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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Manga and Anime

Youthful, androgynous faces--big eyes, pointed chins, virtually invisible noses,
and a range of content from G to XXX.
It would not come as news to anyone familiar with Japanese art that our western culture has had a profound effect upon that country's artists, especially since the end of WW II. Even before that it was not uncommon for Japanese artists to travel to Europe to study (principally to Paris). And why not? Before WW I, and for centuries earlier, artists from virtually every country on earth were flocking there too. However, in more recent years, mostly since the 1980s, the flow of art ideals and styles from West to East has been a two-way thoroughfare. The best example of this has been what's known as Manga and Anime Art. I'm sure anyone who has the slightest interest in art has seen both. Some (myself included) have come to admire this authentically Japanese form of art and watched in amazement as it has filtered into our Western culture. Of course, the one major conduit for this movement from East to West has been the Internet. And though most of us have seen such art, I'm guessing that few westerners know much about it or have even made an effort to investigate and understand Manga or Anime.
Two pages from Hokusai Manga dating from the early 19th-century.
I use the two terms together because they are inextricably linked, but they are not interchangeable. Manga is the oldest, dating back to the early years of the 20th-century (some would claim it goes back a hundred years before that). The pages from Hokusai Manga (above) bear little resemblance to the youthful androgyny seen in today's Manga and Anime art, but the same could be said of the earliest Western comic images as compared to those of today. Manga began as simplified Japanese book illustrations created for adults and for which there is really no western equivalent until the advent of the comic book during the early decades of the 20th-century. Since then, the Japanese have adopted the comic book format for most of their Manga art (below).
Manga translated to English.
Manga in Japanese
So, what is Anime and how does it differ from Manga? Anime is the westernized term for the abbreviated Japanese word for animation. Therefore, it dates back only so far a film animation (mostly since WW II in Japan). In short, Anime appears to move, Manga doesn't. Beyond that, Manga in almost always printed in black and white. Anime never is. Anime is principally the Japanese equivalent of our Saturday morning cartoons, but aimed at a somewhat wider audience from toddlers through late adolescence. There are other differences as well. Manga is aimed at adults, both figuratively and literally. It is often extremely violent, and lacks any well-defined lines between the sensual, the mildly erotic, and the blatantly pornographic. (Two manifestations of Manga Art, Shotacon and Lollicon, would rightly be considered child pornography in the U.S.) Also, in Japanese form, Manga is read from right to left. Quite apart from the enigmatic Japanese script, just looking at the pictures (left) and trying to follow the plot is like our attempting to drive a car in England.

Anime drawing styles vary as to the degree of realism, but such
figures have more in common than differences.
Conversely, anime bears none of these Manga attributes, though the drawing style is quite similar and anime is very often based on popular Manga series, adapted for animation and a younger audience. Even using the most advanced computers, which the sheer volume of such work demands, anime requires a whole stable of animators and technical wizards to produce. Manga, on the other hand, requires only a small team--an editor, a writer, and three or four specializing artists contributing rough layouts, figures, backgrounds, and lettering. Much of the confusion involving the two storytelling mediums, aside from their nearly identical drawing style, is the result of a single story appearing in both media formats. Adding to the confusion, Manga Art, when painted in color on canvas, is often mislabeled as Anime (below).

Sexy by r0pyns
The "eye chart" (below) demonstrates the broad range of manga and anime drawing styles. None of them could, in any way, be considered realistic. But then, none would take more than about two seconds to draw. In terms of drawing styles, one of the most interesting factors from a cultural point of view is in comparing familiar Western figures and cartoon icons to their Japanese counterparts as seen in the Manga images of Jesus (bottom, left) and Mickey Mouse (bottom, right). Despite their differences, both seem to take on an angry or villainous appearance.

Manga-style eyes are the major factor in rendering such figures so expressively. It's no wonder they're often drawn to proportionally dominate the other facial features.
Manga Jesus
Manga Mickey

Click below for more insight into Anime Art--


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