Manga Monday: Astro Boy

Published on July 13th, 2009

astroboyIn the past Comic Impact readers have seemed shocked to find out that I don’t read comics, even though I write for a comic book website. My answer is pretty simple; I do read comics! Manga is, after all, translated roughly as the word ‘comic.’ I just don’t read western comics. So for Manga Monday this week, we will look at the history of manga and what helped create this style of comic book that is so close, yet so far away, from western comics.

Many believe that manga as we know it today developed most rapidly after the U.S. occupation of Japan at the end of World War II. However the history of manga can be found deeply rooted in Japan’s History. Most obvious is the style of art known as wood block printing. Katsushika Hokusai was an artist in the 19th century who used woodblock prints to bring to life humours images; Hokusai was also the first person to use the word ‘manga’. In addition, scrolls from as far back as the 11th century have also been found containing humorous images that are  by a priest known as Toba Sojo. These scrolls were later bound into books.

However, once Japans doors were opened to the rest of the world following the end of WWII, the once militaristic Japan was no longer, and a huge boom of art and creativity led the way, with Manga at the forefront.

One of the most famous manga’s produced at this time perfectly shows the links between the accessible American art style mixed with reminisces of Japanese art and woodblock. This manga started in 1950 and was the beginning of the characteristic ‘big eyes’ manga is known for. The manga was Astro Boy. A second manga called Sazae-san was started in 1946 by Machiko Hasegawa, that focused on the struggle of a young girl. From this shōjo and shōnen manga were born.

What I like about looking back over the history of manga (even if it’s a little brief) is how closely related Asian and Western style comics are. We can see that the meeting of both the U.S.A and Japan in the 1940’s helped each style develop in different ways and techniques, yet basics and principals are closely linked. When ever I think about it I am always shocked by how culture can influence the things we see before us and how things, such as comic books, develop. So embrace culture and look outside the box- there are many different styles of manga, some more closely related to a western style than you may had first thought.

Hollie ‘ Pheonix; a product of Japan’  Bennett