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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Manga and anime: What's the difference?

 •  Comic book enthusiasts embrace manga mania

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

What is manga? Manga is the Japanese word for a comic book. Most manga are published weekly, with serial storylines. To Western eyes, manga illustrations can take some getting used to. The genre is characterized by visual ironies and playful contradictions between art and text. Often, the grotesque and the cartoonish co-exist. External chaos is reflected in steely, stoic eyes. Internal tension explodes outwardly with motion lines, flying sweat and mouths misshapen by rage, joy or confusion. The manga format has been traced back as far as the year 900, to Buddhist scrolls depicting life after death. Sizes and formats vary from pocket-sized novels and weekly, magazine sized publications to massive anthologies thick as telephone books. Manga books cost $3 to $20, or more.

What is anime? Anime is an umbrella term for Japanese animation, though people from Japan will typically refer to any animation as anime. Like manga, the genre encompasses many themes and styles.

Manga vs. anime? It can be difficult to separate manga and anime because their product lines are often cross-marketed along with graphic novels, video games, toys, and collectible cards. Many popular anime series started off as manga; a few manga began as anime.

Anime programming has enjoyed sporadic popularity in the United States, from Astro-Boy in the 1960s to the Transformers in the 1980s. But it's hit mainstream in a big way over the past few years with offerings as diverse as Pokemon, Cowboy Bebop and Gundam Wing.

Manga has been slower to catch on, mostly because English translations have been scarce until recently. That changed last year, when a couple of English-edition anime and manga fan magazines debuted, along with a line of English-language, manga-formatted comics.

Industry: In Japan, manga is a $4 billion business, accounting for about 40 percent of all printed material.

In the United States, manga makes up about 7 percent of the total comic book market, drawing $400 million to $500 million each year. A recent ranking from ICV2, a leading publishing industry Web site, showed that manga titles accounted for 18 of the top 20 (and 40 of the top 50) graphic novel sellers in U.S. bookstores.