The history of manga

Published by Caroline Lamarque on

Today, manga culture is a constantly growing market. Cosplays, figurines, video games, anime and conventions on the theme meet a great success with the public. To get there, we had to start somewhere and that’s exactly what we propose you to discover today: the history of manga.

Before telling how the first manga appeared historically, it seems important to recall what the term means. “Manga” is composed of two kanji: “man” which means “entertaining”, “exaggerated” or “unintentional” and “ga” which means “drawing” or “image”. The literal translation of the word “manga” is therefore generally “derisive drawing“, which is associated with “caricature”.

We have to go back to the 12th century to find the first examples of what we can start to consider as mangas. It is indeed from this period that the four scrolls called Choju Jinbutsu Giga date. These scrolls feature personified animals whose story is told in the form of a succession of drawings.

The term “manga” began to become widespread in the 18th century, notably thanks to the book Shiji no yukikai by Kyōden Santō dated 1798. This picture book is considered to be the first version of what we call manga today according to some historians.

It was finally in 1902 that the very first modern manga consisting of four boxes per page was published. It is Tagosaku to Mokubē no Tōkyō-Kenbutsu by Yasuji Rakuten, also known as Rakuten Kitazawa. He is considered the first official mangaka and produced many other mangas.

In the 1920s, Japanese publishers then started to bring out monthly magazines dedicated to manga. These magazines are Shônen Karabu (or The boy’s club), Shôjo Karabu (or The girl’s club) and Yônen Karabu (or The young children club). This marks the beginning of the different genres of manga.

After the Second World War, under the influence of American popular culture, comic books, Hollywood films and Walt Disney, manga will take a new breath thanks to Tezuka Osamu. It is notably to him that we owe the pure graphics, the movements, the action, the close-ups, the dolly or the onomatopoeia. He distinguished himself with Shin Takarajima (or The New Treasure Island) and Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy).

Finally, it is from the 50’s that manga knew a real craze in Japan where specialized editions and bookshops developed. It was not until the 1970s that the first translated manga plates arrived in France in the fanzine Cri qui tue, but with a mixed reception. It was in the 90s, thanks to the Glénat publishing house with Akira, that manga really took off in France.

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