Analyse This: A Generalized Timeline of the History of Anime and Manga (Part One)


This is a post on the history of manga with mentions of anime. This is just a series of observations about the history, the similarities, trends and the way anime and manga has changed over the years. I would just like to state firstly in no way, with my limited resources, inability to read Japanese and blatant preference for manga, should this be thought of as a conclusive history. There will be gaps, factual mistakes, and spelling errors which if spotted, should be commented upon.

In the west and in the context of this post, ‘manga’ is primarily used as a catch-all term to refer to comics of a Japanese origin with a structured story, generally released in serial format where as ‘anime’ will be used to refer exclusively to animation of a Japanese origin. The etymology of those words isn’t really a discussion for this blog post. Well, now I’ve gotten all the messy, boring things out of the way, let us continue.

The Creation of Manga

There are two primary arguments concerning the origins of manga. The first argument states that the evolution of illustrated picture scrolls lead to manga. The second argument is the influence of the West, during the occupation years, lead to manga. Very few writers completely deny the other influence in their eagerness to advocate one theory for the origin.

Lithographs from the 1900s-1920s do bear a resemblance to manga. They tended to either be either strictly paneled or have no panels at all. The first comic to use speech bubbles in Japan is said to be ‘Shochan no boken’ – an adventure series. Serialized, episodic comics appeared in children’s magazines in 1930s and ran for at most a few dozen pages. Although the newspaper strip went into decline during the war, manga and comics were useful propaganda tools.


In which comics are for children, Tezuka and Drama

 Manga was a product for children, the demographics were boys and girls. The two demographics had fairly clear cut stylistic differences. While boy’s (shounen) manga consisted primarily of adventure stories (within the constraints of the prohibition) or girl’s (shoujo) manga was pretty much male representations of the perfect female.

During the war, comics were primarily a propaganda tool. Consequently, during the occupation years, there was a ban on certain subjects – primarily martial arts and glorification of the military. Plots tended to revolve around sports such as baseball, science fiction or fantasy settings.

Tezuka Osamu burst along.

Tezuka started publishing in 1945, though he became a household name in the 50s. Tezuka was the force behind ‘Kimba the White Lion’, ‘Astroboy’, ‘Adolf’, ‘Princess Knight’, ‘Black Jack’, ‘Buddha’, ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Metropolis’.  His work helped reinvent the medium through his story lines, graphic storytelling, use of paneling, characterization, humour and stylistic choices. The use of big eyes to emphasize purity or cuteness was one of his innovations. Tezuka wasn’t just an force in the 1950s, he continued to influence and impact the animation and manga industries until the late 80s.

Manga was too childish for some. In 1957, the genre of gekiga (dramatic pictures) started to develop. Gekiga occurred as a reaction against the ‘childishness’ of the manga that was on offer, focusing on an older demographic. The focus of gekiga was ‘realism’ – in the story, in the characters and in the art. The style was gritty, dramatic, bleak, pessimistic and it was usually over dripping with gore. Most mangaka whom attempt to draw ‘gekiga’ manga nowadays, mainly focus on the dripping with gore aspect. Gekiga did have it’s influence. Experimental comic styles could be seen in mainstream magazines. Manga magazines began to release a mix of comics – both the childish manga and the gekiga. Eventually, gekiga was somewhat absorbed into the mainstream.


Animation Fixation, MANLY comics

Animation prior to 1960s was primarily either shorts or feature length films. Toei Animation was one of the key studios in releasing these films. These animations were aimed primarily at children – they were colourful, had easily relatable characters with fantastic plot lines and filled with money shots. The auteristic approach in anime began to gain strength.
One of the first animated series premiered in 1963 – ‘Astroboy’. I’ve read sources mentioning that the first animated series was ‘Manga Calendar’ in 1962.

The 1960’s was a pretty good decade for animation first and notables – first magical girl series (Magical Girl Sally), shoujo (Princess Knight) and even the first robot series (Tetsujin 28-go) When Tezuka wasn’t too busy with his animation or his many manga series, he helped pioneer a new way for shoujo manga in 1953. As mentioned before, shoujo manga was written primarily by men and focused on the female ideal. In the 1960s, shoujo manga protagonists were much more human with emotions, in comparison to their predecessors.

In shounen manga, the art style was primarily ‘gritty’ and messier, in comparison to today’s art styles. Sports stories such as ‘Syojin no Hoshi’ and ‘Ashita no Joe’ became popular, partly due to the Olympics. In 1968, Shounen Jump was entered the market. Moral panic occurred (your standard ‘The comics are corrupting our kids!’) occurred to an extent as series such as ‘Harenchi Gakuen’ depicted lewd behaviour and helped popularise the panty shot.

In comparison to many of the other niches and demograpics, the senien demographic has had a relatively smooth creation. Manga and magazines marketed towards the ‘senien’ demographic were published, around 1967. On the whole, senien didn’t differ much from shounen except in themes and explicitness.


Girls just want to have fun. SPACEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

In 1970s, the Year 24 group emerged, with the notable Moto Hagio, Riyoko Ikeda, Keiko Takemiya amongst them. The Year 24 Group revolutionized shoujo manga with the plots, the conventions and the themes employed. The shoujo manga conventions most commonly parodied today such as melodrama, excessive flowers and blank eyes of shock were popularized by the Year 24 Group.

The stock trade of 70’s shoujo was melodrama and psychological examination – the Year 24 Group’s primary revolution. Angst, melodrama, enough flowers to choke a bear, love is in the air, characters running about with extremely violent emotions was standard shoujo fare.  Themes of sexuality, especially male homosexuallity were incorporated to quite a large degree. Although solid panelling occurred, full body portraits of the characters, writhing about in angst were tended to occur at least once a chapter. Shoujo manga moved on, in terms of stories and art style but the Year 24’s stylistic and story telling revolutions remain the most prominent image of shoujo manga to this day.

Half the stylistic conventions employed in shoujo manga don’t really occur in anime as it simply doesn’t translate well. It’s hard to have a consistent story flow if your characters tend to do nothing but pose melodramatically and wriggle about in angst as unexplained sources of flowers bloom everywhere. There’s only so many times you can have people running about in the rain.  Shounen manga generally has a smoother transition into anime, than shoujo.

Shounen manga was fairly the same as ever with a wide variety of comics, the majority of which were character and action focused. Some long runners sprouted such as ‘Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari K?en-mae Hashutsujo’, though the trait of having an extremely high series turnover rate was being developed. The Space Opera and the Mecha genres gained popularity. ‘Mazinger Z’, ‘Space Battle Yamato’ and a lot of Leiji Matsumoto’s works (Galaxy Express 999) are key examples of the genre.

Meanwhile a little thing called ‘Gundam‘ was released as a theatre length film in 1979.