0 Items | £0.00

VIEW BASKET

A Brief History of Manga

Thursday 30th October 2014


Jasper Sharp reviews Helen McCarthy’s intro to Japanese comics Sherlock MangaFor curious dabblers and those wishing a glimpse of the bigger picture of how Japanese comics began and their key development points, the sheer size and diversity of the field can seem pretty daunting.

Helen McCarthy’s A Brief History of Manga, published by ilex, is by no means the first book on the subject – Frederik L. Schodt’s Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics first introduced the West to this intrinsically Japanese form in in 1983, some years before anyone thought of publishing any of its key titles in translated versions, while ten year’s ago, Paul Gravett tried to bring things more up to date with his Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics. Both of these were fairly hefty tomes, expansive in their scope and, as much as they possibly could be given the size of the market in Japan, rich in their detail.

The chief virtues of McCarthy’s book, as the title spells out, are its brevity and consequently its incredibly reasonable cover price – £7.99 doesn’t get you a lot nowadays, so you can hardly baulk at paying it for a hardcover pocket book with 96 full-colour illustrated pages.

The text is fairly sparse, but highly focused, making this a perfect entry point for casual readers and also a quick and handy reference guide for those trying to dig out information or pointers.

The book is laid out in timeline form, with 43 entries of a couple of hundred words each, charting the key developments and turning points, from the lewd caricatures unearthed on the ceiling beams of Horyu-ji temple in Nara, dated from around the 8th century, to 2013, with the manga adaptation of the  BBC TV series Sherlock leading to a spate of Japanese spin-offs based around Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary sleuth.

It was not until the introduction of narratives and in-frame dialogue in the late 19th century that we can really pinpoint the birth of the modern manga. The impetus for what would evolve into a very Japanese cultural form came from overseas, from two crucial foreign pioneers. Charles Wirgman, a Yokohama-based English painter and correspondent for the Illustrated London News founded Japan Punch, which ran from 1862-1887 and featured political cartoons and numerous in-jokes concerning the foreign expat community. Georges Bigot, a French illustrator and cartoonist also based in Yokohama, published the shorter lived Toba-e from 1887, illustrating and satirizing scenes of everyday Japanese life, politics and the excesses of Japan’s Westernization process.

The titles of the ensuing entries alone demonstrate how quickly the Japanese adopted and adapted such early innovations: ‘1895: First Japanese Magazine for Children’, ‘1902: The “Father of Manga” Publishes his First Comic Strip’ (nb. this is Rakuten Kitazawa) and ‘1907: First Children’s Manga Magazine Shonen Puck Launches’.

Tank Tankuro

What is particularly valuable about this history is that is it so exhaustively illustrated, with the covers and frames from the manga under discussion demonstrating how the various graphic styles evolved over time. Two 1930s entries are really fascinating: ‘Manga Pup Debuts and Meets Mickey Mouse’, about the adventures of luckless pooch Norakuro, as he rises through the ranks of the army, published in Shonen Club magazine from 1931 onwards, and ‘Tank Tankuro and the Rise of the Robots’ about the first appearance of the proto-robotic human encased in a ball of iron that could produce whatever necessary for the story from its belly.

Much of this history concerns itself with the post-war period, after Osamu Tezuka shook up the form with his long-form narratives after the publication of the book-length New Treasure Island in 1947. In fact, over half the pages are devoted to what happened after the appearance of Katsuhiro Otomo’s original Akira manga in 1982 and the rise of cyberpunk.

The final couple of entries don’t point to a particularly auspicious future for the form. In 2010, the artist Yana Toboso hit out at the readers she’d discovered illegally downloading scans of her manga and rips of its related anime, pointing to the fact that, as with so many in the creative industries, incomes for its practitioners have radically diminished with a new free-for-all culture encouraged by the internet – and as McCarthy points out “unlike musicians, artists don’t have lucrative live gigs to make up for lost download income.” And of course, the Great East Japan Earthquake of 11th March 2011 provided an even more tangible shake up to a whole way of life for the Japanese, and this particular entry manga details the way authors and artists across the whole world responded to the tragedy.

It is with such wonderful details that McCarthy’s bullet-point history of the form really triumphs, and while the abundance of colour illustrations would be better served by a larger page size, given the price, one can’t really complain.

A Brief History of Manga is published by ilex.

Buy it now

MANGA UK GOSSIP

Death Note Complete Series And Ova Collectors Edition

£44.99
sale_tag
was £59.99
On Blu-ray for the first time! Collected across 6 discs containing all 37 episodes of the hit anime series plus the bonus Death Note: Relight OVAs.

Light Yagami is a genius high school student who is about to learn about life through a book of death. When a bored shinigami, God of Death, named Ryuk drops a black notepad called a Death Note, Light receives power over life and death with the stroke of a pen. Determined to use this dark gift for the best, Light sets out to rid the world of evil... namely the people he believes to be evil.
Should anyone hold such power?
The consequences of Light’s actions will set the world ablaze.

Contains episodes 1-37 plus Death Note Relight OVAs on a bonus Blu-ray disc
Also features exclusive collectors edition rigid box packaging
Languages: English, Japanese and English Subtitles

FEATURED RELEASE

RELATED BLOG ARTICLES

Code Geass vs Death Note

If you liked that, you might like this
At heart, Death Note and Code Geass tell the same story. A teenage Tokyo schoolboy with a towering intellect, railing against the world, is given fantastic powers by a supernatural agency. He finds he can manipulate people like puppets and kill with ease. His power is bound by rules and restrictions, yet still seems godlike.

RECENT FEATURED POSTS

We asked you to send us your #AskAndrew questions for our Marketing Manager Andrew Hewson, and you definitely delivered!

Attack on Titan Music: Linked Horizon

Paul Browne on the bombastic opener for the fan-favourite anime
Based on Hajime Isayama’s manga series, Attack On Titan has inspired TV adverts, a live action adaptation and, more recently, a crossover with Marvel comics that will see the titans battling the likes of Spider-Man and The Avengers on the streets of New York.

Japan Rising... in Brighton!

Tom Smith on three of Japan’s rising talents
moumoon, PASSEPIED and Yosi Horikawa will perform at The Great Escape in Brighton on Saturday 16 May as part of the JAPAN RISING Showcase, taking place between 12-4pm at Queens Hotel.

Anime Tattoos Declared Illegal

Japanese licensors demand pound of flesh
Citing “unsavoury gangster links” and “unlicensed IP [intellectual property] exploitation,” a group comprising every major anime studio (except Gainax) has warned fans that body-art is no longer permissible.

The Yellow Peril

Jonathan Clements reviews a new account of Fu Manchu
The Yellow Peril: Dr Fu Manchu & The Rise of Chinaphobia (sic) is an enjoyably traditional work of gentlemanly erudition, with research in dusty archives accompanied by a slew of lunches with bigwigs and interviews with associates, as our polymath hero Sir Christopher Frayling examines the origins of the infamous mastermind from Sax Rohmer’s once-popular novels.

Cosplay: Amaterasu

Paul Jacques rounds up the best dressed fans
Here comes the Sun! Christina Calver cosplays as Amaterasu Omi Kami, the Japanese Sun Goddess.

Creating Nausicaa

The story behind Hayao Miyazaki’s first and greatest heroine
“There has come the advent of the angel of light, the one who will lead you to the pure land. She who loves the forest and talks with the insects… She who calls down the wind, and rides upon it like a bird. And that one shall come to you, garbed in raiment of blue, descending upon a field of gold, to forge anew our ties with the lost land.”
The deadline for our Ghost in the Shell variant poster competition has come and gone, the entries have been pored over and a winner chosen.
Contact Us   |   Refund Policy   |   Delivery Times   |   Privacy statement   |   Terms & Conditions
Please note your card statement will show billing by MVM. A Brief History of Manga from the UK's best Anime Blog.