Asian Fangirl, Japanese Manga

Format Japan: A Manga Primer

So yesterday I posted my first ever manga review! I hope you read it and see why I or a friend or family member is so passionate about the medium. It is seriously like a combination of a book, movie and television show…

After reading my first volume of manga I was not excited. Yup, I hated it and didn’t really see the point. The pictures confused me and seemed to want me to read a lot into a little. I didn’t touch another volume for a couple years. I wrote off the manga book format as a fad for fanboys and nerdy girls (no disrespect for nerdy people or fans of disparate pop culture icons).

Yet here I am a fangirl of manga. How’d that happen you ask…? That’s why I created a primer! If you have the right informations, you too can fall in love with the wonderful worlds from Japan’s popular comic style… manga.

Manga Shelf Banner

The purpose of this primer is to give anyone new to manga a run down of the important points to remember when trying out this medium. It is basic, basic and not meant to insult if you already know and love manga (please if this is you then leave me your best recommendations in the comments!)

So, What is it?

Well, it’s a type of comic…


Manga are Japanese comics that are originally printed in a magazine then gathered into volumes to sell once they reach a certain length. These volumes are typically what Americans are referring to by manga.  They can be adapted into Japanese animation, known as anime.

Okay, let’s learn how to say the word correctly. #jokingnotjoking

Manga is actually three syllables with the n spoken really quickly: maw-nn-gah. Asians actually sort of slur their syllables together… Actually… haaahaaa I’m totally joking… It’s perfectly fine for you to say it main-guh. It’s not the way the Japanese say it but it works for Americans fine.

In fact, the writers and artists of manga are well respected and it’s seen as a good career if you can break into it and become successful. It’s a competitive market thought and you have to be at the top of your game.

Understanding Format

If you understand the way it’s formatted, the mystique of manga is dispelled.

If you’re new to manga, it can be a little confusing figuring out where to start reading. All manga, translated or otherwise, reads right to left, so you start at the back of the volume.

You may run across volumes that appear to be manga but that read left to right (like American books) these will be manhwa or Korean manga.

This image shows the proper order and direction to read manga. Start in the upper-right corner of the upper-right panel and then read from right to left. Repeat this process until you’re done with all of the panels in a section, and then move down to the next section of panels and repeat the right to left process.

Find Your Genre

There is something for EVERYONE (not most people, but literally all sorts and types of readers and non-readers alike!)

In Japan manga is read by much of the population, from the very young to men and women in their 40s. This industry is so huge publishers have divided manga loosely into various genres based on demographics. We don’t even do that for books here in America! There are five demographic types of manga:

Seinen – men’s manga
Josei – women’s manga
Shôujo – – girl’s manga
Shônen – boy’s manga
Kodomo – children’s manga

Like novels, there are dozens of genres of manga as well. These range from fantasy and science fiction to slice of life and mecha. Often, these genres have blurred lines that allow for very imaginative stories and plot points.


Pay Attention to the Art

The illustrations make ALL the difference…

Sailor-Moon Manga banner no words

Don’t forget to take time to look at the artwork, though! Since the text boxes are often short bits of dialogue, it’s easy to blast through an entire page of manga without actually looking at the mangaka’s (or artist’s) work.

Most of the beauty contained within a volume of manga isn’t the story line, but the art. Indeed, the art is complimented by the story, not the other way around, as the art tells a majority of the story through careful, beautiful emotions (or for comedies, extreme exaggerated emotions) and distinct actions. Either way the art will tell you it all…

This is where the book, movie and television show come together. There is a distinct book beginning, middle and end to the story over the entire series (i.e the volume set). The movie comes in through the illustrations that can show you much about what is going on. There is no space wasted (or just filled in) in a frame of manga… The television show comes through in the episodeic or rather, volume nature of manga. The story has to be cut into smaller chunks that fit in that volume. Everything isn’t resolved but some sort of progress is made just like a television show.

It is truly remarkable… so hopefully I’ve persuaded you to have…

An Open Mind

There no need of a comic label stigma.

So if you are a comic lover, prepare to experience something familiar but a little outside your wheelhouse! If comics are not appealing to you I ask that you keep reading because they will surprise you…

Developed in the late 19th century in Japan, manga has taken the world by storm and is now translated into many languages including English. For Americans, like comics, manga is seen as aimed for child or people who won’t grow up, i.e. for those of us too lazy to read all the words in a novel.

While some readers have been exposed to manga through someone they are close to, there are many that still subscribe to this negative belief… IT’S NOT TRUE!

Manga mind blown Banner

The best thing about manga is that it is for readers who LOVE comics and it is for readers who DISLIKE comics. Yes, a manga is a type of comic in that it has panels of illustrations and dialogue bubbles but the feels as you read a manga as compared to a comic are TOTALLY different! Try it for yourself!

Are you a manga lover? Who converted you to manga? Or a manga newbie? What type of book genres do you typically enjoy?

Dani Signature





23 thoughts on “Format Japan: A Manga Primer”

  1. I actually fell in love with manga several years ago when an Asian friend of mine came to visit. He knew I had a passion for anime and the art so he immediately whisked me off to Powell’s to explore the manga section. It was here that he gave me a quick rundown on the formatting etc. Thank goodness or I might have been lost. I did find though, that it did not take long to adjust to reading “backwards”. Alice in the Country of Hearts was the first series I fell for.

    I love this post so much! I has so much info that can benefit anyone looking to start with manga ❤

    1. WOW I LOVE Alice in the Country of Hearts ♥️❤️♥️❤️ I never mention it because most don’t know about it… I wish they had finished the last volume instead of splintering it off oddly like they did. I loved the clock master (Julian?) Though they all had good things about them… the mad hatter was trippy.

      I love hearing your story! How fun! I want an Asian friend to walk me through, lol. I agree… reading backwards, reading subtitles… anything like that you adjust pretty easily. I appreciate your praise, Danielle! Was there anything I missed that you think is essential in a primer?

      1. I also hold a soft spot for Julius and Vilvadi ❤ I thought your were spot on with this post. It is a nice intro into unfamiliar territory for some without being overwhelming. You covered the necessities and made it very relatable 🙂

  2. You may have just convinced me to try reading these. I love anime so I’ve always been curious about the manga but also afraid…. of… honestly I don’t even know! What was the title that got you hooked?

    1. Yay! I’d be so happy if my post convinced you to give manga a try… it’s called Black Bird… it’s shoujo and do basically a romance but with yokai. What kind of anime do you enjoy??? I have tried all the demographics so could at least give you a title to start looking on goodreads or amazon with…

      1. I’m honestly a little obsessed with Naruto. I tend to prefer anime that has more of a magical/mystical nature and a decent amount of action, but for a manga I would probably want to start with something relatively light? Romance with yokai sounds like a pretty good place to start!

      2. Then I’d suggest a Black Bird or Dengeki Daisy. Black Bird is yokai romance (I loved it) and DD is modern with some action and humor but still romance heavy. I’ve not finished it yet (it’s still ongoing) but I’m pretty far and it’s consistently good! Fruits Basket is another great romance one but it’s darker emotional with a light shape shifting side. I hope you try one! (Actually I love Naruto anime! Watched the whole first series. Still need to watch the shippuden series but I just love Naruto and all the characters!)

  3. This is a fantastic post for a total newbie to comics/graphic novels in general. I’ve only started getting into this kind of thing this year. I’m always looking for ways to branch out with my reading- so I’ll definitely be looking into this (hopefully in the near future). I love how you went from not-so-interested to major fangirl! 😀

  4. I love Manga, and the art has to be my favourite. I spent a lot of time in my local libraries looking at Manga’s it is a shame I don’t do it anymore. Maybe I will reignite the one again? ❤ 🙂

  5. I’m an anime fan. I think I’ve read one manga before and that was Nana cause I enjoyed the anime version. My husband loves Naruto and One Punch Man manga and anime.

      1. I did enjoy Nana. Shoujo is like a guilty pleasure for me cause I’m usually Seinen all the way but I think I randomly came across Nana and just loved it. It’s hard not to like a manga when you get your hands on one!

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