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Anime & Manga
What is anime and manga?
Manga means "comic" in Japanese. It is a printed comic (mostly in Japanese language) in the form of a book.
Anime comes from the word "animation". It is a Japanese animated production. But unlike American cartoons, which are mainly intended for children, anime deals with a variety of topics and is meant for all age groups, like teenagers and even adults.
There are many types of anime and manga, including action, sci-fi, romance, adventure, drama and history.
A little history...
The first person to draw manga was a Japanese artist called Hokusai (1760-1849). He was also the first person to use the term "manga" when he referred to his comic sketches as "careless (man) drawings (ga)". He drew a series of sketchbooks in 1814, called the Hokusai manga. The sketches were based on various topics including gods, monsters, mountains, flowers and birds. They were loosely, if not at all, related to each other.
However, the images in the Hokusai manga weren't representative of the manga we see today. The Hokusai manga style was that of sketchings, and it wasn't until later, when the influence of the western world set in, that we began to see the drawing style we see in manga today. This was known as Ponchi-e, when Japanese artists began to concentrate on effectively using thick lines, colours, and forms. The era of Ponchi-e also went hand in hand with animated films, and in the 20th century we saw the first emergence of manga animation - known today as "anime".
While available throughout the beginning of the 20th century, manga was not very popular until after World War II (when Japan was atom-bombed and two cities were blown to bits). Starting in the 50's, manga, followed by anime, became a popular way for writers and artists to deal with the devastation of the war (since the Japanese had not been defeated in any war before in history, they were extremely disappointed. Some generals committed suicide in the traditional way, hara-kiri, by cutting out their intestines with ceremonial swords... a little fact I got from my history book!). From then on, anime and manga became a prominent part of the Japanese society.
Japan had somewhat of an under-developed "live action" entertainment industry back then. Because of this, anime quickly became very popular in Japan.
How it is created
While styles may vary from artist to artist, there are some features that all anime has in common. Exaggerated physical features are the the most common form of anime drawings, like large eyes, big hair and elongated limbs. Speed lines, dramatically shaped speech bubbles and onomatopoeic, exclamatory typography is also used.
The linear qualities of the anime style are usually influenced by Japanese calligraphy and painting. The round ink brush traditionally used for writing kanji and for painting, produces strokes of widely varying thickness. Anime also tends to borrow a lot of elements from manga, like text in the background, to tell the story or emphasise a point.
Character designs are mostly the same in a lot of anime. Many anime and manga characters have large eyes. The first person to use this technique was Osamu Tezuka. He was inspired by American cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse and Bambi. He found that large eyes allowed the characters to show emotions distinctly. However, all anime doesn't have large eyes. Some artists, like Hayao Miyazaki and Toshiro Kawamoto, are known for using realistically proportioned eyes, as well as realistic hair colours for their characters (like Death Note). Some characters have even smaller eyes, where simple black dots are used. But most audiences associate large eyes with anime.
Anime characters have a large variety of facial expressions. Characters that are shocked or surprised will perform a "face fault", in which they display an extremely exaggerated expression. Angry characters may exhibit a "vein" or "stress mark" effect, where lines representing bulging veins will appear on their forehead. Angry women will sometimes get a mallet from nowhere and strike someone with it. Embarrassed characters either produce a massive sweat-drop or a visibly red blush or lines beneath the eyes.
Like all animation, the production processes of storyboarding, voice acting, character design, cel production and so on still apply. Computer animation increases efficiency of the whole production process.
How it evolves
It usually starts off as manga. When a particular manga becomes popular, it is turned into anime. Anime is sometimes further adapted as real movies, and even PSP games.
Anime movies are almost always made in Japan, involving Japanese actors and actresses. But some movies have been made into Hollywood adaptations. However, the audiences are not very receptive about Hollywood versions of anime movies. A popular example is Dragonball Evolution. The fans absolutely hated the Hollywood version. There's a lot of criticism about the fact that Hollywood is planning to make their own version of the much-loved anime movie, Death Note. People are making a huge fuss about it, especially due to the possibility that Zac Efron might play the role of the character, Light Yagami. Audiences claim that Hollywood "ruins" and "kills" Japanese movies. Here are some opinions of people that I got off the internet:
"Hollywood is really starting to piss me off. The reason they make all these movies is because they already have a built in franchise. But it still ticks me off, they have already made a joke out of Dragon Ball and now they're going to butcher Robotech, Cowboy Bebop, Afro Samurai, and Space Adventure Cobra all because they don't have any ideas and don't know a thing about anime."
"I'd say they should let the japanese get more involved in those movies. Mainly because the story is japanese to begin with, so to keep the originality japanese people involvement would be essential. But well, who knows what they are thinking, they probably just want all the credit for themselves."
"Me and adaptations have had an interesting run. "Dragonball Evolution" was painful. I am a life-long Dragonball fan, and to see something so...ugh, I feel a headache coming on. As for future adaptations, the one that comes to mind most is the Akira adaptation (if it's still going). How they are going to manage the last scene without it being unbelievably retarded is beyond me."
Promotion of Japanese culture and language through anime
I was going through this magazine the other day, and I noticed that a lot of letters to the editor had one or two Japanese phrases punched in. More and more people, mainly teenagers, are learning bits of Japanese (in an amateur way) and using them everywhere, like on the internet, in magazines, and some die-hard fans even use Japanese words in normal conversation! This is considered a good thing, since research shows that people who know multiple languages have a faster rate of brain development. So anime is encouraging people to learn a foreign language.
Anime-style fashion is also becoming increasingly popular. Clothing accessories that are used in anime movies, like striped socks and some punk jewelery, are being sold in a lot of stores. Out of all that, I think Japanese hairstyles are the most popular thing. These haircuts work best with straight hair, but these days it's extended to all sorts of hair. Japanese bangs and straight fringes are seen everywhere. I like the sticky-outy kind the best, the type Cloud Strife has in Final Fantasy :D They're inspired by charcters like Light Yagami, L. Lawliet, Sasuke Uchiha and Cloud Strife. You have to be careful with them if you don't like to stand out of the crowd, though.
The Japanese film industry is benefiting massively from all the anime movies they have been producing. The demand for anime-based movies is increasing quickly, and even though they have to work hard to keep up with it, it's doing them a lot of good. Due to the fact that anime characters are Japanese, a lot of talented Japanese actors and actresses are brought into the limelight. The film industry in Japan is a whole lot better than it was back when anime wasn't this popular.
Anime and manga today
Anime and manga have made a lot of improvements since when they were first introduced. Today, it can be accessed very easily on the internet. In fact, manga, which was originally supposed to be a comic on paper, is read online (on websites such as onemanga.com) a lot more than in book form. Anime is also watched in episodes for free on websites like crunchyroll.com. There are thousands of anime and manga out there for people of all ages and interests.
Here's a list of some popular anime and their main themes:
A genius student named Light Yagami finds a notebook with mysterious powers: it kills anyone whose name is written on it. Light starts a campaign to change the world by destroying all crime.
A popular shounen anime based on manga by Kishimoto Masashi. Tells the story of Uzumaki Naruto, a boy who has Kyubi, a fearsome nine-tailed fox sealed inside him. Naruto struggles to become stronger and accepted by his village where people see him as a monster instead of the person he really is.
A shounen anime based on manga by Kubo Taito. Kurosaki Ichigo, a 15 year old student can see ghosts. One day, he meets Rukia, a death god whose job is to destroy evil spirits called Hollows. Rukia encounters a strong Hollow and gets injured; she transfers her powers to Ichigo as that's her only chance to survive. He now must do the job of the death god, and protect Rukia from the Soul Society's laws.
Yuki Cross, the adopted daughter of the headmaster of Cross Academy, has grown up and become a "prefect" (also known as a guardian) for the school with two purposes: to protect the Day class students (humans) from the Night class students (vampires) and to protect the true identity of the Night class students from being discovered by the Day class students.
Full Metal Alchemist
Two brothers, Edward and Alphonse, broke the taboo of human transmutation by trying to revive their dead mother and paid harshly. Now they travel the world in search of Philosopher's stone, in order to regain what they lost.
This story is about a time-travelling middle school student, a half-demon, a lecherous monk, a fox demon, a demon slayer, and a nekomata who seek to find all the fragments of the Jewel of Four Souls and to keep them out of the hands of evil doers.
A boy named Luffy is the captain of a pirate ship looking for the legendary treasure, One Piece. When Luffy was a kid, he ate devil's fruit, which turned him into a rubber man.
A high school student Jimmy Kudo witnesses a murder and is given an untested poison to silence him. However, the poison turns him into a 6 year old boy, and he sets out to track the killers as a boy-detective, Conan.