developed in the late 19th century. The storylines of the comic books tackle a broad range of genres such as action-adventure, romance, comedy, drama, science-fiction, and fantasy. Manga plays a large part in the Japanese publishing industry and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
    also, there was just a random HUGE spoiler for the attack on titan manga in there, just saying…. whoever made this documentary, thanks for that

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