Anime and manga are some of Japan’s most beloved staples in entertainment. Both of these terms are Japanese words that describe a particular type of media, much like how we can classify other types in English as films, television shows, or novels.

How is anime different from manga?

In the simplest sense, anime refers to all Japanese-styled animated media. Similarly, manga is the term used for Japanese comics, although it can also refer to graphic novels. Because of their unique art style and nuances, anime and manga are considered different media types to their closest Western counterparts – cartoons and comic books.

What is an Anime?

The most common definition of anime confines it specifically to Japanese-made works. However, in Japan, anime is the term used for all animations, regardless of where they were made. Unless you’re living there, though, the former meaning is virtually always used.

Sakura, Naruto & Sasuke in the Naruto Anime

Anime features a distinctive visual style, which can quickly be seen in their character designs, whose facial features are usually exaggerated to easily show depth and emotion. Many shows illustrate movement using a limited number of stylized frames that allow them to be visually impactful while remaining easy to produce.

As a storytelling device, anime commonly has complex and deep plots with more mature themes compared to Western cartoons.

What is a Manga?

Manga essentially means a Japanese comic. They are often drawn in black and white, and their panels are read from right to left. Prominent genres include shōnen and seinen manga for boys and shōjo for girls.

Sasuke, Naruto & Sakura in the Naruto Manga

In the country, the general public enjoys comics as a common form of print entertainment – manga magazines, for instance, are widely popular and feature several manga series. Manga is also typically enjoyed as webcomics. Particularly in-demand manga are often compiled into graphic novels called tankōbon.

Many anime shows are adaptations of manga – and naturally, artistic differences can exist between the anime and its source material. Manga may also be adapted into live-action films or stage plays.

Differences Between Manga and Anime

As Types of Media

The simplest distinction between anime and manga lies in the nature of their media. 

Anime concerns works that are animated, and are thus distributed in video form through television or the Internet. 

Manga deals with illustrated works in print media. They circulate through publications such as magazines, tankōbon or graphic novels, or webcomics.

Production

Although both media require much effort to produce, the creation of a manga chapter is usually cheaper and easier than creating an episode of anime. 

The artist of a manga is called a mangaka. They draft the initial scenario and storyboards. After consulting with an editor of their publication company, they finalize the drafts, and usually work with a few assistants to finish the manuscript for publishing.

manga production
Manga production

Anime production requires more people. Apart from the director handling the storyboard, other directors are needed to handle the background arts and character designs. The animation process also requires layout designers, key animators, special effect artists, cinematographers, and editors. Lastly, unlike manga, anime requires sound production and voice talents (seiyuu). 

Another consequence of their differences in production is that anime are invariably costlier to make than manga. Masamune Sakaki, a CG creator and anime game designer, reports that a typical 13-episode season can cost roughly $2 million.

Storytelling

Anime can depict its story through a number of channels. The action of the plot is primarily shown through the animation, while the dialogue is spoken. In addition, anime storytelling can benefit from its musical score and SFX; some shows have image or character songs to show more of a character’s personality. 

A manga tells its story through the dialogue and the events happening in its panels. Because it is fairly constrained as an illustrated work in how it could portray emotion, it makes the most out of elements such as lighting, composition, and lay-outing. Speech bubbles and fonts in manga can vary according to the speaker to better accentuate their personalities.

Except in rare cases, manga is usually produced without the accompaniment of any sound or music. 

Visuals

Tying into their storytelling mechanics, anime and manga both have their own visual charms. 

The visual appeal of an anime can be examined through its designs, editing, and the quality of its animation. Different visual elements can add to the emotion of a scene, such as colors, moving backgrounds, and special effects. The speed of animation and frame transitions influence a scene’s pacing.

Although manga are usually made of black-and-white static images, they can add considerable visual depth through toning and typography. As there are comparatively fewer scenes to draw, many panels can enjoy extensive detailing.

Translations

Anime are translated in two ways – through subtitles (sub) with the original voice acting, and dubs in the localized language. Manga have official or fan-made translators.

Comparison Chart: Anime vs Manga

AreasAnimeManga
As Types of MediaVideo; available through TV or the webPrint; available through magazines, tankōbon, and webcomics
ProductionExpensive; requires an entire production teamCheaper; requires a mangaka, an editor and their assistants
StorytellingMoving pictures, spoken dialogue, music and soundStill images, written dialogue
VisualsUses colors, moving backgrounds, special effectsMostly black-and-white, high detail
TranslationsSubs or dubsOfficial or fan localizations

How is Anime Similar to Manga?

Anime and manga share common roots – especially the highly-recognizable and exaggerated art styles that are now characteristic to Japanese entertainment. 

They usually include deeper and more mature storylines than their Western analogues. They also value the richness of detail and expression over animation or quantity of panels. Additionally, anime and manga are both ingrained in Japanese culture and can regularly be seen through their merchandise, as well as in advertisements, clothing, transportation, and restaurants.

FAQ

Why is manga read right to left?

The convention of manga being read from right to left stems from an old form of Japanese writing – takegaki – in which symbols are written top to bottom and from right to left.

This norm is still used in some situations, such as with handwritten text. Many works of fiction in Japanese continue to be read this way. 

Non-fiction or technical literature uses a more modern writing system – yokogaki – which is written in the familiar horizontal format. Even as horizontal writing became the norm, the right-left system of takegaki remains extant in manga.

Who invented anime?

Osamu Tezuka, the creator of Astro Boy (one of the earliest and most popular anime series), is acclaimed as the Godfather of Anime.

He helped establish and popularize the manga and anime industry as a viable profession. His art style, cinematography, and storytelling have, in turn, influenced other great anime producers, such as Hayao Miyazaki and Akira Toriyama.

Conclusion

Anime and manga are two sides of the same coin – both powerhouses in Japanese entertainment media in their own right, and have attracted fans worldwide who enjoy their content in a variety of media. Manga is cheaper to produce than anime, but anime can offer a richer storytelling experience with music and spoken dialogue. These media are usually adapted into video games, light novels, live-action movies, and even radio dramas or stage plays.

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