At Japan Craft we are often asked what the difference between manga and anime is. Although they are both equally important to Japanese culture and entertainment, the two are not the same thing. Put simply, manga is the term given to Japanese comic books and graphic novels, whereas anime is the name given to Japanese animation.
Although both tend to be considered genres in the West, in reality they are a description of how the content is produced. They share many similarities and the creation of both has been credited to Osamu Tezuka, sometimes referred to as ‘the godfather of Manga’ and the ‘Japanese Walt Disney’.
To decide which one is more your cup of tea, you must first truly understand both manga and anime.
What is manga?
Manga are comic books rather than animations. Unlike anime, manga is often published in black and white. Why? Because they are usually published weekly and printing them in colour would take too much time and money.
Manga is usually fairly cheap to publish and only requires a small number of artists to produce. In fact it can take just one, the mangaka, who is usually both the author and illustrator, as well as filling in other roles of the publishing process.
What is Anime?
In Japan the term anime is used to refer to all animation, much like cartoon is in English. Only elsewhere has anime become the term associated exclusively with animation from Japan.
There is some debate over whether the term anime can be given to animation not from Japan. Although it technically can, anime has, at least in the English language, become synonymous with Japan.
Anime has visually distinct features for characters, and deliberately uses a limited style for depicting movement. In the West, most animations are cartoons used to tell children stories, whereas anime often involves complex storylines and characters with adult themes.
Manga can be more original
Manga is considered by some to be more artistically original than anime, much the same as books are to films. This is because most mangaka write only original content and many start by self-publishing. In fact, self-published works, or doujinshi, are incredibly popular. Unlike manga, lots of anime are based pre-existing stories. This is because it's cheaper to adapt an existing work than it is to create a completely original storyline. Additionally, adaptations are assumed to be a safer investment; as the original work will already have a following.
Manga is a much quicker way of publishing work than anime. A single issue of a manga can be written, drawn, and inked within a single week. On the other hand, an anime series will usually require months of preparation and work to produce each episode.
Which is better: manga or anime?
Impossible to say. That depends on the person and the story. The two can be very closely linked as many manga get made into anime, including Black Butler, Attack on Titan and Dragon Ball which spawned the anime series Dragon Ball Z.
Although neither is a genre, Japanese graphic novels and animation are particularly distinctive. Some fans will love manga, some will love anime. Many will love both. One thing is for certain, both manga and anime are incredibly popular with audiences in Japan and around the world.