Dr. Katie Monnin is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida. She is also the author of Teaching Graphic Novels, which has recently been nominated as a finalist for educational book of the year by ForeWord magazine and the upcoming title Teaching Early Reader Comics & Graphic Novels.
What Is Manga?
Manga is a Japanese version (or style) of the comic book.
A Brief History of Manga
During World War II, American soldiers brought superhero comic books to Japan. As a result of this American-superhero-comic-book influence, a Japanese version blossomed and was called manga.
Basic Keys to Manga Style
Manga has its own style. In order to identify a text as manga, or teach students how to read and/or write their own manga, the following stylistic conventions are key: characterization, serialization, and emotionality.
A. The importance of characterization
- Characters—manga plot lines are character-driven.
· The main characters typically have unique personalities, traits, or abilities.
· More often than not, there are a few main characters in a manga text, and they all work together to complete a team dynamic.
· Each of these main characters is gifted or special in his/her own unique way, especially in terms of complementing each other and creating a team dynamic where everyone has a role.
- Supporting characters—the supporting cast of characters typically serves to help further draw out the main character’s special ability or skill.
· For instance, if you choose a main character who is skilled with magic, some of the supporting cast may consist of villains/rivals who try to thwart the main character’s magical ability. Characters who team up with the main character, in contrast, can then be given their own abilities that complement the main character’s areas of need. In other words, if the main character is a skilled magician, he/she may not be a skilled swordsman. A minor character could pick up that need in order to support the main character.
- Visualizing the characters—being able to see (in the artwork) each character’s individual traits and gifts is very important to manga artists.
· If a character is strong and confident, his/her physical features, clothing, and accessories will depict that idea to the reader.
· The artwork and the text are equally important in identifying each character’s particular traits.
B. The importance of serialization
Most manga storylines are serialized. In fact, some of the most influential manga storylines have been serialized for decades. For instance, Osama Tezuka’s Astro Boy series has been popular for over 50 years, and, even today, continues to keep reinventing itself. Most manga titles, in fact, have very loyal fan bases.
Three popular and successfully serialized manga for young adult readers are:
1. Dragon Ball
3. Full Metal Alchemist
C. The importance of emotionality
One of the most identifiable and intriguing aspects of manga is its emphasis on emotional expression. Manga artists often purposefully emphasize their characters’ emotions, both in the print-text storytelling and in the artwork. This emphasis is considered to enhance the manga storyline. In fact, many manga readers report that they are able to identify a character’s emotional state by the deliberate, close attention given to that particular character by the artist or author.
Four Common Types of Manga:
- Shonen: manga for boys
- Shojo: manga for girls
- Seinen: manga for adults
- Kodomo: manga for children
Some Online Manga Resources for Parents and Kids:
- School Library Journal -http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/540000654/post/1450041145.html
- Manga for Kids – www.mangaforkids.com
- Good Comics for Kids – www.goodcomicsforkids.com
Some Teaching Manga Resources:
- Teaching Visual Literacy by Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher
- Manga High by Michael Bitz
- Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud